BOONE, N.C. – Appalachian State University softball is set to open up their 2017 campaign in Jacksonville, Fla. at the Jacksonville River City Leadoff on Feb. 10 to Feb. 12 at the Debbie & Fred Pruitt Softball Complex. App State looks to grab three wins to set the tone for the rest of year.
“I’m excited to get our girls back out on the field and see all their hard work in action, “said Head Coach Janice Savage. This is a great opening weekend for us, and our girls can’t wait to represent the Black and Gold.”
The Mountaineers will kick off the year facing the hosts of the tournament, the Jacksonville Dolphins, on Friday, Feb. 10 at 5 p.m. On Saturday, the Apps will then compete against the College of Charleston at noon and see the Dolphin against at 5 p.m. On the final day of the tournament (Feb. 12), Appalachian will tee off against George Mason at 1 p.m. before returning to Boone.
SCOUTING THE DOLPHINS
• Friday, Feb. 10 will mark the first time the Mountaineers will face off against the Dolphins.
• Jacksonville ended the 2016 season 28-30 and 8-10 in the ASUN Conference and accumulated a team batting average of .240.
• This year, Jacksonville looks to replace leading pitcher and top hitter Victoria Brown, who was a 2016 NFCA Third-Team All-Southeast Selection.
• The Dolphins’ offense will be spearheaded by Danielle Baker and Allie McCourt. Baker blasted 13 homeruns and batted the second-best average in 2016 of .278, and McCourt owned the third-best average of .267.
• On Friday, the Mountaineers could bat against a familiar face in senior transfer Taylor Thorpe who threw eight complete games, had 223.2 innings pitched and finished with 105 strikeouts at Georgia State. Joining Thorpe in the circle is Madison Ragan who was apart of the Chipola Collge team that won the NJCAA National Championship in 2015 and finished as runners-up in 2016.
• Third-year head coach Jennifer Steele leads the Dolphins, and she is assisted by Erica Ayers (third year) and Mike Young (second year)
SCOUTING THE COUGARS
• Saturday will mark the 47th meeting between the Cougars and the Mountaineers, and CofC leads the all-time series at 34-12. In the last matchup in 2015, Charleston overwhelmed App State 12-4 in five innings.
• 2016 was one of the best seasons in Cougar history. The squad went 35-23 and 11-9 in the CAA and made it to the semifinal round of the conference tournament, the furthest they have ever been since joining the CAA. Their 35 wins is the seventh-most victories obtained in a single season in Cougar program history.
• In the 2017 CAA Preseason Poll, the Cougars were picked to finish tied for third.
• Charleston returns players who started in at least 25 games, and that crew is led by junior third baseman Taylor Dupree. The two-time all league selection owned a .378 batting average and broke the school record in stolen bases (27).
• Returning to the mound for the Cougars are Sam Martin and Sydney Shipley. Martin registered a 2.64 ERA and earned Second-team all-conference honors and Shipley finished the year with a 2.90 ERA. As a pair, the two were responsible for 25 wins.
• The Cougars are led by fifth-year head coach Linda Kalafatis and her assistant coaches Aja Paculba (first year) and Barb Sherwood (first year). On April 24, 2016, Kalafatis picked up her 900th career win becoming the 16th active Division I coach to reach the 900 victories.
SCOUTING THE PATRIOTS
• The Mountaineers have only seen the Patriots once in school history and the A-10 squad edged App by one point in 2003 (0-1).
• George Mason ended 2016 with a 22-25 overall record and went 8-13 in the Atlantic 10, and starts 2017 as preseason No. 7 in the conference.
• George Mason added 12 newcomers to the roster and returned 11 veterans, which includes two members of the 2016 All-Rookie class, Marina Vitalich (P) and Samantha Zaccari (1B).
• Vitalich was tabbed as one of Fastpitch News’ (FPN) 2017 Preseason Top 50 NCAA Softball Pitchers after finishing with the third best ERA in the Atlantic 10 (1.75) and snagging 14 of George Mason’s 22 wins. The California native started in 18 ballgames as a freshman and amassed 173 strikeouts in 148 innings pitched. She is one of 13 underclassmen on the list.
• Head Coach Joe Verbanic enters his 13th season at the helm of the Patriots softball program, and he is assisted by second-year coach and former Villanova pitcher Caitlyn de la Habra.