|East Mississippi set to begin new softball campaign Wednesday at No. 12 Mississippi Gulf Coast|
Third-year head coach Kate Neely’s EMCC Lady Lions are set to start up the 2011 softball campaign with a 2 p.m. road doubleheader against preseason 12th-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast.SCOOBA – Having made back-to-back state tournament appearances, a quest for a third straight postseason berth begins Wednesday for East Mississippi Community College’s softball team.
The season opener in Perkinston will feature the reigning divisional softball runners-up of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges. The EMCC Lady Lions, 20-30 overall but 18-6 in league play a year ago, finished just two games behind Itawamba in the MACJC’s North Division standings. The Lady Bulldogs of MGCCC, 39-17 overall last season, were just a single game behind East Central in last year’s South Division standings with a 16-8 league mark but went on to make their third appearance in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament in the last four years.
With eight players back from a season ago, the EMCC Lady Lions return six of their seven leading hitters from last year’s improved offensive unit. Back healthy following off-season knee injury, sophomore speedster DeShuni Sanders looks to once again patrol the outfield for East Mississippi. The former New Hope High School standout batted a team-best .358 as a freshman, along with leading the 2010 Lady Lions with 37 runs scored and 22 stolen bases.
Anchoring a veteran infield will be sophomore shortstop Mallory Pace, from Meridian’s Northeast Lauderdale High School, who ranked second on last year’s EMCC squad with a .329 batting average and 23 runs batted in. The Lady Lions’ other returning .300 hitter, sophomore Nashedra Barry figures to again see action in the circle with the departure of 2010 NJCAA All-Region 23 hurler Courtney Nunn. A product of Columbus High School, Barry hit .311 last season and topped EMCC’s hitters with three home runs and 25 RBI on the year. She also compiled a 3-2 pitching mark as a collegiate rookie.
Other returning veterans expected to vie for starting positions again this season include second baseman Cayla Coleman (Clarkdale HS), outfielder Leigh Ellen Barefield (Neshoba Central HS) and left-handed first baseman Justine Jenkins (Caledonia HS). Barefield hit .273 with 27 runs scored and 21 runs batted in last year, while Jenkins and Coleman followed with batting averages of .272 and .266, respectively.
With 15 newcomers on board this season, the Lady Lions will count on immediate contributions from a talented group of rookie pitchers to help replace Nunn, who won 26 games in two seasons at EMCC before taking her talents to Mississippi College. Right-hander Amy Johnson, of Starks, La., looks to make an impact in the circle for the 2011 Lady Lions, as do former Central Academy teammates Alex Dawkins and Lillian Lindsey.
Following a Feb. 16 doubleheader at Hinds and participation in the Jones County-hosted Gwen Magee Invitational on Feb. 19, the East Mississippi softball team is slated to begin a season-opening four-date homestand on Monday, Feb. 21 with a return twinbill against Hinds. The Lady Lions will close out their February slate with home doubleheaders versus Mississippi Gulf Coast and preseason 10th-ranked Copiah-Lincoln on Feb. 24 and 28, respectively.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 08 February 2011 )|
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