Ladies Softball Kicks off 2008 Season at Texarkana Tournament
Thursday, February 7, 2008

SHREVEPORT—The Centenary softball team will jump start the beginning of its season with six games in three days this weekend. The Ladies are participating in the Texarkana Tournament, hosted by the City of Texarkana, and will face top-notch competition against Oklahoma State, Alabama-Birmingham, and Arkansas.


Centenary finished 22-27 last season and 6-6 in the Mid-Continent Conference, good enough for fourth place and a spot in the league tournament. Although it was the first time since head coach Mark Montgomery’s first season in 2003 that the team finished below .500 on the year, there were plenty of understandable reasons why.


The 2007 season was one that featured an abundance of inclement weather. The Ladies had more than 10 games cancelled and played numerous others in the rain. Unfortunately for Centenary, several of the rainouts were against teams that the Ladies were favored to win against.


The other major reason for Centenary’s struggles at times last season were due to a lack of experience. The Ladies started three freshmen in the field and the entire pitching staff was comprised of freshmen as well.


What was last season’s weakness is now one of the major strengths for the 2008 campaign. The Ladies lost only one everyday player from their lineup and sophomores Ryan Thacker (7-7, 3.71 ERA) and Stacy Whitmer (7-9, 4.70 ERA) are back to anchor the pitching rotation.


Centenary now has four seniors to provide leadership in Lauren Flowers (.222 BA), Lindsey Virdell (.272), Jennifer Martin (.253), and Amy Wiedeman (.341), all of whom will see major time. The junior class, led by All-Mid-Con and All-Louisiana utility player Allison McClain (.282) and former Mid-Con Newcomer of the Year Emerald Doria (.311) at shortstop, ensure a solid infield for Coach Montgomery.


The talented sophomore class not only features Thacker and Whitmer in the circle, but plays an important role in the batting order as well. Allison Shepperd (.296) returns along with Haley Bassett (.239) to once again provide a platoon situation at third base and catcher. Bassett saw more time behind the dish in 2007, while Shepperd led the team with 17 extra base hits. First baseman Brittany Williams (.205), who has enjoyed a terrific fall season, will provide punch in the middle of the order.    


The Ladies have only two true freshmen on the club this year and another freshman redshirted the 2007 season. Lauren Highsmith was injured in the fall last season and sat out the year while rehabbing. The right-handed pitcher has electric stuff, but has struggled at times with her control. She will get spot starts for Centenary in 2008 and will be counted on to close out victories.


Freshmen Caitlin Cavarra and Bonnie Matak will both be expected to contribute immediately for the Ladies. Cavarra looks to enter the season as Coach Montgomery’s lead-off hitter after an unstoppable performance in the fall season. She led the team in both batting average and on-base percentage.


The new season kicks off with a bang with the Ladies playing schools from the Big 12, SEC, and Conference USA right out of the gate. The tough schedule continues with tilts against Syracuse, Purdue, and Baylor next weekend and a tournament in two weeks involving Texas State, Kansas, Cal-State Northridge, Houston, and Boston.


“We are excited to get on the field and see what we can do,” said Montgomery about the start of his season. “Our schedule is a tough one, but we embrace the challenges that face us in the next couple of weeks. We look forward to seeing how we stack up against the top tier teams and this schedule will pay off when Summit League play rolls around.”


The Ladies officially start their season on Friday with a doubleheader against Oklahoma State at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, Centenary will face Alabama-Birmingham in a twinbill starting at 10 a.m. and the Ladies will tangle with Arkansas for two games on Sunday at 2 p.m.