PREVIEW: Softball Opens 2011 Season at UNT's Sleep Inn Classic
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
SHREVEPORT-The Centenary softball team will kick off the 2011 season when it travels to Denton, Texas to take part in the Sleep Inn Classic hosted by North Texas. The Ladies will open the tournament on Friday against Tennessee Tech at 10 am, followed by Northwestern State at 5 pm and Nebraska at 10 am on Saturday. Centenary will close out the weekend with a 3 pm contest against host North Texas on Sunday afternoon.


Tennessee Tech, a DI member of the Ohio Valley Conference is currently 0-2 after dropping two, one-run ball games to Syracuse (2-1) and Georgia State (3-2) in Georgia State's tournament this last weekend. Last year the Golden Eagles finished with a 28-30 record and an 11-12 OVC record to finish 6th. The team returns top hitters from a year ago in Melody Christian (.328 avg) and Chanelle Spalding (.310), while Whitney Cummings also returns with 12 home runs a year ago. On the mound, the Golden Eagles return RHP Holly Thomas, who recorded 16 wins last season and a 2.81 ERA.

Northwestern State, a DI member of the Southland Conference and an in-state rival, will play Wednesday evening against Jackson State. The Demons recorded three wins at ULM's Mardi Gras Classic, including a 2-1 victory and 10-3 win over SEMO as well as a 3-1 win over Eastern Illinois, but dropped an 8-0 game to ULM and a 6-1 contest to Indiana State. NSU entered the season with a 27-27 overall record last season and a 13-17 mark in SLC play. The Demons return top hitter Samantha Roberts (.333 avg, 5 HR) and top pitcher Kylee Roos (13-10, 3.26 ERA). This season, Brooke Boening has already recorded two wins in the opening weekend, while Roos is batting .500 with five hits in 10 AB.

Nebraska, a DI member of the Big 12, opened the weekend at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona and posted a 5-1 record. The Huskers posted wins over Portland State (11-2), San Jose State (7-3), Cal State Fullerton (3-1), Stanford (3-2) and Oregon State (4-1) and dropped its only game to Arizona (6-1). Nebraska is coming off a 30-29 season a year ago and a 7-11 mark in Big 12 play. The Huskers return top hitters Ashley Guile (.382 avg, 42 RBI) and Nikki Hager (.345 avg., 12 SB) and top pitcher Ashley Hagemann (15-16, 3.32 ERA).

North Texas, a DI member of the Sun Belt Conference enters its own tournament with a 2-4 record, having posted wins over Cal State Bakersfield (8-4) and Appalachian State (6-0), but dropped its last four contests to Stanford (5-2), Oregon State (3-2), Oregon (12-4) and Northwestern (8-4). The Mean Green finished the 2010 season with an overall record of 29-20 and posted a 12-9 mark in the Sun Belt for third place. UNT returns top hitters Mallory Cantler (.351 avg) and Mariza Martinez (.331 avg, 56 H), but lost its No. 1 pitcher in Ashley Lail due to graduation. The Mean Green returns RHP Brittany Simmons (5-4, 2.28 ERA).

Mark Lambert begins his first season as the head coach of the Ladies softball program. Prior to his new role, Lambert served as an associate head coach under Mark Montgomery in 2010. His duties included assisting with on-field coaching, managing the Ladies' strength and conditioning program as well as serving as the recruiting coordinator. Lambert comes to Centenary directly from Captain Shreve High School in Shreveport, where he served as the head coach for six years. Lambert strengthened the program and guided his team to the playoffs in four of his six seasons as the head coach.

Centenary rosters two seniors on this year's squad. RHP Lauren Highsmith and outfielder Bonnie Matak. Highsmith, a Houston, Texas native, returns as a fifth year senior after redshirting her freshman season due to an injury. The righty recorded a 1-4 record last season and a 7.20 ERA. In 45.2 IP, she struck out 33. Matak started all 44 games in the outfield, primarily in left and finished 2010 hitting .244. She had 10 RBI and 31 H in 127 AB. In 58 PO, Matak didn't commit an error for a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.

The Ladies welcome nine newcomers to the squad. Looking to lead the freshman class is Nicole Warren, who will control the outfield in centerfield. A Castor, La. native, Warren hails from Castor HS. Also looking to make an immediate impact is junior-transfer Ashley Boccaccio at second base. The Austin, Texas native comes directly from Clarendon CC, where she played two seasons. Freshman RHP Lynsi Unruh will see action on the mound. A 5-8 thrower from Houston, Texas and Langham Creek HS will look to add depth to the Ladies staff.

Centenary returns six letterwinners from last year's squad. Behind seniors Highsmith and Matak is junior first baseman Kalyn Harris (.232 avg) and junior utility player Reggie Salvatore, who will see action on the mound again this season after posting one save and a 6.24 ERA last year. Also returning is sophomore catcher Kelsey Regan, who played mainly a DP and outfield role in her first season. Regan hit .228 last year, while sophomore Bailey Boggs (.129 avg) will take over at shortstop after playing time in the outfield last season.

Centenary will play its first 11 games on the road from Feb. 18-March 15. Of those 11 games, seven will be in tournament play at UNT's Sleep Inn Classic and UTA's Invitational, while one will be a mid-week contest at Grambling, before Summit League play starts at IUPUI. The Ladies will finally return home for their opener on March 15 against Grambling at 6 pm.

The Ladies had six players make Centenary's Fall 2010 Dean's List. Representing the team with at least a 3.5 GPA was Lauren Highsmith, Phyllis Hafer, Bailey Boggs, Ashley Boccaccio, Bonnie Matak and Leah Dark.

Centenary begins a new era under Lambert, but wrapped up a 10-34 overall record a year ago and a 4-19 Summit League record. The Ladies graduated top hitters Haley Bassett (.286 avg) and Allison Shepperd (.269 avg) as well as top pitcher Sara Dornelas (9-22, 4.58 ERA) to a transfer.

Centenary will travel to Grambling State on Tuesday, Feb. 22 for a 3 pm contest in Grambling, La. before making its way back to Texas to take part in UTA's Invitational on Feb. 25-26.