Softball’s Road To Choccolocco Begins At Mercer
February 9, 2017
Date: Feb. 10-12
Tournament: 2017 Mercer Invitational
Site (Venue): Macon, Ga. (Sikes Field)
Audio: Mixlr.com/msuracers (PxP: Parker Griffith)
TV/Web Stream: None
Live Stats: GoRacers.com
Twitter In Game: @RacersSoftball
MSU Record (Streak): 0-0 (—)
MSU vs. The Field: 0-0
All-Time Series vs. MER (Streak): First Meeting (—)
All-Time Series vs. PSU (Streak): First Meeting (—)
All-Time Series vs. UD (Streak): First Meeting (—)
All-Time Series vs. KSU (Streak): First Meeting (—)
MSU Next Games: Feb. 17-19 at 2017 Mardi Gras Invitational (Mobile, Ala.)
MSU Next Home: Mar. 10-12 vs. Racer Classic
The Racers will open the 2017 season Friday at Mercer’s Mercer Invitational in Macon, Georgia. While in the Peach State, MSU will take on the host Bears, Portland State, Dayton and Kent State. The weekend marks the first five of MSU’s 56 scheduled games for 2017, a schedule that will hopefully culminate in the Racers eighth-straight trip to the OVC tournament which will be held May 10-13 at Choccolocco Park, Oxford Alabama.
The Murray State softball team finished its 2016 campaign at 24-31 overall and 12-14 in the OVC. Their eighth-place finish in the regular season led to MSU’s seventh consecutive OVC tournament appearance. The Racers picked up a win in the tournament, but ultimately fell and were eliminated. Following, the season senior Shelbey Miller was named to the All-OVC first team, while Mason Robinson and Jessica Twaddle were named to the second team. Leah Kesel also earned postseason accolades by being named to the OVC All-Newcomer team.
Against The Field
The Racers have never played any of their four opponents from the weekend. This weekend’s field represents four of 12 new teams that MSU will play in 2017. Murray State is 4-3 all-time against opponents from three opponents from Mercer’s Southern Conference and is 2-5 against three opponents from Kent State’s Mid-American Conference. The Racers are also 1-1 all-time against one opponent from the Atlantic 10, home of Dayton, while Portland State will be Murray State’s first-ever opponent from the Big Sky Conference.
Mercer finished last season with a 23-35 overall record and a 4-14 mark in the Southern Conference. After earning the seventh seed in the tournament, the Bears finished just short of the title game with a 2-2 record in the event. Despite batting .292 as a team last season, Mercer returns its top three of its four hitters from a year ago including All-SoCon first teamer Taylor Miller and Shalia Warren, who was named to the SoCon All-Freshman team.
Miller batted .414 on the year, while Warren followed at .312. Miller also stole a team-high 27 stolen bases last season, while another returner, Meghan Rud, stole 21 to go along with a .309 average. Mercer also returns all four of its pitchers from last season with each appearing in 22 to 29 contests. Maxine Rodriguez led the way for the Bears in ERA with 3.80, while Anna O’Neil recorded a team-high 71 strikeouts and Megan Bilgri notched the most wins at eight.
Scouting Portland State
Portland State went 14-35 last season and 7-14 in the Big Sky. After qualifying for the Big Sky tournament, the Vikings went two-and-out in the tournament. Following the end of the season, the Vikings made a change Portland State lost three of its top four hitters from last season, but return Shae Nelson who posted the team’s second-highest average at .336. While the Vikings may only return one of their four pitchers from last year, Alyssa Burk did post a team-low ERA of 3.57 a year ago.
Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year Manda Cash and NFCA first-team All-Region selection Gabrielle Snyder return to the Flyers in 2017 to try and better their 27-21-1 overall and 14-4-1 league record from last season. The Flyers finished second in their conference in 2016 and eventually fell in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Cash went 11-10 in the circle for Dayton last season with a 1.42 ERA, a .158 opponent’s average, 183 strikeouts and just 40 walks. Meanwhile, Snyder led the UD offense with a .379 average with 13 doubles and 12 walks.
Scouting Kent State
After winning the 2016 MAC regular season championship, the Golden Flashes faltered in the tournament and were eventually eliminated. However, following the season, the interim tag was taken off the 2016 MAC Coach of the Year Eric Oakley and he was promoted to head coach. For 2017, Kent State returns three All-MAC selections in Maddy Grimm, Ronnie Ladines and Holly Speers. Grimm led the KSU offense last season with a .327 average, while Ladines and Speers followed at .314 and .312, respectively. Ladines was also effective in the circle as she went 23-10 with a 2.54 ERA and 206 strikeouts.
Friday will be cool in Macon with a high of 58 F currently forecasted, however Saturday and Sunday will be considerably warmer with a high of 73 Saturday and 79 Sunday. Precipitation is also unlikely for the weekend with highest chance being 13-percent on Sunday.
For the third year in a row, the Racers will kick off their season in the state of Georgia. In 2015, the Racers went 3-2 at Georgia’s Red & Black Classic in Athens and in 2016, went 2-2 at last year’s Kennesaw State Kickoff Classic in Kennesaw.
Out Of The Gates
Murray State is 3-4 all-time in season openers, having won three out of its last five. The Racers are 0-1 in season openers in true away games and 3-3 in neutral site games.
Murray State went 7-1 in its non-traditional fall season this year with its only loss coming in the form of a 1-0 heartbreaker at Southern Illinois. As a team, the Racers hit .367, while the pitching staff posted a 0.50 team ERA and limited opponents to a .138 average. Senior Jessica Twaddle picked up where she left off last season to lead MSU with a .588 average, while senior Mallory Young batted .533 and senior Jocelynn Rodgers and freshman Lexi Jones each batted .500. Junior Haven Campbell went 3-0 in the short season, while senior Mason Robinson was 2-0 with a save, as both finished with an ERA of 0.00. Robinson’s performance is even more impressive when you factor in that she allowed just two hits in 43 batters faced with 15 strikeouts.
Many Happy Returns
MSU lost just six players from last year’s team and will return 9 of 10 starters. Among those returning are 2016 All-OVC selections Jessica Twaddle and Mason Robinson and 2016 OVC All-Newcomer selection Leah Kesel.
In The Mix
Select Murray State softball away games, including all five this weekend, will once again be broadcast this season on the internet via Mixlr. Fans can listen, free of charge, on any computer at mixlr.com/msuracers or by downloading the Mixlr app, available on Apple and Android devices, and searching msuracers. The games will be broadcast by MSU softball media relations contact, Parker Griffith.
Ok, What’s Next?
Next weekend the Racers will travel to the Gulf Coast for South Alabama’s 2017 Mardi Gras Invitational. While in Mobile, the Racers will take on Butler, Jackson State, McNeese State and the host Jaguars.
by Parker Griffith