UNCG opens season at Seminole Kick Off Classic this weekend
UNCG at the Seminole Kick Off Classic, Feb. 11-13, Tallahassee, Fla.
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• UNCG coach Jennifer Herzig's squad kicks off the 2011 softball season at Florida State University's Seminole Kick Off Classic this weekend in Tallahassee, Fla.
• The Spartans are coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory. The 2010 squad played in the first Southern Conference title game in program history and finished fourth in the league at 12-11, posting a winning league record for the first time since 2003. UNCG was 27-30 overall.
• Junior first baseman Alex Emeterio was a first-team all-region pick last season, when she hit .382 with five home runs and 32 RBI. She was also a first-team All-SoCon selection.
• Emeterio, Kaitlin Merkt and Eileen Horsmon – UNCG's top three hitters last season – were named to the Preseason All-SoCon First Team this week. The Spartans were picked fourth in the preseason poll, voted on by the league's nine head coaches.
• Horsmon, a sophomore designated player, was a second-team All-SoCon pick and an All-Freshman selection last season, when she hit .326 with six homers and 21 RBI.
• Merkt hit .268 and led the team with 11 homers and 38 RBI last year. The redshirt senior shortstop was a second-team All-SoCon pick in 2009.
• UNCG will turn to junior pitcher Cory Mattson to fill the void left by Amber Harrell, the 2010 SoCon Championship MVP who graduated as the school's all-time strikeout leader with 657. Mattson went 10-14 with a 2.85 ERA and one save last season, striking out a career-high 122 batters. Mattson earned all-tournament honors at last year's Buzz Classic and was the SoCon Pitcher of the Week on March 8.
• Overall, the Spartans return 12 student-athletes from last year's squad. In addition to losing Harrell, UNCG graduated four starting position players in Emily Akiyama, Brittany Ausley, Laura Olenderski and Whitney Sirois. Herzig has added five freshmen for this season.
• The Spartans will be opening their season in Florida for the fifth straight season. UNCG opened in tournaments at Jacksonville University in 2007, 2008 and 2010 and was in South Florida's tournament in Tampa in 2009.
• UNCG is 11-8 in season-openers at the Division I level (since 1992) and 2-3 under Herzig.
• Herzig recorded her 100th career win last season. She enters the 2011 campaign with a 125-175 career record in exactly 300 games at the helm for the Spartans.
• UNCG welcomes a new addition to the coaching staff this season in former Marshall standout Caitlyn Jackson. The 2010 graduate takes over for departed pitching coach Vanessa Williams. Jackson was a two-time all-region selection for the Thundering Herd. She played for former UNCG great Shonda Stanton at Marshall.
• The Spartans will face host Florida State, Hofstra and St. John's at the Seminole Kick Off Classic. UNCG is 0-1 all-time against FSU, having faced the Seminoles at the Buzz Classic in Atlanta in 2002. The Spartans are 5-3 against St. John's, with all eight meetings coming at tournaments on neutral ground. UNCG has never faced Hofstra.
• Florida State is ranked No. 23 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25, while Hofstra is receiving votes. Hofstra and Florida State are both receiving votes in the preseason USA Today/ National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25. Both are just outside the top 25 at 27th and 28th, respectively.
• Florida State was picked second in the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference poll after posting runner-up finishes in the ACC regular season and tournament. The Seminoles went 44-18 last season and advanced to the NCAA Athens Regional. Senior pitcher Sarah Hamilton earned on a spot on the 2011 USA Softball Player of the Year Watch List prior to this season.
• Hofstra went 45-12 last season, winning the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season and tournament titles. The Pride advanced to the NCAA Tucson Regional, where it went 2-2 with a pair of wins over Oklahoma State to reach the regional final. There, Hofstra fell to eventual NCAA runner-up Arizona in 12 innings, 10-6. Sophomore pitcher Olivia Galati was also named to the USA Softball Player of the Year Watch List prior to this season.
• St. John's went 18-33 last season and finished 13th in the Big East. The Red Storm was picked 11th in this year's preseason Big East poll. Senior Kacee Cox, a second-team all-region pick last year, hit a team-best .404 last season.
Seminole Kick Off Classic schedule
Friday: at Florida State, 12 p.m.; vs. Hofstra, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday: vs. St. John's, 10 a.m.; #4 seed vs. #1 seed, 2:45 p.m.; #3 seed vs. #2 seed, 4:45 p.m.
Sunday: Consolation game, 10 a.m.; Championship game, 12:15 p.m.
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