Jan. 15, 2012
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – On-field preparation to defend Florida State softball’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship begins on Monday, Jan. 16, at 10:30 a.m. as the team takes the field at the Seminole Softball complex for its first official practice of the preseason.
The Seminoles enter their first winter practice without several key figures who have moved on from last year’s conference championship squad. FSU all-time strikeout leader Sarah Hamilton, catcher/first basemen Robin Ahrberg and Jen Lapicki as well as reliable shortstop Ashley Stager are just some of the faces who have departed following their senior seasons.
However, this year’s team features a strong blend of past contributors and program builders who look to elevate FSU softball to greater heights in 2012. Returning is right fielder Shayla Jackson, a senior who batted .337 last season and was the 18th most difficult player to strike out in the nation after fanning just once every 22.1 at-bats. Junior Tiffani Brown, a solid infielder and slap hitter, also returns after hitting .338 and recording six triples a year ago.
Sophomore centerfielder Courtney Senas enters her second year after showing off her talents as a freshman. Senas, a Wahiawa, Hawaii native, is looking to build off the momentum she created to end her freshman campaign. Last season, Senas batted .417 with two home runs and seven RBIs in her last 10 games, which included a critical RBI double and an insurance home run in the ACC Championship Game versus North Carolina.
“We’re very excited about the progress of our returning players, but in order to get to where we want to go we’re going to need our new faces to step up as well,” head coach Lonni Alameda said as she begins her fourth season in Tallahassee. “I’m very excited about the potential this group has this year, and I really believe we can get the contributions needed from some of our new players as well as the players who redshirted last season.”
Two important performers who were forced to redshirt last season are pitcher Monica Perry and shortstop Maddie O’Brien. Perry is a redshirt junior from Whitesburg, Ga., who transferred to FSU in 2010 following two brilliant years as Illinois’ No. 1 pitcher. While pitching for the Illini, Perry was an All-Big Ten Second Team pitcher who finished 25-7 with a 2.27 ERA as a sophomore and recorded 171 strikeouts and 14 complete games. She will team with redshirt sophomore pitcher Jessica Nori to create a formidable duo in the circle. Joining them will be two standout freshman pitchers in Lacey Waldrop and Bailey Schinella.
O’Brien sat out her freshman season following a nagging ankle injury, but was impressive throughout the fall season to back up her lofty rating as a highly-ranked recruit for the Seminoles when she signed in 2009. O’Brien has shown a steady bat throughout the offseason and is a slick fielder who should make several plays for FSU.
Another highly-touted player making her debut this season is true freshman Erika Leonard, a Cincinnati, Ohio, product who possesses enormous power. She is also looking for a strong preseason as she jockeys for time on the field at catcher, first base or even the designated player spot.
FSU is looking for its 13th consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship, having made an appearance every season since the start of the new millennium. The Seminoles also have the goal of reaching an NCAA Super Regional for the first time since 2006, as they reached the final day of last year’s NCAA Athens Regional before falling to sixth-seeded Georgia.
The Seminoles begin their regular season in just less than four weeks as they host the first Seminole Classic of the season on Feb. 10-12 at JoAnne Graf Field.