By Jason Hendrix
For The Fayette Tribune
The WVU Tech softball program and head coach Karin Gadberry Thursday released the team’s 2013 schedule. The slate will feature 47 games (16 home, 26 away and five at neutral sites).
The Golden Bears open the season on the road when they travel to South Carolina to face the Fighting Koalas of Columbia College in doubleheader action on Feb. 22. Two days later, the squad plays a two-game set at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C. After a week off, the Golden Bears return to the road to face Bluefield College on March 2 and South Virginia University in a four-game set on March 8 and 9.
The Bluefield Rams will travel to Belle to face the Golden Bears on March 26 to complete the season series. During this game, Tech will take part in a “Throw-Back Jerseys” theme day during which the squad will wear jerseys from past seasons.
Gadberry’s squad opens the home portion of its schedule on March 10 by entertaining the Virginia University of Lynchburg. The Dragons will return the favor by hosting Tech on March 22 at 1 and 3 p.m. The home stand continues when the squad hosts “Faculty Appreciation Day” on March 14 against the University of Rio Grande. The Red Storm will play host to a two-game set on March 30 when the Golden Bears travel to Ohio.
On March 16 and 17, Tech will participate in the USCAA Pre-Season Tournament in Elizabethtown, Ky. While there, the Bears will face Robert Morris University-Springfield, Briarcliffe College, and St. Mary of the Woods in day one of competition and Iowa Wesleyan College and Lindenwood University-Belleville. All games will be held at the Elizabethtown Sports Complex.
On March 20, Tech will travel to face Glenville State College before returning home to host Bluefield State College on March 23 and Concord University on March 27.
On April 7, WVU Tech will host the annual Strikeout Cancer games in support of breast cancer awareness and the search to find a cure. Southern State Community College (SSCC) will join the Golden Bears in wearing pink during the two-game set.
Glenville State will travel to Belle the next day for a doubleheader beginning at noon.
The Golden Bears hit the road for their next three series as they face Virginia State University on April 13, Virginia Union University on April 14, and SSCC on April 19. They return home on April 21 to host Salem International University on Senior Day. The squad rounds out the regular season on the road by traveling to Athens to face Concord on April 28 and to Batavia, Ohio to compete against University of Cincinnati Clermont on May 4.
Gadberry’s squad hopes to have a productive season leading to an appearance in the USCAA National Tournament in Akron, Ohio May 12-15.
Penn State Beaver will host this year’s tournament.
“I am excited about getting the season started,” Gadberry said. “This group has been putting in the time and effort and I am looking forward to seeing their hard work pay off on the field.”
Overall, the Bears return six starters from last year’s record-setting effort. The 2012 squad finished first in hits per game with nine, second in batting average at .321, and second in RBIs per game at 4.9.
Senior Katie Campbell will return after leading the team offensively with a .363 batting average, 57 hits, six home runs and 41 RBIs. Campbell will also start behind the plate, where she was instrumental in helping the 2012 pitching staff finish in the top five of the Mid-South Conference.
Sophomore Kat Lively is back at shortstop. In 2012, she was a staple not only in the field with a .908 fielding percentage but also at the plate, where she recorded a .341 batting average, 57 hits, 27 runs and 20 RBIs.
Senior third baseman Ali Holmes is also back in the fold after hitting .302 with three homers and 31 RBIs a year ago.
Sophomore left-handed pitcher Jacki Wood returns to the mound for the Golden Bears, after winning 12 games while posting a 3.02 ERA last spring. Wood held opponents to a .247 batting average and recorded 102 strikeouts. She finished in the top 10 in several MSC categories. Offensively, Wood hit .276 with 18 runs scored and 11 RBIs.
Junior right fielder Emily Geldbach returns with a .298 batting average. Geldbach will look to be more active on the bases this season.
Senior Stephanie Nickell, a Fayetteville High product, also returns to the team, anchoring the outfield with her 1.000 fielding percentage. Offensively, Nickell contributed three HRs and 22 RBIs in 2012.
This year’s newcomers consist of six freshmen and one junior college transfer.
With the loss of senior outfielder Jordan Logan, pitcher Jessica Stapleton and Whitney Patrick, Tech will look to Genna Trippett, Ashley Boggs, Bridgett Goss, Breigh Renner, Megan Blythe, Taylor Norman and Aquila Fox to build on last year’s 29-16 finish.
(Hendrix is the WVU Tech sports information director).