BUFFALO, NY - The University at Buffalo softball team will begin its 2012 season this weekend as it heads down south for the Jacksonville Invitational. The Bulls will begin play on Friday morning against St. Louis.
UB will play five games in its season-opening trip beginning with the Billikens at 9:30 tomorrow morning. The Bulls will then face the host Jacksonville at 4:15 pm. On Saturday, the Bulls will meet UNC-Greensboro at 9:30 am and will follow that up with an 11:45 am contest against Virginia Tech. UB concludes play on Sunday morning with its second game against St. Louis.
The Bulls enter the season with high hopes as they return 11 players from a year ago. UB returns it two top offensive threats from 2011 in senior Kristin Waldron and Alyssa Ward, as well as outfielder Holly Luciano, who was named to the All-MAC Freshman Team a year ago.
The Bulls also return their entire pitching staff from last year, which includes sophomore Tori Speckman and seniors Holly Johnson and Haylee Land. Speckman had a breakout season in 2011, including being named the MAC East Pitcher of the Week last March.
UB has five newcomers on this year's team, including three freshmen, who will be playing in their first collegiate tournament. Amongst those freshmen are Alexis Curtiss and Karly Nevez, who are expected to make immediate contributions on both the offensive and defensive end.
Saint Louis, picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10 Conference by A-10 head coaches, returns five position starters, three pitchers and four additional letterwinners from last year's team. Junior center fielder Jessica Buschjost was second on the team in batting average (.331) and tied for second in runs (23) and stolen bases (10) last season.
Jacksonville features seven returning position starters and their leading pitcher from last year's NCAA Tournament qualifier that received votes in the final USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 poll. The Dolphins captured the Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season and tournament titles and finished 44-16 overall, 18-2 in the A-Sun.
Seven starters also return for the UNC Greensboro Spartans, who registered a 26-32 overall ledger and went 10-14 in Southern Conference play in 2011. First baseman Alex Emerterio and first baseman/utility player Eileen Horsmon were selected to the All-Conference first team and second team, respectively, while catcher Katelyn Bedwell and utility player Aisha Figueroa landed on the SoCon All-Freshman team.
The Hokies welcome back six position starters and their top pitcher after posting a 37-20 overall record and a 9-12 Atlantic Coast Conference mark last season. First baseman/catcher Courtney Liddle and shortstop/outfielder Dani Anderson were named to the All-Region first team and earned first- and second-team All-Conference accolades, respectively. Catcher Betty Rose garnered a second-team All-Region nod.
This weekend will begin a stretch of 25 straight games away from Nan Harvey Field to begin the season. The Bulls will begin action at home on March 28.