Tulsa Opens 2014 Season at FAU Kick-Off Classic
Feb. 6, 2014
TULSA, Okla. - The Tulsa softball team opens the 2014 season at the FAU Kick-Off Classic Friday through Sunday at the FAU Softball Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.
The Golden Hurricane begins the tournament Friday against St. John's at 8 a.m. and Ohio State at 10 a.m. TU continues with two more games on Saturday, facing No. 18/19 Louisville at 3 p.m. and the host FAU at 7 p.m. The Hurricane concludes the tournament at noon Sunday against Northern Illinois.
The Hurricane sets out on its 22nd season with 11 returning letterwinners and seven newcomers, including three Division I transfers and four freshmen. TU is receiving votes in the preseason rankings of both national polls - the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 and the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 polls.
Live stats for the games will be available at TulsaHurricane.com. The tournament central page can be found here.
This will be the first meeting between Tulsa and St. John's. Tulsa is 1-0 vs. Ohio State, 0-2 vs. Louisville, 2-2 vs. Florida Atlantic and 2-2 vs. Northern Illinois. The Golden Hurricane defeated Ohio State 8-0 in the schools' only meeting in 2011 in Tulsa. TU and Louisville played twice during the 2011 season, 4-1 and 5-0 victories by the Cardinals in Austin, Texas. The Hurricane last played Florida Atlantic in 2012, a 6-5 TU win in Boca Raton. The teams met three times in 2005. Tulsa won 6-2 in eight innings, and the Owls won 3-2 and 7-0. Tulsa and Northern Illinois last met in 2011, when the Golden Hurricane defeated the Huskies twice, 3-2 and 6-1, in Austin, Texas. NIU won 6-1 in 1993 and 6-5 in 2003. Tulsa returns 11 players to the roster for the 2014 season. Among the returners are senior pitcher Aimee Creger, senior infielders Jill Barrett, Shelby Blanton and Emma Horton, and senior outfielders Haley Henshaw and Cierra Hughes. The lone returning junior is first baseman Julie Kernen., while the sophomores are outfielder Jodi Edmiston, catcher/infielder Catherine Horner, pitcher Caitlin Sill and infielder Jocelyn Sheffield.
The Golden Hurricane welcomed seven newcomers, including three Division I transfers and four freshmen. Claremore native and junior pitcher Bailey Erwin came to Tulsa from Missouri, Tahlequah native and junior catcher Erica Sampson came to Tulsa from Oklahoma, and Tulsa native and sophomore infielder Kaitlin Allen came to Tulsa from Florida State.
Freshmen Maddie and Maggie Withee came to Tulsa from Arlington, Texas, Brittany Walker came to Tulsa from Mansfield, Texas, and Jill Roye came to Tulsa from Wilburton, Okla. Maddie Withee is an outfielder and catcher, Maggie Withee is an infielder, Brittany Walker is an infielder and outfielder, and Roye is a pitcher and designated player.
The Hurricane is receiving votes in both major national preseason polls, and was picked to finish second in Conference USA, in the preseason poll voted by the league's coaches.
Tulsa returns two pitchers in Aimee Creger and Caitlin Sill, and added two pitchers to the roster in Bailey Erwin and Jill Roye. TU lost a three-year starting pitcher and designated player in the graduated Lacey Middlebrooks. Sill, Erwin and Roye will be looked to in filling in the rotation behind the senior Creger.
Creger is a two-time NFCA Third-Team All-America and the 2013 C-USA Pitcher of the Year. She was picked as the C-USA Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Creger has a career 68-16 record and a 1.50 ERA with 726 strikeouts and a .166 opponent batting average. She already holds school records for career wins and strikeouts. In 2013, she went 25-7 with a 1.15 ERA and 286 strikeouts. She also has a career .258 batting average with four home runs and 29 RBI in 132 at bats.
Sill has come along in her second collegiate year, and is expected to make significant contributions in the circle this year. As a freshman, she made 15 pitching appearances, posting a 3-5 record and 3.98 ERA in 56.1 innings.
Erwin transferred to Tulsa from Missouri, where she posted a perfect 11-0 record. She went 8-0 with a 1.12 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 74.2 innings as a freshman, and 3-0 in four appearances with 19 strikeouts in 24.0 innings last year.
Roye played at Red Oak High School, where she posted a 61-11 record with a 0.74 ERA , registering 413 strikeouts and 31 shutouts. A hitter as well as a pitcher, she hit .531 with an .845 slugging percentage, .543 OBP, 31 home runs, 48 doubles, 14 triples, 258 RBI and 114 runs scored. She is expected to compete for the designated player position as well.
Horner returns for her sophomore season, and is joined by junior Erica Sampson and freshman Maddie Withee. The three will compete for the position to fill the position occupied by the graduated three-year starter Cassidy Bowen. Horner has the returning TU experience, but along with Sampson and Withee, the three will all compete for the receiving end of the battery.
As a freshman in 2013, Horner split time between catcher and second base, compiling a .254 batting average, five doubles, 14 RBI and a .421 OBP in 35 games and 21 starts. She was a fixture in the lineup. Horner earned C-USA All-Freshman honors after hitting .320 with six RBI, a .440 slugging and a .452 OBP in C-USA games.
Sampson came to Tulsa after two seasons at Oklahoma, where she played in 111 games with 28 starts. She played in 49 games and scored 19 runs, including a run in four of the five games in the Women's College World Series for the national champion OU team. As a freshman, she recorded 27 runs, four homers and 18 RBI in 27 games. She can play in the outfield as well.
Maddie Withee, out of James Bowie High School in Arlington, Texas, can play catcher and outfield. She earned district Catcher of the Year honors in 2013, and district offensive Player of the Year honors in each of her first three seasons. She hit better than .500 each year, and hit .522 with 15 RBI as a senior in 2013.
Jill Barrett, Julie Kernen and Shelby Blanton all return as full- or part-time starters in the infield. Joining the veterans in the infield group are senior Emma Horton, sophomores Jocelyn Sheffield and Kaitlin Allen and freshmen Maggie Withee and Brittany Walker. While Barrett, Blanton and Kernen all return to the dirt, TU must replace a four-year starter at shortstop in the graduated Samantha Cobb.
Barrett is a two-time All-C-USA first team and NFCA Midwest Team selection, and was picked as the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year. She was also placed on the Top 50 Watch List for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. Barrett is three-year starter at third base, where she has started all 176 games in her career. She is a career .375 hitter, with 221 hits, 124 runs scored, 81 RBI, 33 extra base hits, a .458 slugging percentage and a .424 OBP. Last season, she set a school record with 83 hits and hit .415, a year after hitting .416 with 79 hits. She also drove in 31 runs and scored 42 runs last year.
Blanton is a three-year starter between left field and second base, and has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the dirt. She has played in 161 games with 146 starts, and compiled a .280 batting average and a .330 OBP with 58 runs, 37 RBI and 19 extra base hits.
Kernen started all 58 games she played at first base last season, after starting 29 of her 43 contests as a freshman at the initial base on the diamond. She has hit .242 with 10 home runs and 48 RBI in two years. In a breakout sophomore season, she hit .286 with a team-leading nine home runs, and 41 RBI, eight doubles, 31 runs scored, a .513 slugging and a .399 OBP.
Horton has played in 79 career games, including 33 in 2013, scoring 19 runs and stealing two bases in primarily a pinch running role. Sheffield saw action in eight games as a freshman in 2013.
Allen, a Tulsa native and graduate of Jenks High School, came back home after spending a year at Florida State. She played in 31 games with 21 starts last season, where she scored 10 runs with six RBI and drew 19 walks, compiling a .385 OBP.
Maggie Withee, the second half of the freshman twins, was a four-time first-team all-district selection and the 2013 district Offensive Player of the Year at James Bowie High School. She hit .501 for her career, including a .549 batting average as a senior.
Walker was a four-year letterwinner at Mansfield Legacy High School in Mansfield, Texas. She earned Texas Girls Association all-state honors and was the District 15-4A Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. She hit .432 with 15 extra base hits, 36 RBI and 41 runs scored as a senior. She also plays in the outfield.
Seniors Cierra Hughes and Haley Henshaw anchor the corner outfield spots, and are joined by sophomore Jodi Edmiston, as well as junior Erica Sampson and freshmen Brittany Walker and Maddie Withee. Hughes and Henshaw started at the corner spots for most of last season, and the Hurricane will seek to fill the center field position held for four years by the graduated Caitlin Everett.
Henshaw was a second-team All-C-USA selection as a junior in 2013, and was placed on the C-USA All-Preseason Team this year. She broke out in 2013 in her first significant season of playing time last year, hitting .321 with 44 RBI. She tallied 16 extra base hits with five homers and eight doubles, scored 28 runs, and compiled a .497 slugging percentage and .379 OBP. She has played in 91 career games with 66 starts, including 55 games and 54 starts as a junior.
Hughes has started for the better part of two years in left field since transferring from Oklahoma after her freshman season. She has played in 97 games with 85 starts, and hit .298 with 45 runs and a .349 OBP. Last year, she started 39 of her 46 contests, and hit .270 with 23 runs and a .311 OBP.
Edmiston played in 37 games with 23 starts in her redshirt freshman season, coming off an injury that forced her to sit out in 2012. In 2013, she hit .203, drove in six runs and scored 10 runs.
Following the FAU Kick-Off Classic, the Golden Hurricane will travel to the Aggie Classic in College Station, Texas, Feb. 14-16, where it will play five games, including contests against Oregon State, Texas A&M and McNeese State. TU will then play at the Georgia Tech/Kennesaw State Crossover Tournament in five contests against Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech and Georgia State, Feb. 21-23.
The Hurricane will first play at home at the Collins Family Softball Complex, Feb. 28-March 2 in the Tulsa Invitational, where it will face Creighton and Northwestern State twice each. TU concludes the non-conference weekends at the OU Courtyard Marriott Tournament in Norman, March 7-9, where it will play four games against Oklahoma, Western Illinois and Liberty.
Tulsa will play a total of 22 home games, including four C-USA series against Charlotte, UTEP, East Carolina and Middle Tennessee. The Hurricane will play league road series at Marshall, UAB, UTSA and North Texas. TU will also play midweek contests against Oklahoma State and Arkansas (home-and-home), as well as Western Illinois, Bradley, Wichita State and Central Arkansas at home, and Missouri State on the road.
The C-USA Championship will be held May 8-10 at FAU in Boca Raton, Fla.
Follow Tulsa Athletics on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/TulsaHurricane and Facebook at www.facebook.com/TulsaHurricane. Follow Tulsa Softball on Twitter (www.twitter.com/TulsaSoftball) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/TulsaSoftball).
ATHLETICS TICKET OFFICE