Feb. 6, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -The wait is almost over for the No. 12/15 Florida State softball team as the Seminoles will begin their 2014 season on February 7 in the Hotel Encanto Invitational on the campus of New Mexico State in Las Cruces, N.M. Nebraska, UTEP and Saint Mary's will also participate in the tournament along with the host Aggies.
"This is what all of the offseason workouts and practices have led to," said head coach Lonni Alameda. "We have a great group of veterans to lead us and an exciting bunch of newcomers that are ready to make an impact. I am really pleased with where our team is at right now and we are ready to get the season started."
The 2014 Seminoles bring back eight players that started at least 30 games in 2013. Junior pitcher Lacey Waldrop led the pitching staff with a 24-10 record and a 1.53 ERA and went on to receive NFCA Third Team All-America honors a year ago. Senior sluggers Courtney Senas and Kelly Hensleywill look to continue to build on last year's offensive success where Senas hit .333 with 14 home runs and Hensley batted .315 and added 13 home runs as the Seminoles hit a program-record 60 round-trippers.
A solid crew of freshmen will give the Seminoles depth and also battle for starts, highlighted by utility player Ellie Cooper and outfielder Lauren Harris. Cooper, a Fenton, Mo., native, is a dynamic player that can play many positions and was a first team All-State selection and played for New Zealand at the Junior World Championships. Harris, from St. Cloud, Fla., will compete for time in the outfield and comes to Tallahassee having established high school records in home runs, stolen bases and slugging percentage.
Florida State also returns several players who were bit by the injury bug in 2013 and come back ready to take the Seminoles on a deep postseason run. Redshirt seniors Tiffani Brown and Briana Hamilton had what was supposed to be their final season cut short within the first month of play. The experience they bring back in 2014 will be instrumental in Florida State's success. Redshirt freshmen Stephanie Hartness and Alex Powersboth had injuries that limited them in 2013 but are on their way to contribute in 2014.
The `Noles will face a strong challenge right out of the gate as they take on No. 9 Nebraska on Friday at 4:00 p.m. The Huskers advanced to the 2013 Women's College World Series and return their entire pitching staff as well as five position players from last year's squad. Nebraska is led by senior twins Tatum and Taylor Edwards, who have each received All-America honors. The Huskers lead the overall series with the `Noles, 10-5, but the two teams have split the last four meetings dating back to 2002.
The Aggies of New Mexico State have been picked as the favorite to win the Western Athletic Conference in 2014. Junior outfielder Staci Rodriguez and sophomore utility player Emma Adams were named to the preseason All-WAC team. Rodriguez was First Team All-WAC and WAC Player of the Year in 2013 after smashing 20 home runs and 63 RBI. The Seminoles are 3-0 all-time against the Aggies.
Florida State will be facing UTEP and Saint Mary's for the first time in program history. The Miners of UTEP are led by first-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk who played at Nebraska from 1993-96. The 2013 Conference USA Newcomer of the Year Erika Arcuri led UTEP with a .347 batting average and 26 runs scored, while striking out only 11 times in 144 at bats.
The Saint Mary's softball team will play in the West Coast Conference in 2014 after years of being a member of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference. Senior outfielder Brittany Sabatini was named to the preseason All-WCC team and leads a team that defeated No. 15 Stanford on the road, 5-2, in 2013.
The Seminoles will play five games in three days, including two against No. 9 Nebraska, before heading back to Tallahassee for the Renegade Classic beginning on February 14. Live stats will be available on the New Mexico State website (nmstatesports.com) and radio coverage will be available during the games against Nebraska at huskers.com.
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Hotel Encanto Invitational Schedule