Feb. 7, 2013
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
While the Northeast is preparing for a major snowstorm, Army's softball team will be spending the weekend in Auburn, Ala., ushering in its 35th season at the Plainsman Invitational Tournament (Feb. 8-10) hosted by Auburn University at Jane B. Moore Field. Playing five games over a three-day span, the Black Knights lift the lid on their fourth season under head coach Michelle DePolo Friday against Furman at 10 a.m. and Kent State at 8 p.m.
Saturday has Army taking on Austin Peay at 5:30 p.m. followed by East Tennessee State at 8 p.m. Just one game is scheduled on Sunday when the Black Knights face NCAA participant Auburn at 12:30 p.m. in closing out tournament play.
Live stats for each game will be available via GameTracker by logging onto Army's official website at www.goARMysports.com. For detailed in-game updates, follow Army softball on twitter @Army_WSoftball.
The Black Knights are coming off a school-record 37 wins last year highlighted by a pair of Patriot League major awards, regional honors and a trip to the championship finals of the conference tournament for the first time since 2006. Army returns nine letterwinners from the 2012 team that compiled a 37-21 overall mark and 14-6 showing in league. Leading the way are first-team league all-stars in senior second baseman Alex Reynolds, junior outfielder Amanda Nguyen and sophomore pitcher Morgan Lashley. All three were also selected to this year's preseason all-league squad with Army voted to finish second in the conference.
Reynolds batted .315 last year in league play and finished among the leaders in RBI (30) and runs scored (33) en route to ranking among Army's top 10 in RBI, runs scored and home runs. Nguyen, a second-team all-region selection in 2012, has been a consistent force and threat in left field since taking over that position her freshman year. She has led Army with 70 hits each of the past two years setting single-season marks for hits, runs (41) and stolen bases (27). Nguyen batted .365 overall and .373 in league games last year alternating at the No. 1 and 2 spots in the batting order.
Lashley, a sophomore right-handed pitcher, earned a host of accolades last year to include a pair of Patriot League honors with her selection as Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year, the first player to win both awards in the same season. She put the finishing touches on her first collegiate season ranked No. 6 nationally in wins after setting school and league marks with 33, along with listing among the national leaders in shutouts (11). In addition to earning first-team all-league honors, she was named to the all-tournament team and was an all-region pick.
Co-captains Reynolds and junior April Ortenzo will provide the leadership for Army's 17-player roster that has eight freshmen among its 13 underclassmen. They have proven to be a formidable duo shoring up the middle of the infield at second base and shortstop, respectively.
Ortenzo ranks among the Patriot League's top returnees at shortstop with two years of experience behind her. She has shown time and again that she is capable of making a play deep in the hole. The junior infielder ranks among Army's top returning hitters after batting .315 last year with 67 hits and a team-high 37 runs scored.
Expectations are high with a solid group of returning players, experienced pitching and a strong freshman class that needs to contribute as well.
In the three short years that DePolo has been at the helm, she has led Army to a pair of 30-win seasons and heads into 2013 just two victories shy of reaching the century mark.
Army will be challenged in its bid to win its second straight lid lifter and 17th overall when it takes on Furman in the tournament opener Friday morning. The Paladins, members of the Southern Conference, posted a 17-35 mark last year and 6-18 showing in conference play.
The Black Knights face Kent State of the Mid-American Conference in closing out the first day of competition. The Golden Flashes went 23-30 last year and 11-11 in conference play.
Saturday finds Army going up against Austin Peay of the Ohio Valley Conference and East Tennessee State of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Lady Govs were 19-31 overall last year and 10-20 in the OVC with the Buccaneers closing at 11-38 and 1-17 in their conference.
Army's toughest test could be in its last tournament game when the Black Knights face the host Tigers, who have been to the NCAA Regionals the past five years. Auburn posted a 33-23 overall record last year with a 12-16 mark in the Southeastern Conference (half the teams are ranked among the top 25 in the country) where the Tigers finished third in the SEC Western Division and seventh overall.
"We are starting off the season with stiff competition as our objective is to expose ourselves to different conferences and styles of competition in preparation for league play," stated DePolo prior to leaving for Alabama.
Following this weekend's slate of games, Army heads to Charlotte, N.C., for the Charlotte Classic.