Black Knights Headed To NCAA Regionals

Amanda Nguyen

Amanda Nguyen

May 15, 2013

2013 Softball Postseason Guide Get Acrobat Reader

WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Army softball team has been riding on cloud nine since the Black Knights swept Patriot League defending champion Lehigh to win the conference tournament title and a bid to the NCAA Regionals last weekend. The team is headed to the NCAA Austin Regional and has a daunting task ahead of them, which is nothing new to a young Army squad that set the bar high.

Postseason play is new to the Black Knights, whose last visit to the NCAA Regionals was in 2002 when most of the 2013 squad were just starting to play organized ball. Army (35-24) will be challenged taking on host and No. 4 national Texas (44-8) on Friday at 7 p.m. ET at the Red and Charlene McCombs Field being aired on the Longhorn Network.

Army's numbers are impressive with 35 wins and four players batting over .300 with two breaking single-season and career marks for hits, runs batted in, doubles, runs scored and total bases, along with one the finest pitchers in school history.

This group will be going toe-to-toe against one of top pitchers in the country, an explosive offense and some of the fastest players on the bases when they take on the Longhorns, who are fifth nationally in earned run average (1.61), 13th in batting average (.329), fifth in stolen bases per game (2.08), fourth in won-loss percentage (.846) and 23rd in scoring (6.06).

Senior Blaire Luna is one of the reasons for the Longhorns' success in the circle where she ranks first in strikeouts per seven innings (11.9) and hits per seven innings (3.0). She is seventh in earned run average (1.19) and 16th in victories (26). One of the 10 finalists for the USA Softball Player of the Year award, Luna has struck out 342 batters and held opponents to a .126 batting average.

Supporting her are senior Kim Bruins (1.65 ERA) and freshman Holly Kern (2.62).

Setting the pace offensively is senior third baseman Taylor Hoagland, who ranks 10th nationally in slugging percentage (.868), 13th in runs per game (1.12 average), eighth in batting average (.442), and second in on-base percentage (.628). She has 13 homers, 40 RBI, 58 runs scored and 64 walks. Junior designated player Taylor Thomas has a team-high 55 RBI with 12 homers and 13 doubles, along with 20 stolen bases. Junior center fielder Brejae Washington is the team leader with 28 stolen bases.

Army will look to counter with strong pitching, batting and base stealing of its own. Leading Army's pitching rotation is sophomore right-hander Morgan Lashley, who is ranked sixth nationally in wins with 29 after recording four in leading the Black Knights to the Patriot League title over the weekend with a pair of shutout performances in the championship series.

Lashley has led Army and the Patriot League the past two years in just about every pitching category as the Black Knights' workhorse in the circle. The Army hurler has appeared in 43 of 59 games with 40 starts and 27 complete games pitching 281.2 innings. Lashley has 192 strikeouts and issued 113 walks, while holding opponents to a .211 batting average along with six solo shutouts and sharing another. Though only in her second season, she is the school's career leader in wins (62), and ranks second in strikeouts (429), innings pitched (608.1) and winning percentage (.689).

Setting the pace offensively are Amanda Nguyen (.382), Alex Reynolds (.362), Kasey McCravey (.337) and Christian McKone (.315). They have 153 runs, 277 hits and 98 RBI between them. While the Longhorns rank among the national leaders in stolen bases per game as a team (fifth), Nguyen ranks individually listing 14th (.067). She holds Army and Patriot League records for season (40) and career (86) stolen bases and is a threat every time she gets on base.

Nguyen, one of four Army players from the Lone Star State, is just as prolific at the plate as a slap hitter. The three-time All-Patriot League first-team pick broke her school record along with setting league marks this season for hits (83), runs (47) and stolen bases. Nguyen needs just one more run to become Army's all-time leader in runs scored as she is tied for that spot with 124, and is second in hits with 223 (seven shy of the leader), while her career batting average (.376) ranks second.

Right behind Nguyen is Reynolds, a three-time first-team all-league second baseman who leads the team in RBI (45) and doubles (15). She shattered the career mark (135) for runs batted in and lists among Army's top 10 list in hits (217), runs scored (112), doubles (41), home runs (15), total bases (301) and walks (63).

McCravey and McKone have played a key role offensively, and both earned all-league honors. McCravey, a first-team all-league third baseman is second on the team in RBI (36), doubles (11), total bases (89) and runs (42), while listing third in hits (63) and fourth in batting (.315).

McKone, a second-team all-league outfielder is quick on the bases like Nguyen and has been the leadoff or No. 2 in the batting order. She is second on the team with 16 stolen bases, lists third in runs scored (35) and batting (.337) and fourth in hits (60). McKone batted.500 at the Patriot League Tournament and was among four Black Knights named to the all-tournament team.

Catcher Rae Anne Payleitner has battled through injuries this year, and though her .214 batting average doesn't show it, she is one of the hardest hitters on the team. Her three-run homer in the top of the first inning in the championship game in the Patriot League Tournament set the tone as the Black Knight defeated Lehigh, 5-0, for the title.

Juniors April Ortenzo (SS) and Marina Northup (OF) have driven in 27 and 26 runs, respectively and have combined for 39 runs as starters in all 59 games.

As a team, Army is batting .282 with 485 hits, 238 runs scored, 60 doubles, four triples, 19 home runs and 201 RBI. They show a .972 fielding percentage, which ranks 19th nationally.

Army shows a 2.12 team ERA with freshman Braetana Roy behind Lashley with 23 appearances and 15.1 innings pitched. She has 58 strikeouts along with four wins, a 3.46 ERA and has two shutouts. Sophomore Jewels Steurer has been involved with two of Army's 11 shutouts and has drawn limited duty with 11 appearances and 21.1 innings pitched.

Following the first day, Army will face either Houston (Conference USA) or South Carolina (SEC) and both are formidable opponents. The Black Knights and Cougars met in 2008 with Houston taking both games, 9-0 and 10-1, but Army ruined the Cougars' shutout streak in the final game after scoring a run in the third inning.

Houston (40-18), coming off a second-place finish in C-USA, has a solid pitching staff with a 2.60 team ERA. Junior Bailey Watts leads the rotation with a 2.13 ERA in 164 innings, striking out 109 batters and walking 82 along with a .221 opponent batting average. Junior Diedre Outon shows a 2.75 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 55 walks.

The Cougars are led offensively by catcher Haley Outon, the C-USA Player of the Year. She has a .350 batting average with 15 homers and 61 RBI. Third baseman Holly Anderson, a first-team All-C-USA infielder, has a team-best .374 batting averages with 12 homers, 50 RBI and a .673 slugging percentage. Freshman center fielder Katie St. Pierre, who earned a spot on both C-USA first team and the All-Freshman Team, is batting .369 with a team-best 14 steals.

Army and South Carolina have never met, but both played against Furman and Auburn this year with the Black Knights bowing 4-2 and 8-0 in their season debut at the Plainsman Invitational hosted by Auburn, while the Gamecocks posted 3-2 wins against both. Setting the offensive pace for South Carolina is senior shortstop Samie Garcia, who was selected in the National pro Fastpitch (NPF) Draft, going with her 14th overall selection (second of the fourth round) to the NY/NJ Comets.

Garcia, a second-team All-SEC, leads the Gamecocks in 11 offensive categories and ranks among the national leaders in several. She is batting .412 with 48 runs, 77 hits, 16 doubles, seven triples, 23 RBI and a slugging percentage of .604. She is ranked fourth in triples, 53rd in batting average and 54th in doubles per game (0.29). Dana Hathom is next batting .355 with 55 hits, 30 runs scored and 29 RBI, while Kristen Struett has 41 RBI, 33 runs, 53 hits and 11 doubles batting .329.

In the circle, Julie Sarratt leads the rotation with an 11-7 mark pitching 121.1 innings, along with 78 strikeouts. Katie Marks is 3.43 with 69 strikeouts in 89.2 innings in the circle in showing an 8-7 mark with Audrey Broyles 9-9 with a 3.81 ERA and 46 strikeouts.

Friday's game versus Army will be aired on the Longhorn Network, while the Houston and South Carolina contest will be streamed live on ESPN3. For the duration of the regional, any Texas game will air live on LHN and all non-Texas games will be streamed on ESPN3.

The winners of Friday's game square off Saturday morning at 12 p.m. ET, while the losing teams meet in an elimination game at 3 p.m. The final game of the day is at 6 p.m. with the winner of the second game taking on the loser of the first game. Sunday's regional championship begins at 2 p.m. ET with a second game played 45 minutes later (if necessary).

Army fans can also follow along through Twitter updates (@Army_WSoftball), live stats ( and audio streamed online through Knight Vision with Heath Trabue calling the action.

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