THIS WEEK: Saint Louis softball opens the 2013 season in Hammond, La., with five games at Southeastern Louisiana's Jimmy John's Lion Classic 1 Friday through Sunday, Feb. 8-10. The Billikens face Jacksonville State (12:30 p.m.) and Nicholls State (3 p.m.) Friday; UT Martin (10 a.m.) and Southeastern Louisiana (12:30 p.m.) Saturday; and Louisiana Tech (10 a.m.) Sunday.
FOLLOWING THE ACTION: Free live statistics and a subscription live video stream are available for the Billikens' games against Jacksonville State and Southeastern Louisiana. The links for these features can be found in the schedule box located just below the main photo on www.SLUBillikens.com.
BILLIKENS RETURN NINE: Saint Louis returns nine players, including seven starters, from its 2012 team that finished 23-33 overall and 9-11 (eighth place) in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The group of returning starters includes senior center fielder Jessica Buschjost, who led last year's team in batting average (.328), hits (60) and stolen bases (34 in 37 attempts); senior catcher Alyson Brand, who hit .270 with four home runs and 25 RBIs a year ago while throwing out 43 percent of potential base-stealers; senior first baseman Laura Bohning, the 2012 squad's leader in home runs (five) and RBIs (28); and senior outfielder Erin Harcar, who displayed a combination of speed and power by producing four homers and 22 steals (25 attempts). Junior shortstop Jessica Van Nostrand returns after starting every game during her first two seasons, while junior third baseman Kelsey Biggs is back after contributing four home runs and 11 RBIs last season. Sophomore outfielder Lindsay Friedman, who led SLU with a .372 on-base percentage in her debut season, rounds out the list of returning starters. Junior outfielder Katie Kroeger and sophomore first baseman/designated player Breanna Lockette also return.
SIX NEWCOMERS ON THE ROSTER: The Billikens feature six new players this season - junior second baseman Olivia Roback, freshman outfielder Madeline Brungardt, freshman third baseman/right-handed pitcher Elizabeth Everingham, freshman catcher Ellie Huffman, freshman right-handed pitcher Laney Kneib and freshman left-handed pitcher Brianne Lore.
CLIMBING THE CAREER LADDER: Several Billikens begin the season on various SLU career top-10 lists. Alyson Brand is tied for first in sacrifice flies (six), fourth in walks (53), tied for fourth in home runs (11), tied for sixth in RBIs (68), eighth in putouts (622) and eighth in chances (757). Jessica Buschjost is fourth in stolen bases (68) and tied for 10th in runs (69); Laura Bohning is tied for fourth in home runs (11); and Lindsay Friedman is ninth in hit by pitch (11).
HEAD COACH CHRISTY CONNOYER: Third-year head coach Christy Connoyer has an 83-87 career record, including a 52-57 ledger at Saint Louis. Connoyer spent the 2005 season as head coach at Tulsa, where she became the first coach in program history to compile a winning record (31-30) in her first season. Connoyer is a 1994 graduate of Notre Dame, where she was a four-time first-team All-Conference selection. Joining Connoyer in the dugout this season are assistant coaches Sarah Clynes and Stephanie Winter.
THIS WEEKEND'S OPPONENTS:
Jacksonville (Ala.) State - The Gamecocks also will be playing their season opener when they meet the Billikens. Jacksonville State has five position starters and three pitchers back from last year's 28-28 team that was 19-11 (third place) in the Ohio Valley Conference. Sophomore infielder Sara Borders (.310 BA, six HRs, 32 RBIs, team-high 13 doubles) and junior right-hander Tiffany Harbin (17-10, 2.41 ERA) are the top returning players.
Nicholls (La.) State - The Colonels welcome back four position starters and two pitchers from their 2012 squad that finished 14-31 overall and 8-12 (seventh place) in the Southland Conference. Senior second baseman/outfielder Ashley Bertot (.388 BA, .459 OBP), last year's Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year and a first-team All-Conference selection, is Nicholls State's top returnee.
UT Martin - The 2012 Skyhawks (39-22) captured the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season and tournament crowns en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance. Among UT Martin's six returning position starters are senior outfielder Leah Taylor, the 2012 OVC Player of the Year who registered team highs in seven offensive categories including batting average (.385), triples (10) and stolen bases (37 in 42 attempts); junior outfielder Kayla Wade, who batted .332; and sophomore first baseman/catcher Lauren Smith, who slugged a team-high nine home runs.
Southeastern Louisiana - Tournament host Southeastern Louisiana, which posted a 15-34 overall ledger and a 5-15 Southland Conference mark (tie-10th place) last season, has six position starters and three pitchers back in the fold. Leading the returnees is junior second baseman Megan McCollum, who produced team highs in batting average (.319) and doubles (10).Louisiana Tech - The Lady Techsters' top four hitters and leading pitcher return from last season, which saw Louisiana Tech go 25-33 overall and 8-12 (sixth place) in the Western Athletic Conference. Senior utility player Melanie Goff earned first-team All-Conference plaudits after leading Tech in batting average (.409), on-base percentage (.510) and doubles (14). Senior outfielder Dacia Hale also returns after leading the team with eight home runs and 31 RBIs. Senior right-hander Michelle Jones won 15 games in the circle last year.