Junior outfielder Katie Zavodny returns after leading the Lady Flames with a .351 batting average in 2012.
Liberty softball opens the 2013 campaign by competing in the KSU Classic, hosted by Kennesaw State in Woodstock, Ga., Saturday and Sunday. The Lady Flames compete against Tennessee Tech at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, followed by a 1 p.m. game versus Eastern Kentucky. On Sunday, Liberty faces SIU Edwardsville at 10:30 a.m. before wrapping up tournament play with a 1 p.m. game against IUPUI. Complete Game Notes Tournament Central The Games Liberty's first three opponents all hail from the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC), while IUPUI competes in the Summit League. Tennessee Tech finished second at the 2012 OVC Softball Championship, and is predicted to finish second in the OVC East, followed in third in the preseason poll by Eastern Kentucky. Liberty is 3-2-1 all-time against Tennessee Tech, including a rare tie to open the 2008 season. The Lady Flames have won all five previous meetings against Eastern Kentucky and are 1-0 versus IUPUI. Liberty and 2007 NCAA Division II national champion SIU Edwardsville will meet for the first time in softball.
How to Follow the Lady Flames Fans can follow all of Liberty's games this weekend through Gametracker, provided by the Liberty Athletics Communications office. Live stats can be accessed through the Live Stats link on LibertyFlames.com.
Quick Hits - Liberty opens its 20th season of NCAA Division I softball against Tennessee Tech. - Head coach Paul Wetmore has led the Lady Flames throughout their Division I era. - The Lady Flames began the 2008 season with a 2-2 tie versus Tennessee Tech. - Liberty is 12-14-1 all-time in season openers, including 10-8-1 in its NCAA Division I era. - Katie Zavodny (Jr. OF) and Kelby Allen (So. C) are returning VaSID all-state players. - The Lady Flames' roster includes 9 freshmen, 6 sophomores, 7 juniors and 0 seniors. - Liberty was predicted to finish in seventh place in the Big South preseason poll. - Liberty's first three opponents this year are all members of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Season Opening Liberty is 12-14-1 all-time in softball season openers, including a 10-8-1 mark in the NCAA Division I era. The only team that Liberty has opened two seasons against is Hampton, who the Lady Flames defeated to open the 1997 and 1998 seasons. The Lady Flames have gone 0-4-1 in their last five season openers, with their last season-opening win coming Feb. 17, 2007, a 5-3 victory over Appalachian State. A 2-2 tie against this year's season-opening opponent, Tennessee Tech, the second tie in program history, led off the 2008 season.
Shining Under the Lights The Lady Flames played their first home night game in program history on March 6, 2012, a 14-13 victory over East Tennessee State. Liberty trailed 12-2 during the fourth inning, but scored 10 runs on 11 hits in the bottom of the fourth to tie it at 12-all. Freshman Hanna Nichols provided the game-winning sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. Liberty's 10-run comeback was the largest deficit overcome in the team's NCAA Division I softball history. The Lady Flames set a stadium record with 18 base hits, and posted a 10-run inning for the first time since April 1, 2006. Fantastic Freshmen Last season, several freshmen made an immediate impact for the Lady Flames. Catcher Kelby Allen stepped in and hit .306 with four homers and 21 RBIs, posting the highest batting average by a Liberty freshman since 2005. She was then named to the VaSID All-State second team. Amber Donovan led the Lady Flames with 10 doubles, including an NCAA Division I record-tying three doubles on Feb. 24 against Savannah State. She then hit a game-winning three-run homer to seal a series sweep at Gardner-Webb (March 25). Chandler Ball won a team-high 10 games, pacing Liberty with 110 strikeouts. She was one of just six Big South pitchers with 10 wins and 100 strikeouts last season. Hanna Nichols had some clutch hits, with a game-winning sacrifice fly against East Tennessee State and a game-tying, seventh-inning double versus Charleston Southern. Impact Returnees Katie Zavodny and Sammi Shivock return as starters for the third year in a row. Both players played a key role as freshmen in Liberty's 2011 Big South championship run. Shivock set a program freshman record with nine homers in 2011, and was named to the Big South All-Tournament team. Last year, she led the Lady Flames with 32 RBIs and tied for the team lead with 31 runs scored. Zavodny swiped 26 bases as a freshman in 2011, the third-most steals in a single season in program history. In 2012, she was named to the Big South All-Conference second team, hitting .351 with 22 runs scored prior to a season-ending injury in April.
New Faces Liberty says goodbye to a 2012 senior class that included five starters, with three (Kelly Strickland, Meredith Crisante, Kaylee West) who were all-conference players. Strickland was the 2011 Big South Co-Player of the Year. This year's team has no seniors, with a roster breakdown of seven juniors, six sophomores and nine freshmen. The last time that Liberty had no seniors on its softball roster was 2006, when the Lady Flames posted a 41-23 record, tying the program record for victories. Liberty's 2013 freshman class is its largest since 2004, when the team also had nine freshmen. That class included pitcher Sarah Swor, an all-conference selection in 2004.
Liberty vs. Tennessee Tech All-Time Series: Liberty leads, 3-2-1 Current Streak: Liberty W3 (all in 2010) Last Meeting: Liberty 6, Tennessee Tech 2 (3/14/10 - Knoxville, Tenn.) Last Tennessee Tech Victory: Tennessee Tech 9, Liberty 0 (3/28/04 - Knoxville, Tenn.)
Tennessee Tech (2-2) posted a 27-32 record in 2012, and advanced to the OVC final before falling to Tennessee Martin. The Golden Eagles lost three-time OVC all-conference pitcher Holly Thomas to graduation. Sophmore Taylor Ketchum was named OVC Pitcher of the Week on Monday after going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 10 strikeouts last weekend. Liberty is 3-2-1 all-time against Tennessee Tech. The two teams met in the 2008 season opener, a 2-2 tie. Liberty most recently downed Tennessee Tech three times in 2010.
Liberty vs. Eastern Kentucky All-Time Series: Liberty leads, 5-0 Current Streak: Liberty W5 Last Meeting: Liberty 3, Eastern Kentucky 2 (Feb. 21, 2010 - Spartanburg, S.C.)
Eastern Kentucky went 27-30 last season, finishing fifth in the OVC with a 16-13 conference record. A pair of all-conference players return, in senior Raquel Howes and sophomore Katie Tackett. Liberty has won all five meetings against Eastern Kentucky, with each of the last four being decided by just one run apiece. In February 2010, Liberty defeated EKU, 12-11 and 3-2. Both meetings in 2010 ended with walk-off base hits for the Lady Flames.
Liberty vs. SIU Edwardsville All-Time Series: First Meeting
SIU Edwardsville (2-1) enters its third season as a NCAA Division I softball program after dominating at the Division II level, winning a national title in 2007. Last season, SIUE went 23-29, led by freshman Alex McDavid, who was named to the NFCA All-Mideast Region team. One additional 2012 All-OVC player returns, in junior Chelsea Yankolovich. Liberty has never faced SIU Edwardsville in softball. The Lady Flames are 10-5-1 all-time against teams in the 2013 constitution of the OVC.
Liberty vs. IUPUI All-Time Series: Liberty leads, 1-0 Last Meeting: Liberty 8, IUPUI 4 (March 19, 2004 - Orlando, Fla.)
IUPUI (3-2) opened its 2013 season last weekend at an invitational hosted by Mercer. Junior Jessica Lam was named Summit League Player of the Week, after batting .625 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. Liberty beat IUPUI, 8-4, on March 19, 2004 in Orlando, Fla. The Lady Flames trailed the Jaguars, 4-0, after three innings, before scoring the game's last eight runs.
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