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Lady Flames to Open 2016 Softball Schedule in Orlando

February 9, 2016  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Lady Flames to Open 2016 Softball Schedule in Orlando

UCF Knights Invitational Tournament Central

Complete Game Notes

The Liberty softball team opens the 2016 season on Thursday at No. 17/17 UCF, facing a nationally-ranked opponent in the season opener for the second straight year. Liberty made an 18-win improvement over 2014, going 29-30 last season. The Lady Flames' improvement from 2014 to 2015 was the best among all NCAA Division I softball teams over that span. On offense, the team welcomes back 2015 Big South Freshman of the Year Alexia Taylor, along with VaSID All-State second team member Tori Zavodny and 2015 Big South All-Freshman team selection Madison Kotchey.

The Lady Flames also welcome back pitchers Chandler Ball and Kenzie Friesen, with Ball earning second team all-conference honors with 20 victories last year. Coach Dot Richardson has added 13 newcomers, including 12 freshmen and one transfer.

The Games
While in Orlando, the Lady Flames will face 2015 NCAA Regional finalist UCF on Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the Lady Flames will compete in four games at the Dot Richardson Invitational at the National Training Center in Clermont, Fla. Liberty wraps up the weekend on Sunday at 9 a.m., against No. 5/5 Alabama, a 2015 Women's College World Series participant, at UCF Softball Complex.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
Fans can follow all of Liberty's games this week through live stats, both at the UCF Knights Invitational and Dot Richardson Invitational. Additionally, Thursday's game against UCF will be available for viewing through their video streaming page.

Quick Hits
- Liberty Softball begins its 23rd year of Division I play, and third under Dot Richardson.

- Liberty is 12-17-1 in season openers, including 10-11-1 in its NCAA Division I era.

- The Lady Flames went 29-30, including 12-12 in Big South play last season.

- Liberty posted one win each against Arkansas, Virginia and Virginia Tech in 2015.

- The Lady Flames led the Big South with 91 stolen bases last year.

- Liberty Softball Stadium was voted second-best softball stadium by FloSoftball.com

- Chandler Ball's 20 wins in 2015 are tied for the second most in program history.

- 10 different Lady Flames registered at least one three-hit game in 2015.

- Alexia Taylor's 21 multiple-hit games last year are the most by a Lady Flame since 2007.

- Blair Lawrence has posted back-to-back seasons with 20 or more stolen bases.

- Liberty's current 12-member freshman class is the largest in program history.

Liberty vs. UCF (UCF leads series, 4-0) (Last Mtg. - UCF 3, LU 0; 3/13/13)
UCF 2015 Record: 50-9 (16-2 American, American Athletic Conference Champion)
Notable: UCF qualified for 2015 NCAA Tallahassee Regional Final

Liberty vs. Chattanooga (UTC leads series, 7-0) (Last Mtg. - UTC 14, LU 6; 3/19/11)
Chattannoga 2015 Record: 35-15 (12-5 SoCon, SoCon Champion)
Notable: Chattanooga competed in 2015 NCAA Auburn Regional, posting 0-2 record

Liberty vs. Bethune-Cookman (LU leads series, 3-2) (Last Mtg. - LU 1, B-C 0; 3/14/09)
Bethune-Cookman 2015 Record: 22-29 (11-3 MEAC, 2nd place Southern Division)
Notable: Bethune-Cookman is the preseason coaches' favorite to win 2016 MEAC Southern Division title.

Liberty vs. Morgan State (Series tied, 2-2) (Last Mtg. - LU 6, MSU 1; 3/2/02)
Morgan State 2015 Record: 8-30 (7-10 MEAC)
Notable: Morgan State was predicted to finish fifth in MEAC Preseason Poll.

Liberty vs. Stetson (Series tied, 4-4) (Last Mtg. - LU 4, Stetson 0; 3/12/11)
Stetson 2015 Record: 30-20 (10-11 Atlantic Sun, 6th place)
Notable: Stetson was the 2014 Atlantic Sun Champion, before going 1-2 at NCAA Gainesville Regional.

Liberty vs. Alabama (Alabama leads series, 1-0) (Last Mtg. - UA 10, LU 7; 3/9/10)
Alabama 2015 Record: 48-15 (17-8 SEC, 3rd place)
Notable: Has qualified for back-to-back Women's College World Series, 2014 and 2015.

Top 25 Challenge
The Liberty softball team has competed against top 25 teams 49 times in program history, posting a 6-43 record versus nationally-ranked opponents.

This is the second year in a row that the Lady Flames have opened against a top 25 team, as Liberty fell to No. 23/23 South Alabama to start the 2015 campaign.

In 2007, Liberty knocked off No. 23 Hawai'i, No. 10 Baylor and No. 6 Michigan. The Lady Flames' 2-0 win over No. 6 Michigan, March 24, 2007, marks the highest-ranked team that Liberty has beaten in softball, and the team's most recent victory over a nationally-ranked team.

No. 17/17 UCF, No. 5/5 Alabama, No. 16/18 Baylor and No. 3/3 LSU are the four nationally-ranked opponents on Liberty's 2016 schedule.

Last year, Liberty went 0-2 against ranked competition, falling to both No. 23/23 South Alabama and No. 1/1 Florida.

Season Opening
Liberty is 12-17-1 all-time in softball season openers, including a 10-11-1 mark in the NCAA Division I era (since 1994).

This will be the second time in program history that the Lady Flames will open a season in Florida, and first since 2014, when the Dot Richardson Era began in Fort Myers.

The Lady Flames have gone 0-7-1 in their last seven season openers, with their last season-opening win coming on Feb. 17, 2007, a 5-3 victory over Appalachian State.

2015 Season Highlights
With a 29-30 record last year, Liberty improved by 18 wins over the 2014 season.  Liberty's improvement was the largest by any NCAA Division I softball team from 2014 to 2015, and just one shy of a program record (22 wins in 2005, to 41 wins in 2006).

In 2015, Liberty posted wins over two ACC opponents (Virginia, Virginia Tech), one SEC team (Arkansas) and Marshall, who entered the game rated 52 in RPI. Liberty's win over Arkansas was the first victory against an SEC opponent in program history.

Liberty opened the 1,000-seat Liberty Softball Stadium on March 19 with a 9-2 win over Rider. The Lady Flames went 13-10 in their new facility last season.

At 12-12 in Big South play, Liberty earned double-digit conference victories for the seventh time in program history, and the first since going 11-7 in Big South play in 2011. The Lady Flames swept five conference doubleheaders on the year.

Strength in the Circle
Liberty's returning pitchers combined for 26 wins and six shutouts last season, as the Lady Flames' staff tied for second in the Big South with seven shutouts in 2015.

Chandler Ball, a 2015 Big South All-Conference second team pitcher, went 20-11 with a 3.20 ERA and four shutouts. Her 20 wins were tied for the second most in program history. She went 17-6 with a 2.39 ERA in her last 33 appearances of 2015. 

Kenzie Friesen won six games, posting a 3.98 ERA while also fashioning two shutouts. She tossed a two-hit shutout against Presbyterian on April 3, Liberty's first shutout in Liberty Softball Stadium.

Ball (four hits) and Friesen (two) posted back-to-back shutouts over Campbell, March 28, the first time since May 13, 2011 that Liberty had recorded two consecutive shutouts.

Off and Running
For the second year in a row, the 2015 Lady Flames led the Big South in stolen bases, swiping 91 bags. Tori Zavodny and Blair Lawrence tied for second in the Big South with 24 steals each last year.

The Lady Flames led the Big South and ranked 23rd nationally with 92 stolen bases in 2014. The program record of 93 was set in 1996.

3X10
The Lady Flames had 10 different players with a three-hit game last year, led by Tori Zavodny (four times). Megan Robinson posted three three-hit games in 2015 and Kelby Allen, two. Jamie Crisp, Katie Han, Madison Kotchey Blair Lawrence, Mickey Loveridge, Kassidy McCoy and Alexia Taylor posted one three-hit game each.

Since the start of the 2001 season, 2015 was the first year in which 10 Lady Flames have registered at least one three-hit contest.          

Start it Up
2015 Big South Freshman of the Year Alexia Taylor posted a team-best 21 multiple-hit games last season. Her 21 multiple-hit games were the most by a Lady Flame in a season since 2007, when Dawn Jeffs had 35 multiple-hit games, Ashley Williams had 22 and Jessica Moore, 21.

Taylor twice led off a game with a home run for the Lady Flames as a freshman, versus Presbyterian (April 3) and Coastal Carolina (April 18).  

Versatility on Display
Tori Zavodny showed versatility as a freshman outfielder last year, leading the Lady Flames in runs scored (42), triples (3), homers (8), slugging percentage (.556), walks (28), on-base percentage (.418) and steals (tied, 24). Zavodny entered the record books by hitting the first home run in Liberty Softball Stadium history.

Finish Strong
Liberty's two first basemen last year, Katie Han and Madison Kotchey, both finished the 2015 season strong. Han reached base safely in each of the final 12 regular-season games, hitting .371 with five doubles and a .488 on-base percentage during that span. Kotchey hit .436 with three doubles, three homers and 15 RBI over the last 13 games of the season.