THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 05, 2009
Softball opens 2009 season at FIU Combat Classic on Friday
The JU softball team will trade the cycle of batting practice and grounders for live action as they head to Miami, Fla. to begin the 2009 season on Friday at the FIU Combat Classic.

The Dolphins open against Auburn at 10 a.m. followed by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at noon. JU faces Louisville on Saturday at 2 p.m. before playing No. 18 North Carolina in the nightcap at 8 p.m. They will wrap up the tournament on Sunday against the host Panthers starting at 2:30 p.m.

“The team is so excited heading into the weekend,” said JU head coach Amanda Lehotak. “The slate is clean and they are ready to show how much they have improved. I look for us to be able to compete right away this year. If we can stay relaxed and deal with adversity, we should have a strong showing this weekend.”

JU returns 13 players from the 2008 squad, which had a six-win improvement over the previous season.

The Dolphins parlayed that success in the fall, producing the program’s first flawless preseason with an 8-0 mark. During that stretch, JU hit .312 (69-221) with 42 runs scored, 28 RBI and 17 doubles. The Dolphins posted a 1.60 ERA in the circle during 57 innings of work with 46 strikeouts and four complete-game efforts.

Auburn enters the weekend with 12 players returning from the 2008 squad that went 38-22 overall and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament, while Texas A&M-CC was 21-32 overall and 11-19 during Southland Conference play last season.

Louisville posted a 31-23 mark in 2008 with the help of Melissa Roth, who hit .361 with 20 doubles and 22 RBI as a junior.

North Carolina hosted an NCAA Tournament regional in 2008 after posting a 50-12-1 record. The Tar Heels are led in the circle by junior Danielle Spaulding, who is on the Amateur Softball Association of America's (ASA) Top 50 Watch list for the 2009 USA Softball Collegiate “Player of the Year” award.

The Panthers start the 2009 season with 12 players (six starters) back from the 2008 squad that went 29-34 in the first season under head coach Beth McClendon.