Dolphins’ campaign to repeat as champions begins this weekend

The JU softball team begins its 2012 season this weekend as the host team of the Wingate by Wyndham Opening Weekend Tournament. 

Four other teams will be making the trip to JU Softball Complex for the three days of games that start Friday.  JU faces Buffalo in its first game, while taking on UNCG, Saint Louis, and Virginia Tech throughout the duration of the weekend.

Fresh off of easily the most successful season in program history that saw JU go 44-16 and win both the regular season and Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament titles en route to a first ever NCAA berth, the Dolphins will look to continue their 2011 success when they take on the Buffalo Bulls Friday at 4:15 pm.  They follow that game by playing UNCG at 6:30 pm.  Saturday the Dolphins will take the field against Saint Louis at 4:15 pm followed by Virginia Tech at 6:30 pm.   They conclude the tournament on Sunday with another game against Saint Louis scheduled for 1:30 pm.

The expectations for the Dolphins this season are through the roof and deservedly so.  JU lost just two starters off of last year’s championship team and return the reigning Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Year, senior Sarah Sigrest.  She had a banner year in 2011 in which she went 27-7 with a 1.10 earned run average and 208 strikeouts.  Sigrest is expected to have another stellar year as she was voted the preseason A-Sun Pitcher of the Year.  Someone else expected to have a big season is junior catcher Sarah Simon.  She was voted preseason Player of the Year after leading the team in batting average, triples, and homeruns in 2011.  Both Sigrest and Simon were voted onto the preseason All-Conference team along with infielder Amanda Schmidt. 

Leading the Dolphins this season is first year coach Ali Higgs.  She had previously been an assistant for the team the last five seasons.  Higgs has been an integral part of the coaching staff since she has been at JU and that was no more evident than last season.  Under her tutelage, the Dolphin pitching staff produced the seventh-best ERA in the nation at 1.48, with Sigrest setting single season records for wins, ERA, shutouts, and strikeouts.  The A-Sun does not seem to expect a drop off with Higgs at the helm as the team was voted as preseason conference champions.

Buffalo returns a total of seven starters from their 2011 roster that went 12-35 overall and 7-13 in conference play.  The Bulls top two offensive players from last season are among the returners.  Senior Kristin Waldron led her team in both batting average at .313 and RBI’s at 20 in 2011.

The UNCG Spartans are also returning seven starters from last year’s squad that went 26-32 overall and 10-14 in SoCon play.  The Spartans had two players make All-Conference teams in first baseman Alex Emerterio and utility player Eileen Horsmon. 

Saint Louis was voted to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10 Conference this season after returning five starters.  One of those returners is junior center fielder Jessica Buschjost who was second on the team in batting average, runs, and stolen bases. 

The Virginia Tech Hokies return seven starters including their top pitcher after having winning season at 37-20 in 2011.  Last season, firstbaseman/catcher Courtney Liddle and shortstop Dani Anderson were both selected to ACC All-Conference teams.  The Dolphins hold 1-3 all-time record against the Hokies, last meeting twice in 2010 in which JU won both times. 


Tournament Schedule:


Friday  February 10, 2012                                                                          


9:30 am              Buffalo                    vs.          St. Louis                              


11:45 am           Virginia Tech          vs.          St. Louis                              


2:00 pm             Virginia Tech          vs.          UNCG  


4:15 pm             Jacksonville           vs.          Buffalo                                


6:30 pm             Jacksonville           vs.          UNCG  



Saturday  February 11, 2012


9:30 am                Buffalo                    vs.          UNCG  


11:45 am              Buffalo                    vs.          Virginia Tech                     


2:00 pm                UNCG                     vs.          St. Louis                                              


4:15 pm                Jacksonville           vs.          St. Louis                              


6:30 pm                Jacksonville           vs.          Virginia Tech                     



Sunday  February 12, 2012


9:00 am                St. Louis                vs.          Buffalo                                


11:15 am              Virginia Tech        vs.          UNCG  


1:30 pm               Jacksonville          vs.          St. Louis