The 2014 Mercer softball season will begin Friday, Feb. 7, where the Bears will host the Mercer Invitational and open up the tournament in a game against Samford University. The Bears will face Samford, Florida A&M and East Kentucky for a three-team round robin Feb. 7-9.
With the addition of five freshmen, two transfers and many returning players, including several starters and three of last year’s four All A-Sun team players, the team of 18 is optimistic about the outcome of this season.
Senior Julia Rice is excited for the upcoming season. “I’m looking forward to just being able to play with this team this year. We have a special group of girls, and one of the best teams I’ve been on,” Rice said.
The Bears ended their 2013 season with an overall record of 24- 29.
Many players were recognized for their outstanding performance during the previous season, including Sarah Santana, who was selected as the Atlantic Sun Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Santana, who carried a GPA of 3.91 and has now graduated, also picked conference’s top student-athlete academic award and was named to the Capital One Academic All-District Team of 2013.
Five other Mercer players were chosen to All A-Sun teams. McKenzie Woody was assigned to the First Team All-Conference, Krista Kennedy and Randi Rea to the Second Team, and Marissa Botz was chosen for the All-Freshmen Team.
Woody led the conference with 80 hits and a .437 batting average.
Kennedy set the Mercer single season mark with 57 RBI, and Rea had the conference’s sixth best slugging percentage. Both players claimed Second Team honors, and the two combined for the most home runs among any duo in the A-Sun, Kennedy with 13 and Rea close behind with 12.
Botz fought through an injury in her first year at Mercer, yet managed to bat .337. Botz, played in about half the team’s games because of injury, but was still able to contribute 30 hits and 12 RBI in that time.
Taylor Harter, a junior at Mercer who attended many of the softball games last year, says that he plans on attending many more of the games again this season. “The girls played great in all of the games I went to last year, and I expect nothing less this year,” said Harter. “The games are always so much fun. The team has such a great energy about them, and you can tell that they work well together, while having a great time too.”
While the team’s main goal is to win conference and make a good run at the conference tournament, they are preparing for another year of tough competition.
Julia Rice said, “We are all putting in time, not just in practice, but in the weight room and during conditioning. Our team is on the same page in regards to what we want for this year, and we understand that all of the practice time we are putting in will pay off in a couple weeks.”