With hopes of starting off their season on the right foot, the Georgetown softball team is heading down to Miami, Fla., to participate in the 2013 Panther Invitational, hosted by Florida International. The tournament kicks off today as the Hoyas take on the Wolfpack of NC State at 11 a.m. and finish the day against tournament hosts FIU.
With this being the team’s first tourney of the team’s 2013 season, the Blue and Gray will be beginning in earnest its efforts to fill the voids left by three key departed seniors. Coming off its best season in program history, Georgetown looks to continue its improvement as it simultaneously rebuilds, boasting six new freshmen on its roster.
The freshman class includes catcher Mikaela Bledsoe-Downes, catcher Molly Morrison, shortstop Taylor Henry, infielder Grace Appelbe, infielder/pitcher Samantha Giovanniello and infielder/outfielder C.J. Semones. This new crop brings a great deal of talent to the table in addition to its positional diversity, but time will tell how much of an impact they will be able to have this season.
The Hoyas’ biggest area of concern is likely finding a new ace. After losing the best pitcher in program history last year in Mackensey Carter to graduation , it is vital that the team find someone who can take her place and provide a new dominant presence in the circle.
The majority of the pitching burden will fall on the shoulders of sophomores Lauren O’Leary and Megan Hyson, who notched 134.1 innings and 92.1 innings last season, respectively. O’Leary led the team in wins in 2012, but she will need to lower her ERA this season to give the Hoyas their best chance at a win when she takes the field.
With Carter’s departure, Georgetown lost a key leader both on and off the diamond. Senior catcherShikara Lowe and senior third baseman Jordan Hansen have been appointed as co-team captains, meaning that it will primarily be up to them to fill the void.
Lowe has played an essential in the Hoyas’ success over the course of her three years on the Hilltop, having started in almost every game she has played since her freshman year — the majority of which have come behind the plate. While her defensive prowess has been crucial, perhaps her even bigger contribution has come on offense, where she led the team last season in hits, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and home runs, hitting a staggering 23.
The Hoyas also have a number of juniors that have flashed the potential to be big factors this season both at the plate and in the field, including shortstop Allie Antilla and outfielder Elyse Graziano.
Still largely a team built on youth, Georgetown will put its young talent to the test this weekend against NC State, a team it lost to 9-2 last season. The Wolfpack finished last season with a 23-31 overall record, but the Hoyas’ pitching staff will nonetheless have to face another strong lineup that includes fifth-year senior Bethaney Wells. The North Carolina native hit .293 last season with a team-high 39 RBIs.
After their N.C. State rematch, the Blue and Gray will have little time to rest before squaring off with FIU in the nightcap of their doubleheader. The Panthers are coming off a mediocre 28-27 season, but they did claim 17 of their 25 home games, a fact that doesn’t bode particularly well for the Hoyas today. FIU is led by junior pitcher Mariah Dawson, who posted a 20-13 record last season and is the definitive anchor of the Panthers’ rotation.
The action doesn’t stop there, though, as Georgetown will take on the Kansas Jayhawks in their third game of the tournament on Saturday. As a member of the Big 12, the battle-hardened Jayhawks regularly compete against Midwest powerhouses like Oklahoma and Texas. Georgetown will therefore look to keep up with Kansas in a game that is sure to be played at a high pace.
The final game of the tournament will be played on Sunday against an opponent yet to be determined.
First pitch in Georgetown’s matchup with NC State is slated for 11 a.m. in Miami, while its contest against FIU is set to follow at 6:30 p.m.