Charleston Softball kicks off 2014 season

Charleston Softball kicks off 2014 season. (Photo Courtesy of CofCSports.com)

Charleston Softball kicks off 2014 season.
(Photo Courtesy of CofCSports.com)

The College of Charleston softball team opened up at home this past weekend while hosting the College of Charleston Cougar Classic at Patriots Point. It was new head coach Linda Kalafatis’ first stretch of home games for the Cougars, as her team finished the weekend with three wins and two losses over three days.

This year’s Classic brought widely recognized schools down to Charleston, including Kansas, Ole Miss, Fordham, DePaul, and Western Carolina.

Coming off opening their season with a two-loss road series at Coastal Carolina last weekend, Charleston was looking to bounce back during their first game of the tournament on Friday against Western Carolina. The College easily glided to a 4-0 win over the Catamounts and earned Kalafatis’ first win of her coaching career at Charleston.

Freshman pitcher Samantha Martin got her first start and win of her career, while striking out four and allowing just two hits over five innings in the victory.

Later that evening, the Cougars took on the Blue Demons of DePaul and came out on top, 3-1, as junior pitcher Hope Klicker allowed four hits and one run, while striking out seven members of the DePaul squad. Senior outfielder Carly Corthell hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the fourth.

Saturday, however, did not prove to be as successful of a day for the Cougars. Charleston took Kansas to extra innings in their first game of the day after a seventh inning rally, but Jayhawks came out on top, 6-5.

Later that evening, after the Cougars held a 4-1 lead through the fifth inning against Fordham, the Rams quickly took advantage of a home run and multiple fielding errors to steal the game from Charleston, 5-4.

The Cougars played their final game of the tournament on Sunday in an afternoon matchup with the Mississippi Rebels. Klicker came through yet again in her second appearance in the tournament, holding the Rebels to two hits and four base runners in a complete game shutout for a 2-0 finale victory.

Catcher MacKenzie Naples. (Photo Courtesy of CofCSports.com)

Catcher MacKenzie Naples.
(Photo Courtesy of CofCSports.com)

Despite several losses to talented teams, the future looks bright for the Cougar softball team. The Cougars return eight starters from last year’s squad which finished 37-20 overall and 15-8  in the Southern Conference.

With five seniors on the team, the Cougars have several key leaders to guide the team. Senior Kelsey Hodgson led the team offensively last season with a career-high 15 home runs and was named a first-team All-SoCon selection. Hodgson, who has 34 career home runs, is closing in on the school record of 42 career homers.

Another senior, Lizzy Vaughn, was voted co-captain by her teammates for her leadership both on and off the field. Vaughn has started at shortstop since her freshman year, not missing a single game due to rest or injury.

Accompanying Vaughn as captain this season is junior pitcher Hope Klicker, who garnered two wins this past weekend. She leads a talented, albeit young, pitching staff. Klicker was named a first-team All-SoCon selection last season after finishing her sophomore campaign with 20 wins and a 2.25 ERA.

Two returning sophomores look to be key pieces to the Cougars success this season. First-team All-SoCon honoree Chandler Frisbie and All-SoCon Rookie Team selection Rebecca Mueller hope to continue to be factors at first base and left field.

A pair of .300 hitters in 2013, juniors Mackenzie Maples and Allison Pedigo, are valuable leaders at the plate for the Cougars.

The team welcomes freshmen Brianna Davis, Kayla Hall, Samantha Martin, Katie Padilla and Kelly Strittmatter, who will look to make an immediate impact this season. Padilla got the start this weekend at second base and played a key part in scoring runs for the Cougars in their wins against Western Carolina and DePaul, while Martin got her first win on the mound during the Cougars home opener against Western Carolina.

New head coach Linda Kalafatis is excited about her first year at the College, speaking about the mantra of her team in 2014.

“Our motto has been ‘21 Strong’ since we have 21 players and it’s going to take everyone kicking in somewhere or other. I think the program has relied in the past on a couple of players who will continue to shine this year, but we’re counting on so many players and our hopes are that it’s not just a couple key players who contribute but instead focusing on being a team that needs all of its parts.”

The Cougars will next head to Clearwater, Fla. on Feb. 21-23 to play in the NFCA Leadoff Classic, where they will face Massachusetts, Rutgers, Connecticut, DePaul and South Florida. Regular season play begins again on March 11 with a double header against Bryant at Patriots Point.

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