Feb. 9, 2004
OXFORD, Ohio -
This week: Miami University's softball team kicks off its 2004 season at the Triangle Classic in Raleigh, N.C. The RedHawks face George Mason (11 a.m.) and Coastal Carolina (1 p.m.) on Feb. 13. The tournament also runs on Saturday, Feb. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 15, with game times and opponents to be announced.
About George Mason: The Patriots are led by Colonial Athletic Association and Virginia Player of the Year Stacy James. As a sophomore, James was among the nation's leaders in stolen bases and was one of the toughest players to strike out, fanning once every 23.4 at-bats.
Guiding George Mason is head coach Beth Fulcher. Prior to her arrival at GMU the Pats had just two winning seasons in 14 years. In her tenure, her teams have gone a much-improved 162-175, including 70-41 over the last two seasons. In 2002, the Patriots put together a 40-19 campaign, before finishing last season 30-22.
About Coastal Carolina: The reigning Big South regular-season champions, Coastal Carolina has been decimated by graduation. The 2004 Chanticleers (pronounced SHON-ti-clears) return just two starters from last year's 36-17 squad. The key returner for head coach Jess Dannelly is sophomore pitcher Christine Doyle, who went 20-8 with a 1.35 ERA, while completing 24 games and throwing nine shutouts last year.
A seasoned veteran of the coaching ranks, Dannelly is entering his 17th season heading up the Chanticleers, and 12th as Coastal's associate athletics director. He has averaged over 32 wins per season over his tenure, leading his team to four conference championships and three NCAA Regional berths, netting himself five Big South Coach of the Year honors.
Scouting the Field: Joining Miami in North Carolina are MAC foes Kent State and Marshall. The RedHawks upended the two teams during their Cinderella run of 2003. The Red and White swept the Golden Flashes in Kent before knocking off top-seeded Marshall on its way to the conference championship game.
Among the remaining possible opponents are a handful of teams already on the RedHawks' docket for 2004. Charlotte is hosting the 1st Pitch Classic (Feb. 27-29), where Miami is scheduled to face the host-49ers, first-year North Carolina State and Kent State. MU is scheduled to face Virginia at the Sonic Challenge (Feb. 22) and both UNC-Wilmington (March 19) and UNC-Greensboro (March 20) at the Buzz Classic in Atlanta, Ga. Virginia and UNC-Greensboro each won 30 games last season, while Marshall was a 40-game winner.
Series Histories: Miami is meeting both George Mason and Coastal Carolina for the first time. The RedHawks have a combined 63-65 record versus possible opponents at the tourney. Among the teams the Red and White could face for first time are Campbell, Fordham, James Madison, Liberty, Louisville, Mercer and North Carolina State.
Preseason Poll: The RedHawks were picked to finish second in the MAC East according to the annual preseason coaches' poll conducted by the conference. Miami finished second in 2003 behind Marshall, who was picked to win the division and the conference tournament this season. Kent State, who finished third last season, was picked to repeat their third-place finish this season. In the West, Central Michigan was picked to finish first ahead of last year's MAC Champion Western Michigan and Bowling Green, which finished fourth in 2003. The RedHawks took second in the MAC East last year despite a sixth-place preseason ranking.
Starting on the Right Foot: In each of the past two seasons the RedHawks have started their season with consecutive wins. In 2002, Miami knocked off Virginia Tech (7-6) and Elon (7-4 in eight innings) to get off to a 2-0 start. Last season, MU shut out its first three opponents en route to a 3-0 start. The Red and White opened with 4-0 and 5-0 decisions over Tennessee Tech and Wright State, respectively, before topping UIC, 8-0, for a third straight win.
Overall, the RedHawks have gone 17-12 in their 29 previous season-openers, including 2-3 under head coach Angie Jacobs. A win in 2004 would extend the team's current winning streak to three and tie for the third-longest such streak in team history. From 1987-1994, the then-Redskins won a team-record eight straight season-openers.
Lucky Day: When Miami started the 2002 season 2-0, it was its first such start since 1993. The 2002 season was also the earliest a RedHawk softball campaign had gotten underway, Feb. 15. The day after Valentine's Day was the same day the 2003 season started, as well. Both years, MU swept doubleheaders and began its season 2-0, giving Miami softball an all-time record of 4-0 on Feb. 15. This year Feb. 15 falls on the final, day of the Triangle Classic.
Early Bird Gets the Worm: With their season opener on Feb. 13, the RedHawks are getting the earliest jump on their season of any team in the program's history. The previous mark was the 2002 and 2003 seasons that started on Feb. 15.
Opening Day: The first game of the season is key to laying good groundwork for a successful season. Junior Jackie Poggendorf (Phoenix, Ariz./Shadow Mountain) and senior Jamie Carey (Pendleton, Ind./Pendleton Heights) have shined in Miami's season-openers during their careers. Poggendorf has batted .500 (3-6) with an RBI at the plate, while going 2-0 with a pair of complete-game wins, 10 strikeouts and no walks in two opening day starts. Entering her fourth season-opener, Carey is hitting .400 (4-10) with three runs scored and an RBI in the first game of the season.
Nerves-Schmerves: Some athletes are nervous as they begin their collegiate careers. Last year a couple RedHawks bucked that trend with outstanding Februarys, in which Miami finished the month with a 4-3 record. On the mound, Courtney Salmon (Auburn, Wa./Auburn) started four games, completing three, and was 3-1 with a 0.00 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 22 innings. At the plate, all-region honoree Becca Garcia (Martinez, Calif./College Park) started her career by hitting .391 (9-23) with a home run, and four RBIs in February.
Fitting the Glass Slipper: Last year's run to the MAC Championship game was characterized as a "Cinderella Run" by those around Miami Softball. After a 20-year drought, the RedHawks swept a road series at Kent State to qualify for the tourney, with the final win coming on a last-inning, two-out grand slam by Angie Gerber. As the sixth seed, the Red and White knocked off top-seeded Marshall, as well as the third and fourth seeds, en route to the MAC Championship game. One game from its first MAC Championship, Miami fell to Western Michigan, 4-0, the only team to defeat MU during the MAC Tournament.
Jackie Poggendorf was named MAC Tournament MVP after pitching in all of the Red and White's tournament games and going 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA and 34/3 K-to-BB ratio in 30.2 innings. Joining her with all-tournament accolades was Carey (.368 BA), Garcia (.529 BA, 2 HR, 5 RBI) and junior Jacque Molinaro (Folansbee, W.Va./Brooke) (.429, 1, 2).
Honored: Following the RedHawks' most successful season in recent memory, several players were honored both locally and regionally. Five players earned all-MAC nods, with senior Angie Gerber being selected to the first team and junior Jamie Carey, sophomore Jackie Poggendorf and freshmen Becca Garcia and Courtney Salmon being named to the second team.
Carey and Garcia went on to earn all-region second-team honors. Carey finished 2003 with a school-record .408 batting average, while Garcia posted spectacular numbers as a freshman, batting .367 with six home runs, 25 RBIs and making just one error in 304 chances behind the plate.
Head Coach Angie Jacobs
In her fifth season at the helm of Miami's softball program, head coach Angie Jacobs saw her hard work pay off last year as she guided the RedHawks to their most successful season in 12 years and to their first MAC Tournament since 1983.
Angie Gerber's game-winning grand slam in the MAC season finale against Kent State propelled the Red and White into the MAC Tournament and sparked a Cinderella run that ended in the championship game of the league tournament.
Jacobs, a tireless worker, has been fine-tuning the instruments that have elevated the RedHawks into a MAC Tournament contender. Miami has increased its win total in each of Jacobs' first three seasons, culminating in last year's 27-22 record.
Last year, Jacobs also led her players on a nine-game winning streak en route to a 16-4 season-ending stretch. The win streak was the program's longest since starting the 1991 season 10-0 and included a critical 7-0 conference stretch.
The RedHawks have been led by 10 all-MAC performers, including three all-region honorees, during Jacob's tenure, headed by a school-record five in 2003. Leading the list is recently-graduate Angie Gerber's three all-MAC awards and four other players returning in 2004 after being honored last season. Senior Jamie Carey and sophomore Becca Garcia head the list of returnees after being named second-team all-region and all-MAC.