FLORENCE, SC – The Francis Marion University softball team, under the direction of first-year head coach Stacey Johnson, will open its 2005 season by playing host to St. Andrews Presbyterian College for a doubleheader, Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 8) at 1 p.m. on the FMU Softball Field.
Johnson inherits nine letterwinners, including six position starters and two starting pitchers, from the 2004 squad that finished 37-17, the third-highest win total in team history, and narrowly missed earning the program's first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament. FMU finished fourth in the Peach Belt Conference regular-season standings with a school-record 12 PBC victories, after winning its final nine regular-season PBC games. The Patriots went on to place third at the PBC Tournament, during which the Patriots defeated top-ranked and top-seeded Kennesaw State University for the first time in 27 all-time meetings.
Leading the 2005 returnees are All-PBC and All-Region center fielder Betsy Bouknight, whose 69 hits and 18 doubles in 2004 were three shy of both FMU season marks. She batted .363 last year and owns a career average of .339 with 71 career stolen bases (in 79 attempts). Also returning are sophomore infielder Tatjana Slawson, who set a new team mark for runs batted in (51) in a season as a freshman while batting .358; sophomore third baseman Janine Allen (.377); senior outfielder Amber Gaines (.275); junior outfielder Ashleigh Duffy (.248); junior catcher Jamie Wiggins (.265, 5 HRs, 35 RBIs); and sophomore outfielder Jenna Sexton (.289).
The Patriots hit a school-record 42 home runs last season, while ranking second in NCAA Division II in doubles per game, sixth in both home runs per game and slugging percentage, 11th in scoring (6.31 runs per game), and 20th in team batting (.316).
Returning on the mound are sophomore right-handers Jessica Johnson and Sam Goff. Johnson was 9-3 with a school-record three saves and a team-leading 1.96 earned run average, while Goff posted an 18-11 mark (2.52 ERA) with seven shutouts (one shy of the team record). The two will be joined by redshirt freshman Meg Thomy, a product of Carolina Academy.
In addition to Thomy, newcomers to the Patriot program include freshman catcher Jennifer Driscoll (St. Augustine, FL) and freshmen infielders Monica Wofford (Myrtle Beach, SC) and Allie Aleman (Santa Ana, CA).
The Patriots have been picked to finish sixth according to the annual preseason PBC coaches’ poll. FMU has averaged 32 wins per season over the past 10 campaigns.
Following Tuesday’s opener, FMU will entertain Belmont Abbey College, Thursday at 1 p.m. The Patriots’ 53-game slate includes 10 home doubleheaders and the annual Patriot Invitational, a three-day 33-team event at the Freedom Florence Complex, March 11-13. Of FMU’s opening 20 contests, 16 will be at home, while the Patriots play 18 of their final 22 games on the road.
St. Andrews returns five letterwinners from last season’s 28-22 squad. FMU leads the all-time series with the Knights 28-2.