04/18/08 — Trojan softball starts quest today

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Trojan softball starts quest today

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 18, 2008 3:19 PM

SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. -- Mount Olive head softball coach Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham has heard the rumblings all season.

How can a team loaded with talent, including an outstanding pitching staff, compile just 26 wins and split so many doubleheaders?

Higginbotham, unlike the casual observer, knows the answer -- injuries. Maladies of all sorts have plagued the Trojans, especially their pitching staff. Newcomer Anna Turvin and second-year starter Jenny Jackson are battling injuries, but Higginbotham doesn't know the full extent of their situation.

"We've also lost some key players who could have made a significant impact on the outcome of our season," said Higginbotham. "But to finish third in the conference is extraordinary considering the obstacles we've had to deal with.

"For our pitchers to do what they have done this season is pretty amazing."

Turvin will get the starting nod in the pitcher's circle today as Mount Olive (26-19 overall) opens play in the 2008 Conference Carolinas Tournament. The third-seeded Trojans will face either sixth-seeded Limestone or 11th-seeded St. Andrews at 4 p.m.

A junior right-hander, Turvin (10-10) tossed nearly 130 innings and logged a 3.52 ERA in 27 appearances this season. She's thrown 13 complete games, including two shutouts and had success against Limestone and St. Andrews. The Trojans swept both series, including one shutout against each team.

"We played well against both of those teams, but each is definitely a team we can't assume we're going to beat again since we beat them in the regular season," said Higginbotham. "When Anna throws pitches the way she can, she's very hard to hit. Plus, it will give Jenny another day of rest and hopefully we won't have to bring her out of the cage until Saturday."

Jackson (16-9) fashioned a 1.34 ERA in 32 appearances this season. The junior right-hander, who hails from Fremont, has notched 160 strikeouts in 173 innings.

The Conference Carolinas player of the year last season, Jackson earned all-league accolades again this spring along with catcher Bailey Harrell and Courtney Wallace.

Bailey, from Kinston, is a three-time All-Conference Carolinas selection, but made the first team this season. She's batting .356 with 14 extra-base knocks, including five home runs.

Wallace, one of three Trojans to start all 45 games this season, is batting .290 -- the same averge as the team.

Mount Olive has four players hitting .300 or better and has crushed 29 home runs as a team. Jackson is the leader with 10 round-trippers, while four teammates have each slugged three or more homers.

"We're hot right now and swinging the bats well," said Higginbotham, who guided the Trojans to a third-place finish in last year's tournament. "We're doing the little things right and are aggressive. It's hard to beat someone three times (in a season), but we have to go in and play our best game."

The tournament winner seizes the automatic bid to the NCAA South Atlantic Regional.

"If we can get through this tournament, it would be great to play in the regional," said Higginbotham.