01/27/09 — MOC softball ready for 2009

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MOC softball ready for 2009

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 27, 2009 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Conference Carolinas softball teams -- not surprisingly -- are expected to chase Coker (S.C.) College for the regular-season title in 2009.

Mount Olive coach Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham anticipates her team, which lost just two starters from a year ago, to finish near the top of the league. Not many coaches disagree with her.

The Trojans received one first-place vote and finished third overall in the preseason poll with 79 points. Coker collected five first-place votes and 93 points, while Pfeiffer University compiled 85 points and three first-place nods.

"I feel that being picked number three in the preseason is a respectful position, however it's where you finish that matters," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "We lost two (starters) and added 12 (players), including three pitchers, so I'm looking forward to having the depth that we did not have last year.

"(That) eventually hurt us as the season came to an end."

Mount Olive posted a 29-21 record last spring and settled for runner-up honors in the season-ending conference tournament. One year earlier, Higginbotham guided the Trojans to a program-best 39 victories and a share of the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference regular-season crown.

Back in the lineup are senior Jenny Jackson, the 2007 CVAC player of the year; senior pitcher Anna Turvin and senior outfielder Kat Cahoon. Turvin and Cahoon earned all-tournament honors last season.

"Jenny and Kelly Minshew have been hitting the ball really well," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "...my pitchers look awesome including Jackson, who despite rumors, will be throwing this year."

Coker returns the 2008 Conference Carolinas player of the year -- pitcher Shelly Catlett. The crafty hurler dominated hitters, racking up 229 strikeouts and recording a 1.80 earned run average in 233 innings in the pitcher's circle.

Catlett is joined by first-team all-conference performer Miranda Klees and 2008 conference rookie of the year Haleigh Rogers.

Pfeiffer, the reigning conference tournament champion, returns six starters and eight letter-winners overall off last year's team. Leading the Falcons are outfielder Martina Bullard and shortstop Sarah Moore.

Erskine received two first-place votes and took fourth in the 11-team poll with 76 points. Completing the list, in order, are Limestone (65 points), Anderson (64), Queens (36), Barton (32), St. Andrews (26), Belmont Abbey (25) and Lees-McRae (24).

"I am extremely excited about the work that these young ladies have been putting in during the offseason and am ready to see them in action," said Kylis-Higginbotham, who has a career mark of 132-174 at MOC.

The Trojans open their season Feb. 14 at in-state member Catawba University. The doubleheader starts at 1 p.m.