LYNCHBURG — The Motlow Lady Bucks will lean heavily on a group of talented freshmen and a handful of returning sophomores when they open the 2015 softball season on Tuesday, Feb. 3, against Calhoun Community College at Lady Bucks Field on the Motlow College Moore County campus. The first pitch of the doubleheader is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Head Coach Tori Raby-Gentry begins her fourth season at the helm of the Lady Bucks searching for her first winning season at Motlow. Raby-Gentry, a former player and assistant coach for the Lady Bucks, returned to lead the program in 2011 and has posted a 57-88 mark in three seasons.
Although the freshmen class must produce significantly for the Lady Bucks to contend for the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA) title, leadership and guidance will have to come from those five returnees.
“I have high expectations for this team,” said Raby-Gentry. “I expect solid leadership from our sophomore class. We have more depth in our pitching staff than last year. That, coupled with a stronger offensive lineup, should produce greater results in the win column, assuming we can keep everyone healthy.”
Infielder Makayla Campbell from Cornersville is the leading returning offensive threat after batting .324 last season with 36 hits, 27 runs batted in, 22 runs, four doubles and four stolen bases.
Returning outfielder Morgan Moyers of Lewisburg is coming off a solid offensive season, batting .262 with 33 hits, 22 runs batted in and 30 runs scored. Moyers provides speed on the base paths with 11 stolen bases and a disciplined eye at the plate with 24 bases on balls.
Bridgette Wilson, who has already signed to continue her career at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, will likely hold down one of the corner infield positions after batting .244 last season with 29 hits, 24 runs scored and 16 runs batted in.
Chelsea Buffington, like Wilson, came to Motlow from North Alabama, and will be counted on to provide leadership and production for the 2015 Lady Bucks. Buffington, a catcher and infielder, hit .226 with 19 hits and 18 runs scored.
The fifth sophomore is Ramsey, Ind., product Miranda Whelan, who has battled injuries the past two seasons while trying to get her college softball career started. It will be a major boost to the Lady Bucks, both on the field and in the locker room, if Whelan can remain healthy and contribute to the team.
The freshmen class includes a number of players who starred at high schools in the Motlow College 11-county service area, including a half-dozen within a 30-minute drive from one of Motlow’s four campuses. Three incoming freshmen are scheduled to be redshirts this season.
Lauren Hasty and Shania Taylor both played for former Motlow coach Gary Barfield at Tullahoma. Hasty starred for the Lady Wildcats as both a pitcher and first baseman, despite missing much of her senior season with an injury. Taylor will redshirt this year, but is an outfielder who will bring much-needed speed to the Lady Bucks in the future.
Additional freshmen who played their high school ball close to a Motlow campus are Cameron Pearson from Franklin County, Traci Shelton from Lincoln County, Macy Clements from Cannon County, Aubrey Crowell from Oakland in Murfreesboro and Taylor Wolaver from Cornersville.
All put up impressive numbers during their high school careers, but Crowell stands out among the group as she hit .409 with three home runs and 39 runs batted in as a senior and was named to the all-district 7-AAA team for three consecutive seasons.
Other incoming freshmen who will be counted on to contribute immediately are Rachel Gamble from East Hamilton High School in Chattanooga, Riley Long from Whitwell, and Lianna Martinez from Centennial High School in Franklin. Long’s high school numbers stand out as she compiled a 19-3 pitching record during her senior season with a 1.52 earned run average and 61 strikeouts.
Mackenzie Peacock from North Jackson High School in Stevenson, Ala., and Kaleigh Mangrum from Kingston Springs will join Taylor as redshirts this season.
The Lady Bucks ended the 2014 season with a 20-34 overall record and a 14-22 TCCAA mark. Motlow entered the conference tournament as the No. 8 seed and traveled to No. 3 Columbia State, where the Lady Bucks dropped a 9-1, 12-11 doubleheader to the Lady Chargers.