Freshmen will be counted on early when Lady Bucks open softball season Feb. 6

Members of the 2018 Motlow Lady Bucks softball team, front row from left: Ace Hanson, Nikita McCreary, Kendall Durard, Sarah Wilson and Breanna Owens. Second row from left: Ariel McAtee, Kylie Thackerson, Miranda Cooksey, Caroline Sarris, Madison Hopkins and Madison Woodruff. Back row from left: Emily Parks, Haley Hinshaw, Chelbie Gannon, Samantha King, Ciera Dobbins, Annsley Kalamon and Jennifer Corbitt.

Members of the 2018 Motlow Lady Bucks softball team, front row from left: Ace Hanson, Nikita McCreary, Kendall Durard, Sarah Wilson and Breanna Owens. Second row from left: Ariel McAtee, Kylie Thackerson, Miranda Cooksey, Caroline Sarris, Madison Hopkins and Madison Woodruff. Back row from left: Emily Parks, Haley Hinshaw, Chelbie Gannon, Samantha King, Ciera Dobbins, Annsley Kalamon and Jennifer Corbitt.

Head Coach Janice Morey enters her third season at the helm of the Motlow Lady Bucks with five returning sophomores, one transfer sophomore, and 12 freshmen on her 2018 softball roster.

The Lady Bucks will open the season Tuesday, Feb. 6, with a 1 p.m. doubleheader against Northeast Mississippi in Booneville, Miss. Following a trip to Meridian, Miss., and a conference-opening road trip to defending champion Chattanooga State, Motlow will play its first home game on Tuesday, Mar. 6, against visiting non-conference opponent Calhoun from Decatur, Ala.

Morey will lean on her returning sophomores heavily to provide leadership and production, especially in the early going as the freshmen get accustomed to the college game.

“Breanna Owens, Sarah Wilson and Ciera Dobbins return to the infield, while Chelbie Gannon and Miranda Cooksey return in the outfield,” said Morey. “The addition of a local familiar face to the sophomore list, Mattie Woodruff, is expected to contribute to our team in big ways both offensively and defensively.”

The Lady Bucks’ leading returning hitter is Fayetteville’s Owens, who garnered 141 at bats last season and hit .298 with 11 doubles, 16 runs batted in and six stolen bases. Owens also went 6-16 in the circle in 2017 with a 5.51 earned run average and 57 strikeouts in 128 innings pitched.

Lewisburg native Cooksey returns after getting 107 plate appearances and hitting .252 with nine doubles, two home runs and 15 RBI. Shelbyville’s Gannon hit .240 with seven doubles and 14 RBI, and LaVergne’s Dobbins hit .220 in 132 at-bats with five doubles and nine RBI. Sparta’s Wilson returns in the circle, where she went 5-16 with a 6.23 earned run average in 139 innings.

Rutherford County native Woodruff has joined the Lady Bucks as a sophomore after a stellar prep career at Riverdale High School, where she was named Region 7-AAA Most Valuable Player following her senior season.

There remains a lot of playing time available and a significant amount of expectation on the incoming freshmen. Coach Morey is excited to add to her pitching staff and to add more speed to this year’s squad.

“A pair of freshman pitchers, Samantha King and Kendall Durard, should definitely contribute to the existing pitching staff in a positive way for us,” added Morey. “Having speed on the bases will be new for us as Kylie Thackerson, Ariel McAtee and Ace Hanson all bring that element to our team.”

Madison Hopkins is from Lewisburg and played at Cornersville, Haley Hinshaw was a member of the standout program at Coffee County, and McAtee played at Stewarts Creek High School in Smyrna.

Thackerson was a standout at Scottsboro High School just across the state line, Jennifer Corbitt comes west after playing at Bradley Central, and Morey picked up a pair of players from Hendersonville in Hanson and Annsley Kalamon.

Caroline Sarris came the farthest to wear the green gold after attending Kell High School in Acworth, Ga. Morey continues to sign some of the area’s best players, including Durard from Shelbyville and Emily Parks, who played her prep ball at Moore County.

Perhaps the most heralded freshman is standout pitcher King, who played at Forrest High School in Chapel Hill. She pitched the Lady Rockets to the Class A state championship game and was named all-state after her senior season.

The Lady Bucks were barraged with injuries and attrition in 2017 and finished the season with a 13-35 record and an early exit from the TCCAA tournament. In Morey’s first season, her Lady Bucks sported a 28-24 mark and played into the third round of the conference tournament. This year’s TCCAA tournament will be held at Chattanooga State beginning May 6.

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