Hempstead, N.Y. – Hofstra will open the 2014 season with a five-game tournament at the Leadoff Classic in Tampa, Fla. starting on Friday at noon against UConn. The Pride will also oppose USF, Louisiana-Lafayette, Illinois State and UMass.
Snow prevented Hofstra from traveling last week and starting the season in the Renegade Classic at Florida State. Now, the Pride will play a pair of games Friday and Saturday before ending the tournament against UMass on Sunday at 11 a.m.
UConn is also opening the season on Friday. Hofstra will then face USF in a rematch of the thrilling three-game Super Regional series in 2012 that saw the Pride finish one win shy of reaching the Women’s College World Series. Four starters on that Hofstra team are back in 2014 (seniors Rachael Senatore, Becca Bigler, Tori Rocha and junior Erin Trippi) and could again oppose USF starter Sarah Nevins, who is 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA. Nevins was the pitcher of record in all three games in the 2012 Super Regionals in the best-of-three series in which every game was decided by a single run. Hofstra won Game 1 before falling just short in Games 2 and 3 on USF’s home field.
Louisiana-Lafayette (6-3-1) is ranked 20th in the latest NFCA poll and 22nd in the ESPN/USA Softball Collegiate polls that were both released on Monday. The Ragin’ Cajuns won four of the five games in its home tournament last weekend, including victories over Michigan, Valparaiso, Memphis and Central Arkansas. Hofstra will face the squad on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. before taking on Illinois State (3-6) at 5 p.m. UMass is also opening the season in the Leadoff Classic.
Head Coach Bill Edwards, who is in his 25h season, has a team that starts the 2014 season receiving votes in both the NFCA and ESPN preseason polls. The Pride ended the 2013 season ranked 25th in the final NFCA poll.
Edwards will see seven players who have been everyday starters in their careers return to the squad. The Pride has won either a regular season or a postseason conference title for 22 straight seasons after winning the 2013 CAA Tournament and earning its second straight conference tournament title.
Three of Hofstra’s six NFCA all-region selections from last season are back for 2014. Sophomore right fielder Caryn Bailey was named to the first-team while Bigler (shortstop) and Trippi (catcher) were named to the second-team. Rocha, a second baseman and Senatore, a center fielder, have both earned All-CAA honors in their careers and are back to provide a veteran presence.
Hofstra has won at least 40 games in each of the last four seasons. The Pride has won 40-or-more games in six of the last seven years. The CAA preseason coaches’ poll picked Hofstra to repeat with the team earning five first-place votes.