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UWA softball season to start on Friday

LIVINGSTON, AL- Coming off of a 19-21 season (7-14 in GSC play), the University of West Alabama softball team will begin their quest for the GSC Tournament on Friday with a trip to the West Georgia Tournament. The Tigers have three games slated for Friday, beginning with an 11:00 a.m. matchup with Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. UWA will also face Belmont Abbey at 3:00 p.m. and Columbus State at 5:00 p.m.

The Tigers are returning five letterwinners from 2003, including four starters and a pair of players selected Preseason All-GSC.

“We are going to be a young team,” said Head Coach Janet Montgomery. “Our goal will be making the GSC Tournament in Meridian, Miss., and I feel that if we get consistency from our returners and some immediate production from our talented newcomers, we should make a run at accomplishing our goals.”

Tamara Neal, fresh off of a First Team All-GSC sophomore season, returns as the starting shortstop for UWA. Neal hit a team leading .381 last season to go along with 13 extra-base hits, including five round trippers and a team-high three triples.

Christen Chaney was also selected Preseason All-GSC following a brilliant freshman campaign the saw her compile a record of 16-12 on the mound. She also won a school record 10 straight decisions and led the team with 120 strikeouts. Chaney appeared in 35 games, including 24 starts and tallied a 2.34 ERA in 194.2 innings of work.

Also returning is Bakersfield, Ca., native Julie Burkett. Burkett led all UWA players with six home runs in 2003 to go along with a team-high 29 RBI and a .271 batting average. Jessica Gordon returns as the only Tiger senior, following a season that saw her appear in 37 games and hit .165 while swiping 4-of-5 bases.

Ten new faces appear on Montgomery’s roster headlined by Tuscaloosa, Ala., native and University of Alabama transfer Casey Cockrum (P/1B). She appeared in 15 games, including a pair of starts as a sophomore at UA and was a member of the 2003 SEC and Regional Championship team.

A pair of freshman pitchers join the staff, both fresh off of decorated prep careers. Whitney Woodington comes to UWA from Oxford High School in Oxford, Miss., where she pitched 172 innings and compiled a 2.15 ERA and 123 strikeouts as a senior. Heather Shugart, from Pinson, Ala., also joins the 2004 roster after notching a 13-8 record with a 1.63 ERA as a senior at Pinson Valley High School.

“Despite our youth, we are more talented and much deeper, especially on the mound,” closed Montgomery. “We are excited about the opportunity to open the season on Friday against quality opponents. It will give us an opportunity to see what we do well and what we need to improve on before conference play opens.”