February 5, 2014

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After making the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship game for the fourth time in the last five years, University of Tennessee at Martin head coach softball Donley Canary and the 2014 edition Skyhawk softball squad is primed for another deep postseason run when they open the season in the Louisiana Tech Lady Techster Invitational on Friday, Feb. 7-9. The Skyhawks will open the tournament against host Louisiana Tech on Friday, Feb. 7 at noon.

Despite dropping the squad’s opening game in the 2013 OVC Tournament, the Skyhawks quickly rebounded by stringing together four consecutive games to find themselves in yet another championship game appearance.

Canary and the Skyhawks have won two OVC championships, a pair of OVC Tournament championships and earned two NCAA Regional berths in the past five seasons. After falling just short of adding to that number last season, the Skyhawks will turn to five key returners who took home postseason honors.

The outfield will face possibly the most drastic overhaul in terms of experience. After having an outfield consisting of two seniors and a junior, Kayla Wade will make the move from left field to centerfield for her senior campaign. Wade brings an element of speed which is well documented in the Skyhawk record book, ranking second in career triples (13) and times hit by pitch (22) while sitting fourth on the all-time list with 52 stolen bases.

The infield, in particular the corner infield positions, will be an area of strength for the 2014 squad. With the return of all-OVC junior infielders Kenzi Tate and Lauren Smith manning the corner positions, while providing offensive production in the middle of the order, the Skyhawks will look to fill their middle infield holes. Tate was an all-OVC first teamer, leading the league with 13 home runs and a UT Martin record 56 RBIs to go along with a .359 batting average en route to NFCA Division I All-Region honors. Smith was an all-OVC second teamer who finished with a .329 batting average along with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs.

The pitching circle has additionally transitioned into a spot of depth for the Skyhawks with six players expected to come in and compete for action. The pitching core is led by juniors Casey Vincent and Tate who both tossed in impressive campaigns last season. Vincent, a lefty from Hillsboro, led the team with a 2.30 ERA in 176.2 innings of work while notching a 15-9 record. Vincent struck out 125 batters while allowing just 43 walks, in turn limiting her opponents to just a .246 batting average. Tate joined Vincent in the circle, leading the team with a 20-6 record, including a span in which she won nine consecutive games.

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