Southwest Tennessee Community College

February 11, 2005

For More Information, contact: Keith Gentry (901) 333-4114 / Kimberly Stark (901) 333-4023

Written by Keith Gentry

The Southwest softball team will open the 2005 season on Thursday, February 17, when the Lady Saluqis host Williams Baptist in a 2 p.m. doubleheader at the Appling Complex.

Southwest returns eight players off last year’s 11-35 squad and has added an impressive group of newcomers to the 2005 roster. After not fielding a team the previous spring, Southwest revived its program in the fall of 2003 under coaches Keith Gentry and Tonya Shropshire and played the Spring 2004 season with all freshmen. ”Last year, we were competitive with most teams on our schedule. In 2005, we’d like to take it a step farther and win the close games we didn’t win a year ago. We’ve already shown some improvement during the fall season and I feel confident that our team will continue to improve throughout the spring.”

The Southwest pitching staff returns lefthander Katie Cerrito (Houston High School), who led the team with a 4.60 earned run average and 48 strikeouts as a freshman. Cerrito appeared in 17 games as a pitcher in 2004 despite missing several starts due to injuries, but appears to be 100% after leading the team with 52-2/3 innings during the fall. “After struggling with injuries her freshman season, Katie had a good fall and is primed to have a good spring season as well. She is also one of our best contact hitters, and was third on the team with a .333 batting average in the fall.”

Cerrito will be joined by three talented freshmen right-handers. The first is Erica Brich, who led her Collierville High School team to the region championship and the Class AAA state tournament her senior year and was a member of The Commercial Appeal’s Best of the Preps Team. During the fall season, Brich led the Lady Saluqis with four wins and 35 strikeouts. Allison Mullins, who made the Arkansas All-State Team as a senior at Marion High School, led Southwest with a 2.10 ERA in the fall. The third freshman is right-hander Caryn Hubbard, who was the Memphis Interscholastic Athletic Association Player of the Year as a senior at Central High School.

”Our pitching staff is a lot deeper than last year,” said Gentry. “All four of our pitchers will get the chance to prove themselves in our non-conference games early in the season. During fall practice, our three freshmen gained valuable experience against collegiate competition, and I now feel all four of our pitchers are ready for the challenge of the spring season.”

Tiffany Bright (Bartlett High School) returns behind the plate after a record-breaking freshman campaign in which she set new school records for doubles, total bases, and runs batted in. Bright made first team All-West Division and All-TJCCAA and will be a strong candidate to receive the same honors this season. “Already one of the conference’s top hitters, Tiffany has worked hard to become a better receiver as well, and should be one of the conference’s best this season. She is a definite power threat in the middle of our lineup.”

Bright will be joined by sophomore Erin Cook, a transfer from Dyersburg State Community College who played her high school ball at Cordova. “Erin is a very smart and experienced player and will be a vital part of our team this season,” said Gentry.

Three-fourths of last year’s starting infield will return. Back at second base is Jessica Laubacker (Newfane, NY), who was All-TJCCAA West Division as a freshman. “Jess is as solid a defensive player as you’ll find in our conference. She isn’t afraid to sacrifice her body to make the play. She is also one of the best bunters on the team.”

Heather Bryant (Brighton High School) returns at third base after batting .276 with a .411 on-base average her freshman season. “Heather has a strong throwing arm and very quick wrists. She is a patient hitter who can drive the ball, and is also a good base-runner.” Both Laubacker and Bryant may also see action at shortstop.

Back as the starting shortstop is Chrissy Odom (Craigmont High School), who is healthy again after missing 22 games last season with a broken wrist. “Chrissy is a very talented and versatile player, capable of playing just about anywhere on the field. She has a lot of range and a good arm, and as a hitter can handle the bat very well.”

The newcomer to the infield is freshman Jennifer Davenport (Houston High School), who transferred to Southwest from the University of Memphis after not playing softball last season. Davenport made an immediate impact on the Lady Saluqi program during the fall, leading the team with a .368 batting average. “Jennifer was our top hitter in the fall, and was a big-time addition to our team. She will be counted on to drive in a lot of runs for us this year.”

Other players who will see action in the infield are Katie Cerrito (first base), Erica Brich (second base), Christi Morrison (second base), and Tiffany Bright (third base). Anna Carter, a freshman from White Station High School, played third base during the fall season and will be red-shirted this spring.

Melissa Perry (Goose Creek, SC) and Ginny Galloway (Houston High School) return as starters in centerfield and leftfield, respectively. Perry was the Lady Saluqis’ leadoff batter as a freshman and finished the 2004 season as the team’s third leading hitter with a .288 batting average. “Melissa is one of the fastest players on the team, and covers a lot of ground in the outfield. After a slow start in the fall, she improved a lot the last half of the fall season and should again be one of our better hitters this spring.”

Galloway batted .250 as a freshman, which was fifth on the team and also had one of the top on-base averages at .340. “With a year of experience under her belt, Ginny will be counted on for her leadership in the outfield this season. Her batting dropped off a bit in the fall, but hopefully Ginny will regain her confidence and hit the way she did the last half of her freshman season, when she was one of our top hitters.”

Also back for her sophomore season is Christi Morrison (Bolton High School), who missed the last 16 games of the 2004 season due to a knee injury. Despite playing in only 25 games, Morrison tied for second on the team in RBI. “Hopefully, Christi will be fully recovered from her injury. She is a very versatile player who is capable of playing any of the outfield positions, and has a lot of potential as a hitter.”

Freshmen Crystal Smith and Jessica Brinson will both see plenty of playing time in the outfield this spring. Smith, a six-year letter-winner at Horn Lake (MS) High School, will primarily play right field, while Brinson, a graduate of Harding Academy, could see action at any of the three outfield positions. “Crystal is a very smart and experienced player, a good bunter and an outstanding base-runner. Jessica is probably our fastest player, our best base-stealer, and a very good bunter. In addition, both Crystal and Jessica get a good jump on the ball in the outfield.”

Other players who may see action in the outfield are Jennifer Davenport, Allison Mullins, and Erin Cook.

Head Coach Keith Gentry scheduled approximately 60 games for the 2005 Spring Season, the most in the program’s history. In addition to a 16-game conference schedule against the Western Division of the Tennessee Junior and Community College Athletic Association (TJCCAA), Southwest will play defending TJCCAA/Region VII runner-up Motlow State in a home doubleheader. The Lady Saluqis will also host Williams Baptist, Mississippi Delta, Southeastern Illinois, Coahoma, Three Rivers, Northeast Mississippi, Northwest Mississippi, Crowley’s Ridge, and LeMoyne-Owen.

Highlighting the road schedule is a trip to Booneville, Mississippi for the Tiger Fest Tournament, hosted by Northeast Mississippi Community College. The Lady Saluqis also have road trips scheduled to Crowley’s Ridge (Paragould, AR), Northwest Mississippi (Senatobia, MS), Northwest-Shoals (Muscle Shoals, AL), Mississippi Delta (Moorhead, MS), Coahoma (Clarksdale, MS), Itawamba (Fulton, MS), Three Rivers (Poplar Bluff, MO), and Shawnee (Ullin, IL).