BRISTOL, Tenn. – After taking a memorable 2012 Conference Carolinas Tournament Championship as the sixth seed and advancing to the first NCAA Tournament as a NCAA Division II member, King Lady Tornado Softball is ready to get back on the field with their season starting at home this Friday (Feb. 9). Last year, the Lady Tornado had an overall record of 34-19 and a Conference Carolinas record of 13-9 in the program's first year as a member of the conference.
Head Coach Jenn Testa is excited about the upcoming season and stated, "Obviously, our expectations are high. When you do something like that one year, it really sets the bar up even higher. We're looking forward to getting started, and seeing what we've got and seeing how things pan out."
The Lady Tornado have also prepared well during the offseason for the 2013 schedule. "They've worked really hard in the weight room and conditioning," stated Testa. "They've done everything we've asked. We've gotten some good work in, even if we've had to go indoors."
King will have many key returning players, including junior pitcher Hannah Light (Coeburn, Va.) who led the Lady Tornado with 20 wins and an earned run average of 1.53. Light garnered All-Conference Second Team honors and was named Conference Carolinas Tournament Most Valuable Player as well.
In reference to Light, Coach Testa stated, "Hopefully, she continues to do what she did last year, especially at the end of the year. We look for her to have a big year. Having her all year will be nice too."
The Lady Tornado also have two returning All-Conference selections, sophomore shortstop Christina Melcher and junior catcher/outfielder Fallon Thomas. Coach Testa stated, "[Melcher] had a great year last year at the plate and in the field for us." Melcher had a terrific freshman year in 2012 as she hit for a .395 average (led team) with 6 homers and 43 RBI. Melcher also scored 50 runs and had 11 steals, both of which led the squad. Melcher was named to the All-Conference First Team as well as the All-Conference Tournament Team.
Thomas hit .311 to go along with a team-leading 8 homers and 47 RBI. Thomas joined Melcher in being named to the All-Conference First Team.
Lowe helped lead went to Holston High School to 74 wins over her four years and posted a miniscule career earned run average of 0.63. Lowe struck out more than 900 batters during her career and was named the Hogoheegee District Player and Pitcher of the Year twice. She led Holston to three district titles and two Virginia High School League State Runner-Up finishes. Lowe also was named Bristol Herald Courier Softball Player of the Year twice and was named to the Virginia High School Coaches Association All-Star Team in 2012.
White was a four-year starting pitcher for North Gwinnett High School and posted a 15-3 record with seven complete games over her junior and senior seasons. She finished sixth in school history in wins and posted a no-hitter against Duluth High School during her senior season. North Gwinnett went 23-10-1 during White's senior campaign, and White helped lead them to the first round of the Georgia High School Association playoffs.
Hannah Smith (Bristol, Va.) and infielder Amber Walker (Hoschton, Ga.) are two more freshmen Coach Testa had high remarks for. "She (Smith) has the ability to hit the ball a long way, so she'll see some time at catcher, designated player, or even some time at first base," stated Testa. "You'll probably see her somewhere in the middle of the lineup this year."
Smith helped Virginia High School to a three-year record of 61-20 which included three VHSL Final Four appearances and a state runner-up finish. As a sophomore, Smith hit .478 with three homers and 29 RBI. As a junior, Smith hit .469 with four homers, 16 doubles, and 15 RBI en route to being named to the All-State First Team and Region D Player of the Year. During her junior year, Virginia High went 19-8 and was the Region D Champions. White also garnered All-Clinch Mountain District honors three times and was named Clinch Mountain District Player of the Year twice.
"We've got Amber Walker at first base," said Testa. "We're excited about how she's developing. We still have some work to do with her, but she is coming along, even more so the past couple of weeks in practice leading up to opening day."
Coach Testa also hopes freshman outfielders Octavia Lewis-Rand (Columbus, Ga.) and Allie Spell (Lawrenceville, Ga.) will be able to return to action from minor injuries very soon. Spell should add some pop to the middle of the Lady Tornado lineup. Testa said Lewis-Rand will add speed and the ability to hit for power.
Junior transfer Macy Shupe (Toledo, Ill.) is another player Coach Testa is excited about. "[Shupe] is a very versatile player, so we could see her in a bunch of different capacities." Shupe also has great speed and will be a huge asset offensively.
King University will face many tough challenges to repeat as conference champions but are ranked third in the Conference Carolinas Preseason Coaches' Poll.
North Greenville is ranked first in the preseason poll but King defeated them in the final of last year's conference tournament.
Coach Testa expressed that this season's schedule possesses some challenges for the Lady Tornado. "Our schedule is a lot different this year," stated Testa. "We've got a lot of tough teams, especially in the first part of our season. I think the first couple of weeks are going to be very telling for us. Great competition early on is going to prepare us well for conference play and the conference tournament, and then hopefully in the postseason."
KU will open the season this Saturday, Feb. 9 with a doubleheader against Young Harris. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the King University Softball Complex.