Troy softball set to open 2012 season

Published 9:32 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2012

After months of preparation and weeks of practice the 2012 regular season has arrived for the Troy softball team. The Trojans will travel to Hammond, La., to participate in the Southeastern Louisiana Lion Classic beginning tomorrow.

The three-day tournament will pit the Trojans against the likes of Jackson State, Kansas, Nicholls State, Northern Illinois, and Akron.

Troy will have the opportunity to test a youthful group of pitchers against solid competition.

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“We look at our pitching staff as a team within the team,” head coach Melanie Davis said. “They are very young but very talented.”

Troy looks to replace the ace of last year’s staff, Ashlyn Williams, with a bevy of underclassmen. Williams started 31 games for the Trojans last season and finished with a record of 19-14.

Of the five pitchers on Troy’s roster, four are true freshman and the other, Michaela Hamilton, is in her first season as a junior college transfer.

Davis is looking at Jaycee Affeldt to lead the staff this season. Affeldt competed in the International Softball Federation Junior Women’s World Championships in Cape Town, South Africa in December as a member of the Canadian Junior National Team. She is also one of just 43 players in the final pool of athletes to be selected as members of the Canadian National Team in June. As a relief pitcher in the tournament she faced the United States, Chinese Taipei and China, allowing just two hits with 10 strikeouts in seven innings of work.

“Having national team experience gives her a mental edge over some,” Davis said.

Affeldt has been pushed by the strong showing of fellow freshman Ashley Rainey. The Tuscaloosa County High School graduate earned All-State honors last season with a .388 average with 16 homeruns and 48 RBI. She was named 2011 Player of the Year for West Alabama. Rainey also holds the Tuscaloosa County High School record for career homeruns.

Behind the young pitching staff will be a lineup full of veterans. The Trojans top six hitters return from last year’s 32-27 squad including Preseason All-Sun Belt selections Nikki Hollett and Hayden Gann.

Hollett, a senior third baseman, led the Trojans in all major offensive categories a year ago including average (.354), runs (43), hits (69), RBI (56), doubles (18), and homeruns (20).

Holletts’s 20 homers placed her seventh in the nation. She recorded three multi-homerun games last season including a three-homer performance against San Jose State. It was just the third three-homerun game in Sun Belt history.

Gann, a senior first baseman, batted .318 last year with seven homeruns and 31 RBI. She started all 59 games for Troy in 2011 and enters 2012 in Troy’s top ten for batting average, on-base percentage, double, homeruns and walks.

Troy native Taylor Smartt also returns after a solid freshman campaign in which she batted .277 and was a NCFA All-Region selection.

“I think we have a good mix of youth and talent,” Davis said. “I think this team is just ready to play a game agaisnt someone other than themselves.”

The Trojans will kick off their season against Jackson State at 12:30p.m. on Friday.