BALTIMORE – UMBC softball hits the road for its second tournament of the season on Friday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 22 when it travels to the Phoenix Opening Tournament at Hunt Softball Park on the campus of Elon University. Due to inclement weather in the forecast for Friday, the schedule has updated.
The Retrievers open the weekend's action with a Friday doubleheader against Niagara (4:45 p.m.) and Iona (7 p.m.). UMBC's Saturday doubleheader features the host Phoenix (2:30 p.m.), followed by a rematch versus Iona (4:45 p.m.).
The Retrievers are coming off a 2-2 season-opening weekend at the Seahawk Invitational. Freshman pitcher Jessica Holte (Ashland, Va./Atlee) tossed two complete game victories in the circle, posting a 2.50 ERA and striking out nine batters in her collegiate tournament debut. UMBC had a pair of freshmen bat over .500 for the weekend, with Kaelin Jackson (Export, Pa./Franklin Regional) tallying four hits on seven at bats for a weekend average of .571. The reigning America East Rookie of the Week, Jaclyn Buckley (Voorhees, N.J./Eastern Camden Regional) started her career off with a bang, registering a two-run go-ahead home run in the top of the seventh inning for her first collegiate hit. Buckley had a .909 slugging percentage for the weekend and finished with a team-best six hits.
UMBC batted .414 with runners in scoring position during the tournament, including a perfect three-for-three from the dish from senior Caitlin Chance (Easton, Md./Easton). Chance finished the weekend with two doubles and four runs batted in.
Niagara, which is coming off a third-place finish in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament, opens its 2014 slate on Friday at Elon. The Purple Eagles return six starters from last season's squad that posted a 9-7 league record a season ago. Head coach Larry Puzan starts his first full season as head coach of Niagara after serving as an assistant coach the last 17 seasons. The Purple Eagles were picked to finish eighth in the MAAC Preseason Poll.
Iona also opens its 2014 campaign at the Phoenix Opening Tournament. The Gaels were picked to finish sixth in the MAAC Preseason Poll after posting a 13-37 overall mark and a 9-7 league record. Senior outfielder Eileen McCann earned preseason All-Conference recognition and enters the season as the program's all-time home runs leader.
Elon enters the weekend at 5-3-1 on the season, but has dropped three of its last four decisions. The Phoenix are coming off a 9-2 loss at Campbell on Wednesday. Elon has relied heavily on the long ball thus far this season, registering 13 home runs on the year. Sophomore Emily Cameron leads the offense with 12 runs batted in with five of her 10 hits being home runs. Senior Carleigh Nester has chipped in a pair of homers and seven RBI. The Phoenix have four pitchers that have notched a win in 2014, with junior Eve Clausen and junior Caitlin O'Shea each posting an earned run average under 2.00.