UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON - HILTON HOUSTON PLAZA CLASSIC
Feb. 10-12 • Cougar Softball Stadium • Houston, Texas
Game 1: Friday, Feb. 10 • 5 p.m. | No. 20 Houston vs. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi
Game 2: Saturday, Feb. 11 • 11 a.m. | Texas A&M - Corpus Christi vs. No. 11 Oklahoma State
Game 3: Saturday, Feb. 11 • 5 p.m. | Texas A&M - Corpus Christi vs. North Texas
Game 4: Sunday, Feb. 12 • 9 a.m. | No. 11 Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi
CORPUS CHRISTI – The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi softball team will open its 2012 campaign at the Hilton Houston Plaza Classic in Houston, Texas. The Islanders will take on Houston, Oklahoma State and North Texas over the three-day event. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi will open their home slate against Baylor for a three-game series on Friday, Feb. 17, including a double-header on Saturday, Feb. 18.
Friday's game will be the first official game for head coach Stephanie Hughes at the helm of the Islanders program. Hughes became the Islanders fifth head coach in program history when she was hired on August 19, 2011.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Houston: The No. 20-ranked Cougars return six position players including the 2011 Conference USA Player of the Year. Houston is coming off a 44-18 record and shared the Conference USA regular-season title and advanced to the Super Regionals. The Islanders downed the Cougars last season in a doubleheader on March 15 in Corpus Christi. Jordan Trujillo picked up the close 3-2 win in the circle before Constance Brandenburg sealed the 8-6 second game in the circle.
Oklahoma State: The Cowgirls enter play with a No. 11 ranking in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Preseason Poll. Oklahoma State finished with a No. 8 record last season after making an appearance in the Women's College World Series and finishing with a 42-20 overall record. The Cowgirls return six position starters and three pitchers, including standout Kat Espinosa. The Islanders will face the Cowgirls twice over the weekend making it their second and third time the two teams have faced each other. The last time the two met up was on February 23, 2008. The Islanders dropped a 12-8 decision.
North Texas: The Mean Green finished the 2011 season with a 22-30 record. North Texas was picked to finish seventh in the Sun Belt Conference preseason poll after finishing ninth last season. The Mean Green holds the 4-3 advantage over the Islanders with North Texas notching the 4-3 victory on February 13, 2009.
The Islanders were picked to finish second in the Southland Conference, after clinching the regular-season title last season. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi was selected behind defending conference champion Texas State. The Islanders received five first-place votes with 87 points while Texas State received four.
Senior Hannah Schwarz, returns as a First Team selection for the second straight year after starting 58 of the Islanders 59 games last season. Senior Vianca Pesina returns as a Second Team selection after going 12-5 in the circle with a 2.26 ERA last season, which was sixth best in the conference.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi will open the 2012 season against No. 20-ranked Houston. The only other time the Islanders opened the season against a ranked opponent was in 2010 when they faced then-No. 10 Stanford.
The Islanders will face Houston to open the season for just the second time. The Islanders opened the 2002 season against Houston, falling 7-0.
Last season, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi opened the season winning their first five games before dropping their next four. The Islanders went on to win 13 straight. In 2010 the squad split their first two games before they dropped the next two. After that the Islanders won a string of 11 games. In 2009, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi dropped their first five games before winning their next two.
The Islanders welcome back eight key returners from last season's team and four pitchers. Greta Cecchetti, Vianca Pesina, Jordan Trujillo and Constance Brandenburg all return for the Islanders in the circle. Jamise Jackson, Sandy Schumann and Laura Phillips return to the infield, while seniors Cassie Redman and Hannah Schwarz will lead the Islanders in the outfield. Schwarz, Jackson, Redman and Phillips all started for the Islanders last season.
With the loss of five key players, the Islanders are looking to fill their shoes with 11 freshmen. Infielder Cassie Carroll, shortstop Hayley Galloway and catcher/outfielder Mickayla Heller are three of the top newcomers for the Islanders on defense. Freshman Bethany Slick is looking to join the four returners in the circle.
Senior Hannah Schwarz returns to the Islanders after earning First Team selections for the second straight year. She started 58-of-59 of the Islanders games last season while recording the highest batting average on the team at .345 which was good for third in the Southland Conference.
She also had the second most hits with 63 and was third in runs scored with 37 during the season. The outfielder was third on the team with eight stolen bases after going 8-for-15 and had a team-high 176 at-bats as the Islanders primary leadoff hitter during the season.
Schwarz was named to the Capital One Academic All-America team and honored with the Southland Conference Steve McCarty Citizenship Award. This summer, Schwarz made program history with a World Cup of softball appearance with Team Canada. She was also selected to play in the Pam American Games.
IN THE CIRCLE
Greta Cecchetti is one of four pitchers returning. She led the Islanders in the circle last season. Cecchetti started 16 games in the circle while posting a team-best 1.77 ERA and going 8-6. She was second on the team with one save. She threw 106.2 innings while striking out 81 batters. Cecchetti participated in the European Championship with Team Italy.
Joining Cecchetti in the circle are Vianca Pesina, Jordan Trujillo, Constance Brandenburg and freshman Bethany Slick. Pesina was second on the team with a 2.26 ERA and a 12-5 record. Trujillo posted a 17-7 record with a team-best 133 strikeouts in 148 innings thrown. Brandenburg made 16 appearances with two starts during her freshman season. She posted a 4-1 record and a team-high two saves.
The Islanders outfield is made up of all seniors with one senior in the infield. Cassie Redman returns to left field for the Islanders, Schwarz in center and lefty Stephanie Vead in right field. Redman started in 45 of the Islanders 49 games last season and posted a team-high eight sacrifice hits. Vead started 22 games while playing in 34 in her first year with the team. She was fourth on the team with a .318 batting average.
Sandy Schumann will lead the Islanders in the infield as the only senior. She started in 34 games and played in a total of 45 games as the Islanders best utility player.
Sophomore Jamise Jackson and junior Meagan McKinney will also add experience in the infield. Jackson is returning after posting a .357 slugging percentage while driving in 16 runs with six doubles. McKinney is back after starting 14 of 31 games as a sophomore while battling through injuries.
Schwarz led the Islanders offense with a .345 batting average. The Islanders will need to fill some holes offensively with the departure of graduated seniors Lauren Sanders and Caley Jeter. Sanders posted a .340 batting average and Jeter was third on the team with a .335 average, including a season-best 38 RBIs. Vead was fourth with catcher Laura Phillips in fifth with a batting average of .270. Phillips posted one home run with 11 runs driven in, including seven doubles.
The Islanders will also have to fill the void of graduated seniors Kacie Smith and Brittany Tucker as well. Tucker tallied nine doubles, six home runs and 37 RBIs. Tucker led the team with seven home runs, nine doubles and 35 RBIs.
After the three-day event the Islanders will travel to Austin to take on No.18/19 Texas on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 5 p.m.