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2011 Softball Blog #7 -- Senior Heather Mott

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One word to describe this weekend: " %#!$@&*^%$*#@%*&^$!" I think I will keep my translation to myself and let you translate any way you wish!

However, as long as we have another game left, we still have life. I can't help but to think back to last year when we knocked out Tulsa from the conference tournament after losing the regular season series to them. I know this is a new year, but it shows how quickly things can change in postseason. If we face them again in the conference tournament, the tradition will remain the same. Everything builds up to one weekend with every team playing their best hand. All games up to that point seem to fly out the window. All records reset to 0-0 and you earn every game you get. With that being said, we got pushed down and maybe a black eye this weekend, but we are jumping back up and continuing the fight.

In our postgame chat, we talked about keeping the Tulsa weekend in perspective. We talked about how we can't let the high points of our season get so high and the low points get so low that we forget about our ultimate goal. This is definitely on the low end of the spectrum, but what we take from it is what really matters. There is no point looking back and dwelling on what we did wrong but taking those things and finding ways to do them better. This approach allows us to pinpoint our weaknesses and enables us to continue to grow as a team. We are only defeated when we stop growing. Getting swept by Tulsa says nothing about how good of a team we are. In fact, it implies a false perception of our team. We are better than what we showed this weekend, and we are determined to prove that. We have good stretch of midweek games coming up that will provide an opportunity for us to get some swagger back and get some momentum going into the next couple conference series.

Wednesday we face Alabama State and are looking to add 2 W's to our home turf record. Then we travel to Marshall and take the thunder out of the Herd! Excited for a new week and a new challenge!

Go Tigers!

Heather Mott #10

Spring Practice #9 - April 2, 2011

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Coach Larry Porter took his Tigers through about a 100-play scrimmage on the ninth official practice of the spring at the Murphy Athletic Complex on Saturday. It was the first full-scale scrimmage for the squad, and Porter said at the end that the ones worked about 60 plays and the twos were in on about 40 plays.

Porter also worked in some punting and kick off situations. Coach Porter spoke after practice about how he was pleased with the cleanliness of the scrimmage, with only one turnover on the day.

"For a first scrimmage, I thought we were off to a pretty good start," said Porter. "There was some good and bad on both sides of the ball."

"We still have some growing to do offensively in a number of areas," added Porter. "But, knowing that the execution of the offense from a timing standpoint and not having turnovers and not making it sloppy, you can really point at some ways to make yourself better offensively."

Full the full writeup on the scrimmage, click HERE

See below for the post-scrimmage interview with Coach Porter.

Spring Practice #8 - March 31, 2011

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The Tigers were out in shells today for more of a pass-oriented game plan as they prepare for their first full-scale scrimmage this weekend. Coach Porter talked a little bit about the scrimmage after practice and said that he won't be able to get in the neighborhood of 100 plays because of the lack of depth, particularly in the offensive line. He wants to get as much quality work out of the team as possible.

Coach Porter has spoken highly of the offensive line after just about every practice, commending them for continuing to fight though each day and each play. With only two returning players with extensive game experience, the group is working with junior college transfers, freshmen and converted defensive linemen to build a strong front. Redshirt freshman Al Bond continues to work extensively at center and is working hard on gaining consistency in snapping the ball to Andy Summerlin and Will Gilchrist.

Coach Porter mentioned that he has been impressed this spring with the cornerbacks, particularly Lonnie Ballentine, Mohammed Seisay, Taurean Nixon and Lavaris Edwards. He likes the competiveness that these guys have had and also spoke about Seisay getting some work at safety.

"The last two days I have been really excited about what I am seeing out of our defense," said Porter. "We are seeing more chemistry and continuity with that group. I still think the offense in general is a little sloppy, so we need to clean that up. We will have a much better feel for it on Saturday because we are going to scrimmage over here and put it out there and let them play."

The defensive line is one of the positions that has the most talent, experience and depth. The line is led by preseason honors candidates Dontari Poe and Frank Trotter. Also seeing many reps in the line this spring are returnees Dasmine Cathey, Daniel Thomas, Johnnie Farms and Tommy Walker and junior college transfer Zach Gholson. Corey Jones, who played as a true freshman last season, has been out so far this spring with an injury, while redshirt freshmen Martin Ifedi and Devin Clark are working their way into the rotation.

"I am finally starting to see what I have been expecting to see out of our defensive front," added Porter. "They have been very productive as a unit."

The Tigers are at the half-way point in spring practice. They will have six more practices in the next two weeks, and close out the spring with the Blue-Gray Game at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday, April 16. Festivities surrounding the spring game have been announced and can be found HERE.

See below for a video interview with quarterback Will Gilchrist. Will talks about his role this spring and how he looks forward to the opportunity to guide the Tigers as well as how he and Andy Summerlin push each other every day to create a competitive environment.

Spring Practice #7 - March 29, 2011

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A steady rain fell during the first half-hour of practice as the Tigers were again forced to the turf field because the grass fields were too wet to practice on.

Today was more of a run-oriented practice with the Tigers in full pads. Jerrell Rhodes, who is being held from contact this spring, made several solid plays today. He and Jamere Valentine are getting a majority of the reps, while Billy Foster and Brandon Hayes are also adding much-needed depth. Hayes is back on the field after missing all of last season with a knee injury. Foster is getting a couple of reps in the run game, but is still working heavily with the receiving corps.

"I thought the defense was ahead of the offense today," said Coach Larry Porter after practice. "Several defensive players had flashes of doing some good things out there in terms of making plays. I am happy that the defense is becoming more consistent."

Coach Porter talked specifically about some of the defensive players that he is seeing consistency with, including defensive linemen Frank Trotter and Dontari Poe as well as Kenyata Johnson and Fred Harvey at linebacker. He also again singled out Mohammed Seisay for continuing to make plays in the secondary, and recalled a play on third down situation today when Lonnie Ballentine came in and made a big stop.

Porter is having to have patience with the offense as the group is battling through depth issues in the offensive line and at running back, as well as incorporating more of a spread offense into the mix.

"Offensively, we still have to overcome some of the little nuances that are involved with us doing some spread things, so that can be frustrating at times," said Porter.

The Tigers will be back out on the field Thursday, and Coach Porter said they will work heavily on the passing game with the squad in shells instead of full pads.

Check out the video below as defensive back Mitch Huelsing talks about the Tiger defense through the first two weeks of spring practice.

2011 Softball Blog #6 -- Senior Heather Mott

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March 27, 2011

Quote of the weekend came from Janelle after completing our first conference sweep of the season over UTEP. "We just did some Spring cleaning this weekend!" And that's exactly what we did. Swept 'em up and cleaned 'em up!

Great weekend! A conference sweep is always fun to accomplish, but when you sweep a team on its home turf it is even more fun! Coming into the series, we knew UTEP had been struggling and had no real momentum going into the games. Our motto for the weekend: "Kick 'em while their down!"

All aspects of the game this weekend were solid, but the one aspect that stood out above the rest was our offense. To say our bats got hot this weekend is an understatement. We were on fire! We got hits from top to bottom in our line-up. This is what we need to do to be champions. To have so many players contributing at the plate and seeing the ball so well at the same point in the season is rare. However, this team is everything but normal. There has been something special about this team from day 1, so it's no surprise that we are continuing to get better individually and as a team with every passing week. With continued growth and focus we will be right where we need to be when May comes around.

Game 1 ended up being the closest contest all weekend. After a 5-3 win in game 1, we outscored UTEP in the remaining two games 28-9. Jessica (Phillips) and Maddie (McKinley) accounted for 50% of our runs by combining for 14 RBI's in games 2 and 3! If that's not impressive enough, they also combined for 5 of the 8 home runs that we hit this weekend!

My favorite part of the weekend was how game 3 ended. Before the game, the coaches and umpires agreed that game 3 would have a drop dead time of 2:30, so we would have plenty of time to catch our flight back to Memphis. With about two minutes left in the game, Jessica stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded. She smoked a home run and ended the game with a grand slam! I don't know a better way to end any game!

It's amazing the kind of influence one aspect of the game has on the others. Our pitching staff was in "Pitcher's Heaven" with the kind of run support our hitters gave this weekend. All our pitchers seemed relaxed and confident on the mound and were solid all weekend. As a result of our pitcher's doing their job, our defense remained confident and produced outs. When all three aspects of the game link together and catch fire from one another as they did this weekend, success is evident.

Next victim: Tulsa. This week we will prepare to win our 3rd conference series of the season. And we will achieve this at home! Spring is officially here. Typically that means warmer weather and allergies. But to us, Spring means hot hitters, dominating pitchers, perfect defense, and a CUSA championship ring!

Go Tigers!

Heather Mott #10

Help Support The Tigers With An Athlon Sports Custom Cover

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Come on Tiger fans ... Help support the Tigers and reserve your copy of the Athlon Sports College Football Preview magazine.

With the online purchase of the 2011 College Football Preview magazine, Memphis fans will have the opportunity to select a limited-edition "Custom Cover" featuring a Tiger Football stand-out. Athlon Sports will then donate one dollar from each magazine sold to the U of M's general scholarship fund.

If 1,000 pre-orders are received by the April 13 deadline, a custom cover will be produced to feature a Tiger Football star.

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Spring Practice #6 - March 25, 2011

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The Tigers completed their second week of spring practice on Friday. With the team practicing on Friday instead of Saturday, they will have additional days to break down the practice film over the weekend to continue to make progress when they come back out on Tuesday.

Coach Larry Porter singled out a couple of guys after practice when talking with the media, including receivers Billy Foster and Jamere Valentine on the offense, and Mohammed Seisay on the defense. He also commended the secondary for their progress and again noted how the offensive line has fought through every day of practice despite being low in numbers.

"We are starting to have guys identify themselves as playmakers on both sides of the ball," said Porter. "Billy Foster has had a tremendous week and a productive week in terms of just making plays. On the defensive side of the ball, Mo Seisay is a guy who stands out as improved, and so again, there are a lot of different guys who are starting to step up and prove that they are better."

The offensive line only returns two players with extensive playing time including Ronald Leary and Michael Antonescu. This week the line appears to be shaping up with Leary and Antonescu, along with redshirt freshman Al Bond, junior college transfer Jordan Devey and former defensive lineman DeAngelo McCray. Bond and Antonescu have been working at center, as the Tigers look to replace Brad Paul, who was on the Rimington Watch list both his junior and senior years. A.J. Antonescu, who also redshirted last season, is getting a lot of reps, and has handled some of the center duties as well. Taylor Fallin, a true freshman who came in early from Hargrave Military, has great size and is expected to add depth to the line early on. The group also gained another previous member of the defensive line as Jimmy Robinson is learning the other side of the ball now.

"Although we are thin at offensive line, they continue to improve," said Porter. "They are taking a lot of reps and they aren't feeling sorry for themselves, and because of it, you are starting to see these guys improve and become more of a cohesive unit."

Coach Porter also answered a couple of questions about the progress of quarterback Andy Summerlin. He spoke about how Andy has stepped in as a leader and that he is making progress. Andy talked early in the week about how he needs to knock some of the rust off his arm, and that is something that Coach Porter touched on too as far as him continuing to get his arm in good throwing shape. But Coach Porter said he is confident that he will continue to get better throughout the course of the spring.

Before practice, Ron Leary spoke about how different the line feels this spring. As the veteran, he is looked to for leadership and he was candid about how much different the adjustment has been with the guys next to him being so unfamiliar. Check out the video below and how Ron is ready for the challenge of leading this line.

Spring Practice #5 - March 24, 2011

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Trey_Johnson.jpg

Today was the first day in full pads for the Tigers and the squad practiced for about two hours on the grass fields at the Murphy Complex.

There was a lot of live action during the workout and the defense appeared to have the edge today, though Coach Larry Porter did commend the offense, particularly the line, for not giving in and continuing to fight to the end. He was pleased with the final period of action of the two minute drill, which saw the offense reach the endzone on a pass from Andy Summerlin to Tannar Rehrer.

"Today was a tough day for the offensive line," said Porter. "They fought to the end, and because of it, the offense finished this practice very, very strong. That is a compliment to the guys up front battling and staying with it."

There were a few nice offensive plays today during the various periods of live team work, including a couple of 15-yard receptions by Curtis Johnson and about a 20-yard reception by Tannar Rehrer. Junior college transfer Jamere Valentine seems to be getting adjusted well, and he made some nice offensive gains today. He had about a 15-yard reception and a couple of solid runs. Billy Foster also had a productive run that showed his sheer speed.

Darius Davis, who completed his eligibility this fall can't seem to get enough of practice and has been here the last couple of sessions to encourage the secondary. Another former Tiger came out today to check out the squad as former defensive lineman Clinton McDonald watched from the sidelines for a while. McDonald, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009, is in school this semester completing his degree requirements. He is expected to earn his degree from the U of M in May.

The Tigers will practice tomorrow afternoon at the complex instead of their usual Saturday morning workout, and are nearly halfway through the spring practice session.

See below for a photo gallery of shots from practice, as well as the post-practice interview with Coach Porter.

Click Here for the Photo Gallery of today's practice

Spring Practice #4 - March 22, 2011

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The Tigers put on shoulder pads today for the fourth practice of the spring. The team worked out on the grass fields at the Murphy Athletic Complex and several fans came out to watch practice as Coach Larry Porter again opened the workout.

Before practice, Andy Summerlin talked about how he felt his first week of practice went and how his shoulder was doing. He said that he felt he was still a little rusty but that he felt comfortable out there right now. See the video below for a few comments from Andy today.

The Tigers went through 24 periods of team work, and ended the day with the two minute session for the last couple of periods. Andy Summerlin took the snaps during that drill, and Jerrell Rhodes had a couple of power runs during the series. Linebacker Fred Harvey came up with a nice pick in the center of the field while Cam Baker had a reception just before a strong hit by linebacker Khiry Battle.

Coach Porter talked after practice about how he felt there were too many mistakes and that they need to improve in several areas.

"There were too many mistakes by the offense today," said Porter. "I thought the defense did a pretty good job of getting some takeaways, but I do think we need to be better in third-down situations. There were some guys that showed some signs of improvement but overall, it was a hot and cold kind of day. We must be better come Thursday."

The Tigers will practice again on Thursday and will be in full pads for that workout.

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2011 Softball Blog #5 -- Senior Heather Mott

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March 21, 2011

This week marks the half-way point of the season and a perfect time for us to start catching fire! So much of a team's success depends on their ability to peek at the right time in the season. We are starting to figure out some things with our swings and working on the adjustments we need to make to be consistently successful at the plate. Once a week, we sit down with Coach Nick on an individual basis and review film of our at bats from the previous week's games. Although I strongly dislike how slow motion has a way of revealing just about every flaw in your swing, it helps to see what you're doing wrong and gives you a focus for the upcoming week. The coaching staff has told us from day 1 that this is a process and continues to encourage us to trust the process. We continue the journey and continue to trust that the work we have put in this far will pay off in the end. I am excited to see what the second half of the season will bring!

St. Patrick's Day was this past week and we celebrated with a very GREEN St. Patrick's Day Practice. Instead of wearing our practice uniforms, Coach Thees told us to wear something green. If someone failed to do so, the punishment was to get a bucket full of tennis balls thrown at them! Fortunately, everyone showed up to practice in something green and we all escaped Coach's St. Patty's Punishment! We ended practice with a competitive game of "non-contact" football. Non-contact=healthy players! I like that! The girls who wore green t-shirts were on one team and the girls who wore green accents (hand band, ribbon, socks, etc.) were on the other. The green shirts pulled ahead early but the green accents came back at the end to take the victory. It was a fun practice, while still keeping the competitive fire!

In our first home series against Houston, we struggled on Saturday but came out Sunday ready to play. We remained a step behind Houston all day Saturday and could never catch fire to put enough runs on the board. However, one thing we did really well was turning the page from Saturday to Sunday. We knew we didn't play to the best of our ability on Saturday, so our goal for Sunday was to get our confidence back and play for pride. We didn't win the series but the adjustments we made from day 1 to day 2 were a success and showed us we can bounce back from adversity. Small bumps like this will only motivate us to become a better team.

This weekend we travel to El Paso, Texas, to take on UTEP. Everything up to this point in the season doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what we do from here on out. We are eager to start the second half of the season with a series win over UTEP and finish out the rest of the season strong!

Go Tigers!

Heather Mott #10

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