Softball Preview: Outfield
Feb. 6, 2013
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - In the final installment previewing the 2013 University of Memphis softball team, the Tigers outfielders are featured with three letterwinners returning along with three newcomers that will compete for playing time.
"We definitely have a nice, large group to choose from, which is great," said head coach Natalie Poole. "I think every one of them has something to bring to the game. I think there's going to be a lot of competition. I'm excited about that because it's going to push them to be better."
Outfielders Returners: Junior Ijiah Hargrove started 28 games in the outfield last year for the Tigers with 12 starts coming in left field. Although she had just 74 at-bats on the season, Hargrove saw significant time on the bases, going 14-of-17 in stolen bases to lead the team.
"I think in the outfield we know what we have to do," Hargrove said. "We've been doing a lot of new drills to work on things that we did bad last year. I think we're going to be really good."
Sophomore Breslin Perry appeared in 30 games last season and started 11 contests in left field for the Tigers. In the fall, Perry had one of Memphis' four hits against the National Pro Fastpitch All-Stars and also tripled in Memphis' 4-1 win over Christian Brothers.
Even though there are six players competing for three positions, Perry says the atmosphere of practices has been stress-free.
"It feels relaxed, but at the same time we know we're competing for a position," Perry said. "We're working, but we're also pushing each other."
Redshirt senior Lelani Bernardino also returns for the Tigers after redshirting the 2012 season. In 2011, Bernardino started all 48 games in left field and helped Memphis advance to its first NCAA Tournament. Bernardino saw time on the field in the fall as one of the top hitters on the team while holding a perfect fielding percentage.
"I'm learning how to play with my teammates again since I missed last year and wasn't able to play," Bernardino said. "I'm getting readjusted to everything and it's nice to be back."
Newcomers: Freshman Lindsie Knowles comes to Memphis from Celina, Texas. Knowles hit .470 in her senior campaign and helped CHS to two state championship appearances and one title. In the fall, Knowles was primarily a pinch runner for the Tigers, but is in the mix for a starting position.
As Knowles transitions from high school to the college game, she says the preseason has included a lot of hard work between the outfielders.
"Everyone's doing really well," Knowles said. "There are certain spots where other people are strong at, but I think we're all working hard to fight for that position. It should be interesting to see how it turns out."
A native of Ashland, Miss., freshman Hannah Harrell made several key plays for Memphis in the outfield during the fall. In the second game against Austin Peay, Harrell prevented the Lady Govs from tying up the game with a laid out catch in left field for the final out of the game to secure a 3-1 win for the Tigers. Harrell's athleticism could help her earn playing time in her first season.
Also new to the Memphis outfield will be sophomore Wheeler Hill. A native of Mansfield, Texas, Hill comes to Memphis after redshirting last season at McNeese State. Hill served primarily as a pinch runner during the fall but could find her way into the starting lineup.
Memphis begins the season Friday at the Texas Classic in Austin. The Tigers will face North Texas at 12:30 p.m. (CT) to begin the tournament followed by a game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 3 p.m. Memphis will also square off against #7/9 Texas on Friday on a game televised by the Longhorn Network. The U of M will then play two other games with the opponent yet to be determined.