by Mark Jagord, sports information assistant
MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. – The Georgia College softball team will open the 2014 campaign by hosting three other teams in the Bobcat Blast this weekend. The Bobcats open the season with a doubleheader against the University of West Alabama Saturday, Feb. 1 starting at 11 a.m., followed by a doubleheader between Queens University of Charlotte (N.C.) and Georgia Southwestern University starting at 3:30 pm. On Sunday, Feb. 2, GSW will play a doubleheader against West Alabama starting at 10 a.m., followed by a doubleheader between Georgia College and Queens starting at 2:30 p.m.
The Georgia College softball team has been ranked No. 4 in the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) Coaches' Preseason Poll for this season. The Bobcats finished runner-up in the PBC Tournament Championship as the No. 2 seed last season and finished tied for second with the University of North Georgia with a 16-6 conference record, while posting a 37-17 overall record. Georgia College defeated Francis Marion University and USC Aiken to advance to the 2013 PBC Tournament Championship game. Georgia College compiled a 1-2 record in the NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament. The Bobcats were ranked nationally as high as No. 16, making the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division II Top-25 Poll four times last season. The Bobcats also ranked No. 7 in the final NCAA Southeast Region Poll.
The team returns several prominent players from last season. In 2013, All-PBC First-Team senior Whitney Okvist (Kennesaw, Ga.) led the squad in runs scored at 39, and her PBC-leading 43 stolen bases (119 career) helped Georgia College set a PBC stolen-bases record in a season at 63. Sophomores Abi LeRoy (Dublin, Ga.) and Marisa Boyette (Marietta, Ga.) both were recognized as PBC Freshmen of the Week twice apiece, and head coach Jamie Grodecki was named PBC Coach of the Year last season.
The University of West Alabama team has been ranked No. 4 in the Gulf South Conference (GSC) Coaches' Preseason Poll for this season. The Tigers finished last season with a 16-15 GSC record and a 30-20 overall record. The team is led by first baseman Anna Shartzer and outfielder Whitney Brown, who were both selected to the preseason All-GSC team.
Queens University of Charlotte (N.C.) team has been ranked No. 9 in the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) Coaches' Preseason Poll for this season. The Royals reached the semifinal round of last year's NCAA Division II Softball Championship Southeast Super Region final. The team is led by SAC Second-Team designated player Whitney Britt.
The Georgia Southwestern Hurricanes have been ranked No. 9 in the PBC Coaches' Preseason Poll for this season. The Lady 'Canes made their second PBC Tournament appearance last season that ended early with a loss against Armstrong 6-4. GSW finished the season with a 29-26 overall record and a 9-13 PBC record. The Hurricanes will have one of the more experienced teams in 2014 with seven returning seniors and All-PBC Second Team member, Hayley Knight, and Honorable Mention Rachel McElroy.
The Georgia College Department of Athletics, two-time winners of the PBC Commissioner's Cup, sponsors 11 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, Bobcat Athletics prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the teams' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Sign up at @GCBobcats on Twitter and Facebook for up-to-the-minute reports, and visit www.GCBobcats.com for more information, and to nominate your favorite former Bobcats and Colonials to the GC Athletics Hall of Fame.