Feb. 3, 2014
CHICAGO - The Loyola University Chicago softball team kicks off the 2014 season by hosting the Total Control Sports Invitational this weekend and is scheduled to play four games in Rosemont, Ill. during the tournament, starting with Friday's matchup at 6:00 p.m. against intra-state foe Illinois. The Ramblers will then play a double dip against Western Illinois and UIC at 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., respectively, on Saturday. They'll wrap up the tournament with a single game against IUPUI at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.
The Ramblers 2013-14 campaign marks their first season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, and they will kick off conference play at Wichita State on March 15-16.
Under head coach Missy Beseres, Loyola earned 28 wins last season and a share of the Horizon League regular season title. Though the loss of lone graduated senior Brooke Andresen will be felt at the leadoff position and at shortstop, the squad welcomes back eight starters from the everyday lineup, as well as four members of the pitching staff.
In the 2013 campaign, the Ramblers tied the single-season record for RBI (174) and blasted 44 home runs to grab sole possession of the single-season record in that category.
A pair of seniors, Brittany Gardner and Lauren Moore, were named First Team All-Horizon League last season, while freshman Brie Pasquale earned a second team nod as well as a place on the All-Newcomer Team. Gardner is the first-ever Rambler pitcher to earn first team accolades for three consecutive years.
Following the Total Control Sports Invitational, the Ramblers will head to the Tiger Invitational, February 14-16 in Auburn, Ala.
SCOUTING THE ILLINI
Loyola will play its first game on Friday against intra-state rival Illinois, who finished its 2013 campaign with a 22-27 overall record, winning 11 of its final 12 games to finish 11-12 in the Big Ten. In their last meeting, the Illini stunned the Ramblers in an extra-inning thriller on March 15, 2013. Though Rambler starting pitcher Brittany Gardner struck out a season-high 12 batters, host Illinois got an RBI single in the ninth to earn a 3-2 victory in walk-off fashion.
SCOUTING THE LEATHERNECKS
Western Illinois finished the 2013 season with a 14-23 overall record and a sixth -place finish in the Summit League. They were led by 2013 Summit League Player of the Year Sammy Marshall, who hit .465 and averaged 0.94 stolen bases per game. The Ramblers haven't faced the Leathernecks since 2004 when they dropped a 1-0 decision.
SCOUTING THE FLAMES
Last year, Loyola split the regular season Horizon League title with UIC, who finished 23-25 overall and 16-6 in conference play. In March, the Ramblers dropped the first of their three-game series before surviving a seventh inning scare to earn a 9-8 victory in the final game. Having lost 2013 Horizon League Pitcher of the Year Devin Miller to graduation, UIC will depend on a young pitching staff this season.
SCOUTING THE JAGUARS
The Jaguars finished the 2013 season with an 18-31 overall record, led by hot-hitting sophomore Ali Mosier (.306, 4 HR, 30 RBI). Senior Jocelyn Openhuis will be back for her final season in the circle after leading IUPUI on the mound with a 3.21 ERA over 85 innings pitched. At their last meeting in 2011, IUPUI spoiled a Brittany Gardner gem when it clinched a ninth-inning 1-0 win over the Ramblers under international tiebreaker rules.
After setting a single-season school record with 13 home runs in 2013, senior third baseman Lauren Moore will be back for her final season to build on a junior campaign that earned her NFCA Second Team All-Great Lakes Region honors and First-Team All-Horizon League honors. Moore had one of the best offensive seasons ever by a Rambler in 2013, batting .342 (55 for 161) with six doubles and 42 RBI after entering the season having never hit higher than .281. The slick-fielding third baseman is one of only three players in Loyola history to ever drive in 40 or more runs in a single season, and her 42 total RBI rank third on the school's single-season list. As Moore went, so did the Ramblers, who were 10-1 when she homered. With 20 career home runs and 88 RBI to her credit, the slugger will enter her senior campaign needing only 12 roundtrippers and five RBI to tie Loyola's all-time marks in those categories.
THE GREAT GARDNER
One of the top pitchers in the region, Brittany Gardner enters her senior campaign looking to build on a historic career in Maroon & Gold. A three-time First Team All-Horizon League honoree, Gardner became Loyola's all-time leader in strikeouts in April and enters her senior campaign looking to build on her career total of 566. She also finds herself three wins shy of tying Kari Klier's career record of 51 victories. The 2012 NFCA Second Team All-Great Lakes Region lefthander finished the 2013 season with a 16-10 record along with a 2.16 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 176.2 innings. With 48 career wins under her belt, the hurler needs just 3 more victories in the circle to tie Kari Klier's all-time record.
Ten Ramblers were tabbed 2013 NFCA All-America Scholar-Athletes, nearly doubling the team's number of honorees from last year and representing the highest total in program history. Brooke Andresen, Emily Bentley, Hannah Berris, Keali Engelkens, Brittany Gardner, Hannah Jenkins, Lauren Moore, Ashley Rogers, Kat Widup, and Lauren Zaworski were all recognized for their academic achievements in 2012-13.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Three new faces have been added to Loyola's roster: freshmen Alyssa Mannucci, Jacquelyn Murphy, and Erica Nagel. A slap-hitting outfielder, Nagel was a local standout from Marist High School while Mannucci was one of the top middle infielders in the Chicagoland area at Plainfield South. Murphy, a Farmington Hills, Mich. native is a fleet-footed outfielder who also hit 10 homeruns during her senior season at Mercy High School.