By Katie Parker, sports information student assistant
MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga.- After winning the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) Tournament title last year, the No. 20 Georgia College & State University softball team starts the season facing fierce competition this weekend in Aiken, S.C. at the Early Bird Tournament.
The Bobcats start off the two-day event at 10 a.m. Saturday (Feb. 7) taking on the University of Charleston (W.V.) in the season-opener. During their last meeting, the ‘Cats devoured the Golden Eagles 11-4 at the 2008 version of this tourney.
After an executive lunch break, Georgia College will see Limestone College at 2 p.m. The Saints enter the season with high hopes after ending their 2008 campaign with a strong run in the Conference Carolinas Tournament. With Limestone's six true freshmen and four junior college transfers, the Bobcats will look to their seasoned veterans to pull through.
The ‘Cats return a pair of All-Americans in pitcher Mandy Chandler (Covington, Ga.) and centerfielder Sherquita Bostick (Florence, S.C.). Chandler was 25-9 with a 0.98 ERA and 311 strikeouts over 236.2 innings in 2008 and remains one of the most dominant pitchers in all of Division II. The reigning PBC Player of the Year, Bostick had a .379 batting average, 44 runs and 27 RBI a year ago, adding seven home runs, four triples, and 20 stolen bases. Georgia College regains the services of all but two starters in the field, including senior third baseman/pitcher Tonya Medders (Bascom, Fla.) as well as senior second baseman Lindsey Swanson (Kennesaw, Ga.). The Bobcats have seven seniors on the roster, and will look to take advantage of that leadership and big-game experience.
Georgia College ends the day battling No. 12 Kutztown University at 4 p.m. Last year, the Golden Bears handed the Bobcats their first loss of the season during the annual tournament, taking the matchup 4-2. Kutztown began its 2008 campaign ranked No. 21 but this year the preseason poll has them sitting in the 12th slot. Returning seven starters, GCSU looks to dethrone its first ranked team of the year.
The Bobcats close out the Early Bird Tournament playing Charleston once more Sunday at noon. Last year, Georgia College split the tournament going 2-2 and seeks to improve that this weekend.
The 2008 Bobcat softball team won the program's first PBC Tournament title, taking a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the third-straight season, all under fifth-year head coach Ginger Chaffinch. Georgia College tallied the third-most wins in school history at 40-14 and reached as high as No. 2 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Rankings.
The Bobcats open their season in Aiken, S.C. Saturday, Feb. 7 at 10 a.m. Their home opener is Saturday, Feb. 14 with a doubleheader against Wingate University beginning at noon.
Visit www2.GCSU.edu/Bobcats to nominate your favorite former Bobcats and Colonials to the GCSU Athletics Hall of Fame. The GCSU Department of Athletics sponsors 10 Varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, GCSU prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the Bobcats' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement.