In 2015, the Golden Eagles won the C-USA West and made it the semifinals of the conference tournament. However, last season the Golden Eagles stumbled and took some steps back as they missed post season play with a 27-26 record. Southern Miss hosted the conference tournament but missed it becoming third host team in C-USA history to miss the conference tournament.
The Golden Eagles now look to replace eight players the biggest two for the offense were sluggers Lauren Holliefield and Tori Dew, now a student assistant.
Holliefield led the team last season in all hitting categories with 36 runs batted in, .337 batting average and nine homeruns. Dew was fourth on the team with a .277 batting average, was second the team with 27 RBIs, led the team with 43 hits and 12 doubles.
As a whole, the team had a batting average of .261; the average NCAA qualifier had a batting average of .292. Now looking to get back on track, they will try to focus on not only qualifying for the conference tournament, but also the NCAA tournament as well, which has not been done since 2004.
This year the team will see a change of faces, including in the coaching staff. The hiring of hitting coach Carlos Castro and his brother, volunteer assistant, Christian Castro should boost the team’s hitting. The duo came from Jones County Junior College’s softball team where their .388 team batting average led to a 55-4 record last season. The change in hitting coaches has naturally changed the team’s plan of hitting as they are switching to a more guerilla ball style rather than the slap hits they used last season.
This year the team will have seven new freshmen and one transfer as each will play important roles on the team. The team beat every team they faced in the fall season with the exception of Mississippi State. In that doubleheader matchup, the team lost 7-0 but battled back in the 4-3 loss.
The incoming freshman class shows much promise. Freshmen Rebekah DiLavore, Alyssa “Tata” Davis, Destini Brown and Kaley Fruge will look to make the biggest impacts on the team, specifically offensively. Compared to the spring, the offensive potency looks much more consistent and strong.
DiLavore looks to currently be the starting third baseman and brings a strong consistent bat. In the fall doubleheader against Jones Junior College and East Central Community College, she put up three doubles and did not miss a beat at third base.
Davis, although not currently the starting shortstop, has the makings to be a major impact player on the team because of her variety of skills. Davis boasts a very strong arm and shows that she has big play ability. In addition, her bat may be just as dynamic as her style of play.
Brown looks to be the next big slugger for the Golden Eagles. While she may be just a utility player in the field, she has home run ability on any given pitch.
Fruge will look to switch between right field and utility play and her bat shows the ability in having both consistency and power.
Overall, the freshmen all show high softball IQs that most young players need to learn over several seasons. Whether they are just a good crop of players or have benefitted from strong coaching, they will be crucial for the season and in helping the program go forward.
“It’s been a lot of fun anytime you have that much youth,” said Head Coach Wendy Hogue. “They are all so very talented and they all bring something different. A lot of those kids are utility players that can do some different things. They are bringing in energy, an energy that has just renewed the fire on the team.”