Tech softball reports back to practice

Head coach Shanon Hays at practice Thursday
Head coach Shanon Hays at practice Thursday

From the Texas Tech Athletics Department:

The Texas Tech softball program began the drive to a third-straight postseason appearance Thursday with the start of preseason practices at Rocky Johnson Field.

The Red Raiders, who open the season Feb. 9 at the Arizona State Kajikawa Classic, began with morning conditioning drills before returning to the field for a two-hour workout later this afternoon.

"It's always fun and exciting to get everyone back and get started on the season," third-year head coach Shanon Hays said. "We have an experienced group of seniors back that we expect to lead us this year and we have some new faces that could potentially make an impact as well. We have some work to do to get ready for the season, but I'm excited about getting back out on the diamond."

Following back-to-back appearances at an NCAA Regional, Tech appears primed to make another postseason charge with 15 letterwinners, including eight position starters, from last season's 42-16 squad that finished with the second-most wins in program history.

The Red Raiders return the bulk of its lineup from a year ago with the only loss coming in left field. Tech set the school and Big 12 record with a .341 batting average last season, finishing fourth in the country in the category while also placing fourth in scoring average as well.

Even with the number of returners on offensive, Hays added even-more firepower to the lineup in junior college transfer Adriana Perez and redshirt junior Melisa Ryba, who had to sit out the 2011 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Perez arrives at Tech following a highly-successful two seasons at Antelope Valley College where she was a two-time All-American selection and two-time Diamond Sports Cater of the Year honoree for California junior colleges. Ryba, meanwhile, blistered opposing pitchers throughout the fall to pace the Tech offense through several exhibition games.

In the circle, Hays added three freshmen – Cara Custer, Chandler Moore, and Hannah Bell – to an experienced group in senior Kelsey Dennis, junior Ashley Brokeshoulder, and sophomores Brittany Talley and Kermitria Ward.

The Feb. 9 season opener against San Diego State is the first of eight games against postseason teams from a year ago during the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Red Raiders will also face nationally-ranked Tennessee and Stanford during the Kajikawa Classic.