SFA Softball Releases Schedule
Nov. 13, 2007
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - A pair of College World Series qualifiers highlight the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjack softball schedule, released Tuesday by head coach Gay McNutt. Big 12 Conference teams Texas A&M and Baylor are the non-conference headliners, with an early Southland Conference showdown at home against 2007 SLC Tournament champion Sam Houston State kicking off the conference action.
The schedule features three early-season tournaments and eight home series, including three non-conference dates at Hoya Field. The field of opponents includes three NCAA Tournament qualifiers from a year ago and five teams that recorded at least 35 wins in 2007.
"The schedule's not as strong as I'd like it to be for RPI purposes," said McNutt, in her first season at SFA. "We want to improve our ranking from a regional standpoint. My goal is for this conference to get at least two teams into the NCAAs every year, and to do that we have to improve our overall RPI."
McNutt's 2008 ledger is a good start. The Ladyjacks open the season on Feb. 8 with a home doubleheader against Texas-El Paso. The Miners went 28-23 in 2007.
"UTEP is a great team to open up with," McNutt said. "It's going to be a challenging doubleheader, and we'll know real quick where we stand."
Twelve days later, SFA will travel to College Station, Texas, for a Feb. 20 double dip with the Aggies. Texas A&M went 46-14 last season with a 12-6 record in Big 12 play, good enough for a fourth-place finish. The Aggies earned the No. 4 national seed in the NCAA Championship bracket and advanced all the way to the College World Series before being eliminated by back-to-back losses to Tennessee and Baylor. A&M finished the season ranked No. 7 in the nation.
Following that date, the Ladyjacks will begin play in the Northwestern State NSU Invitational, the first of three tournaments on the docket. Teams scheduled to participate include Jackson State -- a third-place finisher in the Southwestern Athletic Conference last year -- Seina College and Northwestern State.
SFA's next tournament is the Ole Miss Red and Blue Classic, scheduled for Feb. 29-March 2 in Oxford, Miss. Opponents include Ole Miss, Troy, Belmont and Louisiana Tech. Troy went 42-20 overall last season and finished third in the Sun Belt Conference with a 17-10 mark. Troy reached the championship game of the SBC Tournament but dropped a 1-0 decision to Florida Atlantic.
The third and final tournament on the slate is the Oklahoma State Mizuno Classic, set for March 7-9 in Stillwater, Okla. The field features Centenary, Oklahoma State and Texas Wesleyan.
"I like to play tournaments early to prepare for the conference tournament, but it also helps get you ready for conference play," McNutt said. "With tournaments, you can play a lot of games in a short period of time, and that's what you need early in the season."
Sandwiched between the Northwestern State tournament and the Ole Miss trip, SFA will open Southland Conference play with a three-game home set against Sam Houston State, starting on Feb. 26. The Bearkats went 38-26 in 2007 and finished second in the SLC with a 20-10 mark. Sam Houston went on to win the SLC Tournament and reach the NCAA Championships. McNutt already has the series circled on her calendar as a big one.
"I think Sam Houston will be one of the top teams in the league when the preseason polling comes out," she said. "Starting with a top team right off the bat can be a good thing, and it can be a bad thing. It's very important to come out strong against them, because if you drop that first series to a conference leader, then you're playing chase the rest of the season, as far as a conference championship is concerned."
Following the Sam Houston series, the remaining home conference games will be Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (March 15-16), Southeastern Louisiana (March 29-30), Texas State (April 19-20) and Northwestern State (May 3-4).
Following the Southeastern Louisiana series, SFA will open a nine-game road swing that includes stops at conference foes Central Arkansas and Nicholls State as well as a one-game showdown at Baylor. The Bears are coming off a stellar 51-16 season in 2007 that saw them win the Big 12 championship with a 14-3 conference record. Baylor reached the College World Series for the first time in school history and went 1-2, eliminating Texas A&M before falling to Northwestern.
The 2008 Southland Conference Tournament is scheduled for May 8-10 in San Marcos, Texas. SFA is coming off a 19-37 campaign in 2007. The Ladyjacks went 12-18 in SLC play.
-- SFA --