NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont University Softball prepares enter the second season of the Brian Levin era with a road trip on deck for the opening weekend of play in 2018. The Bruins travel to Hammond, La., to play in the SELA Lion Classic II, hosted by Southeastern Louisiana (3-0). Also competing in the three-day tournament are Detroit (2-3), Nebraska Omaha, (3-2) and Texas A&M Corpus Christi (1-2).
The Bruins, coming off their most successful NCAA Division I season in program history, including its first trip into the postseason, return eight letterwinners from that record breaking squad while welcoming nine new faces.
BU posted a 35-22 overall record one year ago and finished with a 10-12 mark in Ohio Valley Conference play, earning the No. 8 seed in the league's tournament. The Bruins' top returning slugger is sophomore Bailey Sims (Flowery Branch, Ga.), who batted .333 with 10 doubles, one triple and two homeruns. Senior Jess Andree (Darien, Ill.), who became the 12th player in NCAA history to record a pair of grand slams in a single game, also returns. A year ago, she batted .311 with 12 doubles, five homeruns and 31 RBI. Returning to the circle is sophomore Brooklin Lee (Burns, Tenn.), who was named to the OVC's All Newcomer Team after recording 186 strikeouts, 18 victories and a 2.42 ERA.
Nebraska Omaha stands at 3-2 on the season with a two-game win streak heading into this weekend's tournament. Natalie Mostek and Sydney Hampton lead the team at the plate, both batting .500. Hampton does double time for the Mavericks, boasting a 2-0 record with 12 strikeouts and a 3.68 ERA.
The Islanders will look to get back on track this weekend after opening the season with a 1-2 mark. At the plate, Kayla Sheridan leads TAMUCC, batting .500 with six hits. Ashley Smith has done the lion's share of the work inside the circle, tossing 12.2 innings with five strikeouts and a 4.42 ERA.
This tournament marks the first meetings between Belmont and both Nebraska Omaha and Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
Belmont and Southeastern Louisiana have only met once before, a decade ago. The Lions edged BU, 2-1, in the 2008 meeting. After having its first home tournament of the season cancelled due to weather, SELA puts its unblemished 3-0 mark on the line with the Lion Classic II. Mahalia Gibson is leading the team at the plate, batting .778 with a pair of homeruns while Lacey Hill stands 2-0 inside the circle with four strikeouts.
The February 18 duel with Detroit will be the eighth in the series. The Bruins lead the all-time series, 5-2, with their last victory in 2014, 9-1. The Titans stand 2-3 on the early season heading into their second consecutive weekend on the road. At the plate, Elizabeth Yager leads the team batting .500 with three RBI. Ashley Mauser has done the lion's share of the work inside the circle, tossing 11.2 innings with eight strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA.
Belmont's first matchup is against Nebraska Omaha on Friday afternoon with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. On Saturday, BU takes on TAMUCC and host-Southeastern Louisiana before wrapping the tournament with games against Detroit and TAMUCC on Sunday. Live stats will be available for the entire tournament. Video will be available for selected games with a subscription fee.