TAMPA, Fla. -- Belmont University Softball enters the third season of the Brian Levin era with a road trip to open play for the 2019 campaign. The Bruins travel to Tampa, Fla., to play in the Madeira Beach Invitational. Also competing in the three-day tournament are Akron (2-1-2), Ball State (3-2), Delaware (2-1), Drexel (0-0), and Monmouth (0-0).
The Bruins, who have experienced a massive program turnaround under Levin's leadership, return 12 letterwinners and welcome six new faces to the dugout.
BU posted a 25-25 overall record one year ago and finished with a 6-16 mark in Ohio Valley Conference play. The Bruins' top returning sluggers are senior Baylee Cook (Lewisburg, Tenn.), who batted .275 with five doubles, 11 RBI and started and played in every contest, and junior Bailey Sims (Flowery Branch, Ga.), who batted .259 with seven doubles, one triple, and 10 RBI. Senior Chelsea Thomas (Hot Springs, Ark.) returns as the top homerun hitter after recording four in her first year with the Bruins.
Inside the circle, junior Brooklin Lee (Burns, Tenn.) will lead the Bruin pitching corps. Last season, she finished with a 14-12 record, a 1.77 ERA over 181.2 innings tossed with 215 strikeouts, nine shutouts and one save. Sophomore Alicia Veltri (Clarksville, Tenn.) threw 98.2 innings to finish her rookie campaign with a pair of shutouts, a 3.26 ERA with 77 strikeouts.
Ball State enters this weekend's tournament with a 3-2 mark after playing in the FGCU Kickoff Classic last week. Stay Payton and Haley Dominique lead the Redbirds, both batting .213. BSU has a trio inside the circle splitting work with Aeshia Miles logging 10 innings with 10 strikeouts. Sarah Venker has a pair of wins with six strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA while Darcie Huber has one win with nine strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA.
Akron heads to Tampa sporting a 2-1-2 mark after an appearance at the Blue Hose Invitational. Sydney Jascoe leads the Zips at the plate, batting .625 with a double and a homerun. Inside the circle, Adrian Smith leads UA with a 2-0 record over 21 innings tossed and 19 strikeouts.
The Madeira Beach Invitational marks the beginning of the season for Monmouth. One year ago, the Hawks finished with a 32-16 record and went on to appear in the Women's College World Series. Amber Wozniak is the MU's returning top slugger, batting .311 with 13 doubles, three triples and seven homeruns. Megan Stauffer is the team's top returning pitcher after throwing 196.2 innings with 222 strikeouts to finish with a 21-7 record and a 2.24 ERA.
First-time opponent Drexel will open its 2019 campaign at this weekend's tournament. Kristi DiMeo is the top returning batter from last season after going .399 at the plate with 18 doubles and 16 homeruns. Inside the circle, Brooklyn Daly leads the pitching staff after posting a 4.48 ERA over 111 innings with 44 strikeouts for a 6-9 record.
First-time opponent Delaware have posted a 2-1 record in the young season. Sarah Bessel and Brooke Glanden lead the Blue Hens at the plate, batting .500 and .455, respectively. A trio of pitchers have seen work inside the circle for UD. Sarah Piening has a 2.25 ERA with strikeouts and a 1-0 record while Katie Stahre has a 4.50 ERA with one strikeout and a 1-0 mark. Maddi Marsh has a 5.25 ERA with six strikeouts and a 0-1 record.
Belmont's first matchups of the Madeira Beach Invitational are against Ball State and Akron on Friday. On Saturday, BU takes on Monmouth and Drexel before concluding the tournament with a game against Delaware on Sunday. Live stats will be available for all of the Belmont games.