BUIES CREEK, N.C. – After nearly a nine-month hiatus from the softball diamond, Campbell's softball team gets back on the field this week and heads to Athens, Ga. for the Red & Black Showcase from Feb. 10-12 at Jack Turner Stadium. The Camels are starting the program's first season of play in the Big South Conference this season after 17 years in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The marquee match for Campbell in the Red & Black Showcase will be against No. 10/12 Georgia on Sunday, afternoon, Feb. 12 at 1 p.m.
The others teams in field for the competitive Red & Black Showcase include St. John's, North Carolina State, Army and Utah State. CU will begin the tournament and season by taking on St. John's at 5 p.m. on Feb. 10. Campbell plays a pair of games on Feb. 11 starting at 3 p.m. against North Carolina State. The team's nightcap on Saturday comes against Army at 5 p.m. The Camels wrap up the tournament with a pair of games on Feb. 12 starting with Utah State at 9 a.m. and finishing with the host Bulldogs.
The Camels went 32-28 last season and made the Atlantic Sun Tournament for the sixth consecutive season. CU is picked to finish fourth in the Big South Conference this season. The Camels' offensive attack is expected to be spearheaded again by junior outfielder Sarah Forgacs. Forgacs is coming off an impressive second year where she had a .278 batting average, 42 hits, 32 runs and 20 stolen bases. The Cary, N.C. native was an Atlantic Sun Second Team All-Conference Selection for the second time in her career. The Camels also welcome back two of the team's top home run hitters in senior Taylor McGee and sophomore Raven Lee. McGee hit 12 home runs with 30 RBIs in 2011, while Lee put together seven home runs and 23 RBIs in her rookie campaign. The pitching staff will be anchored by senior Christina Melton and junior Brittany Arnn. Melton won five games and struck out 56 last season. Arnn was second on the team with seven wins, 88 innings pitched and 66 strikeouts as a sophomore.
St. John's is coming off a 2011 campaign that saw the Red Storm go 20-30 and 6-12 in the BIG EAST. The team returns plenty of firepower in junior Chrissy Montez, senior Kristi Cady, sophomore Myriah Rogers and redshirt senior Kacee Cox. Montez hit .346 with six home runs and 41 RBIs last season. Cady put together a .333 batting average, five home runs and 25 RBIs. Rogers hit nine home runs and drove in 34 as a freshman. Cox was forced to redshirt last season due to injury but returns this year. She led the BIG EAST with a .404 batting average in 2010 and also contributed nine home runs. The Camels have defeated the Red Storm in each of three previous meetings, but the teams haven't met since 2001.
North Carolina State went 26-23 and 7-13 in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season. Senior Toni Ann Williford is the top returning player. She hit .308 with 48 hits last season. The Wolfpack also return Bethaney Wells, who hit .308 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs as a sophomore. Morgan Peeler is the top returning pitcher. She won 10 games and threw 120.2 innings as a junior. The Camels trail the all-time series with N.C. State by a 7-1 count. The Camels did split the doubleheader the last time the programs met in Buies Creek during the 2010 season.
Army put together a 28-25 record and a 9-11 mark in the Patriot League in 2011. The top returner for the Black Knights is sophomore Amanda Nguyen. Nguyen hit .383 with 70 hits, 41 runs scored and 27 stolen bases as a freshman. Junior Alex Reynolds is another to watch. She hit .310 with six home runs and 45 RBIs in 2011. This is a first-time meeting for the two programs. CU last faced a Patriot League opponent last year with a pair of games against Lehigh.
Utah State had a 15-42 mark in 2011, but went 8-13 in the ultra-competitive Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Sophomores Kassy Uchida and Allison Lenzora are the top returners. Lenzora hit .356 with 31 hits in 2011. Uchida batted .346 with 53 hits. Senior Kelley Kaneshiro is the top power threat with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs as a junior. This is another first-time meeting for the two programs. The Camels last faced a current WAC softball opponent in BYU when the Cougars were still part of the Mountain West Conference during the 2008 NCAA Regional.
No.10/12 Georgia is one of the top programs in the country and has been for the last decade. The Bulldogs made the NCAA Tournament in 2011 for the 10th consecutive season. The program went 51-14 and 17-9 in the Southeastern Conference. The program made it all the way to the Super Regional before falling to Baylor. The Bulldogs are an experienced bunch with 11 returning players. The top returning hitter is senior Ashley Paul. Paul hit .352 with 57 hits and 34 runs scored in 2011. Kristyn Sandberg had 10 home runs and 31 RBIs as a junior. Senior Ashley Razey may be the best of bunch. Razey launched 14 home runs and drove in 58 last season. She also led the team with nine game-winning RBIs. The pitching staff is led by sophomore Morgan Montemayor. Montemayor went 27-5 as freshman with 11 wins over ranked opponents. She also threw 13 complete games and had seven shutouts. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series with Campbell 6-1. CU has faced off with UGA three times over the last five seasons.
After this weekend's action, the Camels return home to host the Hampton Inn Invitational from Feb. 17-18 at the Eakes Athletic Complex. The other teams in the home-hosted tournament include Robert Morris, Ohio, Saint Joseph's and Towson.