COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Tech softball team will have a
new look in 2013 as former Golden Eagle Bonnie Bynum takes over the
helm. The team returns six starters and two pitchers but loses four
starters including first-team All-OVC pitcher Holly Thomas.
"Losing somebody like Holly, who pitches so many innings, could be
a detriment to any team," Bynum said. "But I think the team is
ready to step up, especially our senior class. The group we have
this year has a sense of energy that is very exciting.
The Golden Eagles open the 2013 season this weekend at the Georgia
Southern Invitational in Statesboro, Ga. Here's a capsule look at
Pitchers / Catchers
Harke will lead the Golden Eagles in the circle in 2013. The
lefty out of Kimberly, Wis., had a 2.72 ERA to go along with 53
strikeouts and a 1-6 record last season. "We've got a great senior
pitcher in Harke," Bynum said. "She'll be the backbone of our
pitching staff, and she loves the role of leading this team. I
think Claudia is ready to step into Holly's role."
Joining Harke in the circle will be sophomore Taylor
Ketchum. Ketchum fell third in line last season, starting 13
games and collecting a 3.04 ERA. Ketchum pitched 71.1 innings with
a 3-8 record. "Taylor is working her way back into the rotation
after surgery in the offseason. It's been a slow and steady process
but she'll be back and ready to play come conference," Bynum
"Erica is looking to be our number two," Bynum said. "She's
gotten a lot more consistent since this fall and we'll definitely
have a good one-two punch with her and Claudia. We'll look to the
underclassman to contribute, get their innings and gain some
During her Golden Eagle career, Hooper has seen action in 64
games initially being utilized as a pinch runner or hitter. After
her freshman campaign, Hooper found her way into the starting
lineup for 38 contests, contributing the team's highest slugging
percentage at .410. In the off-season Hooper has hit the weight
room hard and it paid off when she was awarded the All-American
Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year by National Strength
and Conditioning Association.
Newcomer Chelsea Burgess adds another dimension to the Golden
Eagles as the transfer helped Chattanooga State win the NJCAA
National Championship. "Burgess and Hooper have done a really good
job of leading this team vocally and especially on offense."
Weems should fill in behind the plate on occasion, but is
currently battling an injury and could find herself redshirting her
There will be many times that you will see Tech's entire senior
class in the Golden Eagle infield during 2013. Around the horn,
that group includes twin sisters Brittney and Chanelle
Spalding anchoring the corners with Melody
Christian seeing action as a back-up second baseman.
Spalding should continue to be a steady presence for the Golden
Eagles at the hot corner. She fielded the position for the past
four seasons, recording 72 putouts and 144 assists for a .939
fielding percentage. "Brittney brings a lot of the energy to the
team. She keeps the team up as the ups and downs of the game don't
affect her. She keeps everyone focused, keeps everyone talking, and
with her on the corner, she's a great asset to the younger players
that will be playing infield."
Brittney's sister, Chanelle, looks to build upon a stellar
junior campaign for her final season in a Golden Eagle uniform.
Last season, Chanelle recorded a team-high 416 putouts defensively,
but also provided 26 runs, 48 base hits and 14 RBIs. "If Chanelle
keeps hitting the way she's been hitting, she's going to have a
fantastic year. She's just awesome at the plate. Just like
Brittney, she keeps her teammates energized."
Several other players may see time on the dirt, including
freshman Courtney Fry at second base and sophomore Hannah
Eldridge. "Those two are going to be new in the middle, but
they've done a really good job of talking and being a presence
while making that transition."
Tech's outfield will be one of the team's strengths in 2013.
"We've got speed in all three positions. It's going to be hard for
any ball to drop out there," Bynum said.
Golden Eagle senior Melody Christian played the majority of last
season in centerfield and will be relied upon to anchor the trio of
outfielders. "Melody is definitely our go-to fielder for the
Sakamoto will also return to the grass, but injury may delay
her presence in the beginning of the season. "Only time will tell
when she will be back in full swing, but she's really working
towards that," Bynum said.
The Golden Eagles are slated to go up against 35 different teams
this season, and host 15 home games at the Tech Softball Field. The
Golden Eagles will open up the 2013 schedule with five tournaments
across the southern part of the country before making their way
back to Cookeville for their home opener, March 23.
"Our schedule is pretty good this year. We don't have a lot of
mid-week games this season, which means we should be refreshed and
energized on the weekend. It gives us a little bit more down time
to work on things and harness in on the fundamentals. It's going to
be a tough schedule, but hopefully we can come out with quite a few
wins this season."
The Golden Eagles were picked to finish second in the East
Division in Ohio Valley Conference preseason polls.
"We have a great group of kids that are going to make the best
of the experience that they were handed," Bynum said. "In a lot of
ways, I think it has brought the girls closer together and really
bonded them as a team. I'm really looking forward to a really fun