By Malcolm Butler
It doesn’t seem like it was almost nine months ago that Tech left-fielder Katelin Cooper brought the crowd at Dr. Billy Bundrick Field to absolute mayhem with her bases-clearing, game-winning, conference title-claiming triple with two outs in the bottom of the seventh against Southern Miss on the final day of the 2022 regular season.
Cooper, the former Cedar Creek product, came up with one of the biggest hits in recent Techster memory.
Now Cooper and the Lady Techsters have a little more of a bulls-eye on their backs heading into 2023.
The first step on the road to defending their conference title begins this weekend when the Lady Techsters host SEMO in a three-game series at Dr. Billy Bundrick Field. Saturday’s single game will start at 4 p.m while Sunday’s doubleheader is slated for a noon start time.
“Everyone is really excited to have a home opener at the Billy this year,” said Cooper. “We have worked really hard this off season, and we look forward to defending our title. Determination, grit, and unity are the driving forces behind this team, and I’m excited to see the big things we accomplish this year.”
Single game tickets can be purchased at the box office at the front gate with gates opening two hours before first pitch. Fans are reminded that dogs (pets) are not allowed inside Dr. Billy Bundrick Field and a clear bag policy is in place.
Junior pitcher Lauren Menzina, another Creek product, erupted out of the dugout with her Techster teammates following the hit as a wild celebration broke out. Menzina said she and her Tech teammates are ready to embrace the expectations of being the defending C-USA champions.
“We are all really excited to start the season off at the Billy,” said Menzina. “We are definitely ready to compete and showcase what we’ve been working on since September. We all have high expectations for the season, and will be very successful if we just take everything one game at a time and enjoy every moment we get to take the field together.”
Defending a title is never easy.
And if truth be told, last year’s Lady Techster team was way ahead of the curve. Following a 22-30 record in 2021, first year head coach Josh Taylor and Co. shocked the C-USA softball landscape with a 39-win season, including an 18-6 record in league play.
They must now replace a pair of all-conference performance with the graduation of first team pitcher Audrey Pickett, who won 25 games in the circle last year, and second team outfielder Madie Green, who led the team with 13 home runs.
“We are opening up with a good opponent in Southeast Missouri, who is picked to (finish second) in the Ohio Valley Conference this year,” said Taylor. “It’s a great opening weekend test of us. I think our team is ready. We are definitely excited about opening our season at home.”
Home was kind to the Lady Techsters last year. After dropping its first three home games to begin the year, Tech won 18 of its final 19 in Ruston and enters 2023 with the fifth longest home win streak in the country in 12 straight victories.
Taylor said the biggest off-season addition was in terms of quality depth. Tech returns six of its eight position starters from a season ago and two of its three pitchers.
“Depth was the biggest thing,” said Taylor. “That was one thing we didn’t have a lot of last year. We were fortunate that for the most part we were able to stay healthy last year. This year we were able to add depth. I think we have a multitude of players who can come in and fill roles very well, plus we were able to add depth to our pitching staff.”
The Lady Techsters will play 25 games at home this year, including a pair of mid-week marquee match-ups against in-state foes LSU (Feb 22) and UL-Lafayette (May 3).