The Central Connecticut softball team kicks off the 2013 season at the Under Armour Invitational hosted by the University of South Florida on Friday in Clearwater, FL. Last year, the Blue Devils earned four wins and dropped only one game in the tournament.
Central will begin this year's tournament with a morning match-up against Georgia State (8-7) at 11 a.m. on Friday followed with a 1:15 p.m. meeting with Stephen F. Austin (4-9). The team will hit the field again Saturday at 10 a.m. against Eastern Kentucky (7-2) and at 12:15 p.m. against the University of Illinois-Chicago (0-10). The Blue Devils will wrap up the three-day tournament facing Loyola Marymount (4-6) on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
Last season, the Blue Devils set a record number of program wins with 31 - besting the previous record the squad set in 2011 of 29.
The back-to-back record-breaking team returns eight starters including seniors Nicole Springer, and Kelsey Barlow, juniors Arielle Bruno and Tessa Brown as well as sophomores Alyssa McCoart and Laura Messina.
Springer boasts the highest batting average of the returning starters with a .319. She started in 49 games in 2012 and racked up 45 hits, 22 runs, seven doubles, 10 home runs and 45 RBI. Her home run and RBI totals are tied for single-season CCSU records.
Barlow is tied with Springer for most single-season home runs. She ranks second all-time in home runs (19), third in slugging percentage (.483) and fourth in CCSU history in RBI (74).
Bruno ranks in the top 10 in five out of 11 statistical career categories and posted a .312 batting average last season. She started in 49 games and totaled 54 hits, 38 runs, nine doubles, four triples, seven home runs and 26 RBI.
Brown finished 2012 with 43 hits, 25 runs, 11 doubles, four home runs and 26 RBI in 147 at bats. She also ranks seventh in CCSU history with a .302 career batting average and 10th in slugging percentage (.416).
McCoart started 42 out of her 47 games in which she appeared as a freshman. She totaled 14 runs, 33 hits, nine doubles, two home runs and 23 RBI.
On the mound, Messina opened her collegiate career with a 22-11 record, 35 appearances, 32 games started, a 2.01 ERA and seven shutouts. She racked up 207 strikeouts, marking the most strikeouts in a single season in CCSU history. She also topped the single-season records in most appearances (35), most innings pitched (219.2) and most wins (22). After just one season as a Blue Devil, Messina ranks third in CCSU career history in shutouts and strikeouts.
The Blue Devils were slated to finish third in the NEC, the highest in program history, by the annual preseason coaches poll and look to return to the championship tournament for the second time in program history.