Setting the Foundation

Ashley Hamada

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Emily Bledsoe (3) and Ashley Hamada (7) are two of Tech's three four-year seniors this season.

Feb. 6, 2011

by Jessika Bailey
Texas Tech Athletics Communications

Things haven't always been this way for Emily Bledsoe.

Not for her, or Ashley Hamada, or Holley Gentsch, the only three of Texas Tech's eight seniors who have spent their entire career in a Red Raider uniform.

For the past three years, these three seniors have helped transform the Tech program, taking the Red Raiders from a 15-42 record as freshmen in 2009, to two-straight appearances at an NCAA Regional.

"Those three girls are the guts of our program," head coach Shanon Hays said. "They're the four-year girls that have been the foundation for us to have the success that we've had."

Amy and Dustin Suiter, former interim coach and assistant coach, recruited the three seniors. However, after the 2009 season, Hays was brought in to coach the team.

"My eyes are set on the World Series, but it's going to take a lot of work to get there. And there's a lot of goals we need to reach before then."

"He came in with a new philosophy," Hamada said. "It was a lot more like go out there, be aggressive and kept things really simple."

All three seniors agree that the transition was a new experience and took some time to get used to, but in the end it was for the better.

Bledsoe says the transition was tough but having her teammates for support helped during the process.

"Those girls have been there through thick and thin and I feel like those girls are my sisters," the third baseman said.

The team progressed to a 38-18 record in Hays' first year, reaching the postseason for the first time since 2001.

During the 2011 season, the program improved to a 42-16 record and advanced to the regional finale before eventually bowing out to host Arizona.

"It was probably the first time you actually felt like you belonged and fit into the atmosphere," Bledsoe said of her junior season.

Holley Gentsch has been Tech's primary catcher throughout her career.

As the 2012 season comes into full swing, the Texas Tech softball program is preparing for yet another postseason appearance. For three seniors, their main goal is to take their team to the next level - the Super Regionals and the College World Series.

"My eyes are set on the World Series, but it's going to take a lot of work to get there. And there's a lot of goals we need to reach before then," Bledsoe said.

To reach their goals, Hamada believes preparation must begin throughout the season.

"We have a great schedule lined up that will prepare us for conference and conference will help us prepare for postseason," Hamada said.

To keep the girls focused, Hays believes in keeping it simple and taking the steps game-by-game.

"Our goal is always play hard and compete. When our girls compete, it always gives us the best chance to win," Hays said. "We do it one game at a time."

This season will be the seniors' final shot at leaving their mark on the growing program and Hays says these freshmen will be a group of Texas Tech's winningest four-year players of all-time.

"This year it's going to be new experience because we are an established team now," Bledsoe said. "And it's the legacy we are going to leave."




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