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Red Raiders Set For Opening-Day Doubleheader in Las Vegas
 


The Red Raiders open the 2013 season Friday with a doubleheader against Central Florida and No. 18 Louisville.

Feb. 7, 2013

Texas Tech Notes  |  Gameday Central  |  Tournament Central

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The Texas Tech softball program will open its 2013 season this weekend in Las Vegas, Nev. as the Red Raiders will take part in the Sportco Kick-Off Classic hosted by UNLV.

The Red Raiders will face three NCAA Regional squads from a year ago in Central Florida, No. 18 Louisville and DePaul while also taking on Minnesota and the host Rebels in the three-day event. Tech opens the tournament with UCF at 11 a.m. CT Friday.

RED RAIDERS IN SEASON OPENERS
Texas Tech will be opening its season outside the state of Arizona for the first time since 2008 when the Red Raiders also traveled to Las Vegas to play in the UNLV Kick-Off Classic. The Red Raiders have opened the year with a win in each of their last four season openers, pulling Tech to a 9-8 all-time record since softball returned as an intercollegiate sport in 1996. Tech held on for a 5-4 victory last season over San Diego State and then topped No. 16 BYU, 7-5, in a nine-inning contest in 2011. The Red Raiders also scored a 5-2 victory over Wisconsin in 2010 and a 12-4 decision over Central Florida in 2009. This is the second time in school history that Tech has opened its season against the Knights.

TEXAS TECH AGAINST RANKED OPPONENTS
The Red Raiders will face a ranked opponent on opening weekend for the third-straight year Friday against No. 18 Louisville. Texas Tech is 2-2 against top-25 teams during the first week of the season under Shanon Hays as the Red Raiders topped No. 16 BYU and No. 12 California in 2011 but fell to No. 14 Tennessee and No. 9 Stanford a year ago. The Red Raiders are 54-207 in the Big 12 era against ranked opponents, including a 12-23 record under Hays.

INSIDE THE SERIES
• Central Florida - Texas Tech and the Knights will be meeting for the fourth time in school history Friday as Central Florida leads the all-time series with a 2-1 advantage. The two schools also opened the 2009 season against each other with the Red Raiders claiming a 12-4 victory.
• Louisville - The Red Raiders and Cardinals have met just once before with Texas Tech claiming a 5-4 victory on Feb. 13, 2005, during the UNLV Tournament held in Las Vegas.
• Minnesota - This is the first ever meeting between Texas Tech and the Golden Gophers.
• UNLV - Texas Tech will be facing the Rebels for the seventh time in school history Saturday as UNLV leads the all-time series with a 4-2 advantage. The Red Raiders, who are 0-3 all-time when facing UNLV in Las Vegas, have dropped the last two games in the series.
• DePaul - The Red Raiders will face the Blue Demons for the second-straight year and the third time in program history as the two schools have split the previous two meetings. Backed by a three-hit, complete game performance from Brittany Talley, the Red Raiders took a 2-1 victory over DePaul last year in the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic that was also hosted in Las Vegas. DePaul defeated the Red Raiders, 5-3, in the first ever meeting between the two schools on March 16, 2002, during the Kia Classic in Fullerton, Calif.

RED RAIDERS LOOK TO REPEAT GOOD FORTUNE IN LAS VEGAS
Las Vegas was friendly to the Red Raiders a year ago as Texas Tech swept through the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic with a perfect 6-0 record. The tournament started a 10-game winning streak for the Red Raiders, their second-longest of the season. This will be Tech's first visit to UNLV's Eller Media Stadium since the 2009 UNLV Invitational where the Red Raiders went 1-3 on the weekend. Last season's Louisville Slugger Desert Classic was played at Stephanie Craig Park just outside the Las Vegas city limits.

HAYS SET TO BECOME ALL-TIME WINNINGEST COACH ON OPENING WEEKEND
Shanon Hays will likely become the winningest coach in program history this weekend as the fourth-year skipper heads into the 2013 season with a 121-51 record with the Red Raiders that is tied with Renee Luers-Gillespie for the most coaching wins at Texas Tech. Gillespie, who is now the head coach at Central Florida, compiled a 121-133-1 record in just over four seasons as she was Texas Tech's first coach once softball returned as an intercollegiate sport in 1996. Hays and Gillespie will face each other for the first time in both coaches' respective careers Friday morning.

RED RAIDERS RECEIVE VOTES IN BOTH PRESEASON POLLS
For the third-straight season, Texas Tech will start the season receiving votes in both the USA Today/NFCA and the ESPN/USA Softball preseason polls. The Red Raiders picked up 12 points in both polls to fall just outside of the top 25. One of five Big 12 schools appearing in either poll, Tech will face a total of eight teams this season that are ranked or receiving votes in the preseason rankings.

HEART OF THE LINEUP RETURNS FOR 2013 SEASON
Despite the graduation of a school record eight seniors from a year ago, the Red Raiders still return the heart of their 2012 lineup in seniors Sandy James, Mikey Kenney and Adriana Perez. The trio led Texas Tech in batting average, home runs and RBI a year ago to help send the Red Raiders to their third-straight NCAA Regional appearance. In addition, all three players currently rank among the Tech all-time leaders in multiple single-season and career categories in the school record book. James, Kenney and Perez accounted for 39 of Tech's school record 66 home runs last season and nearly half the team's total RBI while recording the squad's three highest averages.

PITCHING DEPTH TO BE A PLUS WITH RETURN OF CUSTER, TALLEY
For associate head coach Aly Sartini, the return of several familiar faces in the circle this season has the fourth-year pitching coach feeling good about her rotation as the Red Raiders return their two mainstays in the circle from a year ago in sophomore Cara Custer and junior Brittany Talley. As only a freshman, Custer became just the second 20-win pitcher in school history a year ago, joining the great Amanda Renfro, who owns the majority of single-season and career records in Texas Tech history. Custer and Talley will receive help in the circle from returning senior Ashley Brokeshoulder along with talented freshmen Gretchen Aucoin, Shannon Carrico and Tess McPherson.

YOUTH TO BE SERVED EARLY IN 2013
After having a group of returners scattered throughout the infield in 2012, Shanon Hays will see several new faces around the diamond this season as the Red Raiders return only one starting infielder from a year ago in first baseman Sandy James, who will also see time behind the plate. Texas Tech had a senior at each infield spot last year, minus first base, but will turn to a talented group of freshmen this season, notably Samantha Camello, Brooke Scott and Nikki Dunlap. Camello and Scott will likely see action up the middle while Dunlap will join returning junior Taylor Powell at either third or second base.

PEREZ, KENNEY PICK UP PRESEASON ACCOLADES
Texas Tech seniors Adriana Perez and Mikey Kenney were honored in early January on the Preseason All-Big 12 teams selected by the website collegesportsmadness.com. Perez led the two selections as she was one of 12 players named to the first team while Kenney picked up second team honors in the outfield. It marked the second-straight year Tech had two players honored on the website's preseason teams as Sandy James and Emily Bledsoe were both second-team recipients prior to the 2012 season. Perez also picked up third-team All-American honors by the website as well as she was joined by 10 other Big 12 players on one of the publication's four preseason All-America teams.

JAMES MAKES THE MOVE BEHIND THE PLATE
Following the graduation of four-year starter Holley Gentsch at catcher, Sandy James made the move behind the plate this past fall where she will split time with freshman Lexie Elkins. James, who was Texas Tech's primary first baseman the past two seasons, caught throughout her prep career at Sabine High School and was behind the plate occasionally her freshman season at Angelo State.

ELKINS ADDS DEPTH BEHIND THE PLATE AT A YOUNG AGE
For Lexie Elkins, age is only a number. As just a 17-year-old, Elkins will likely be one of the youngest, if not the youngest, players in the country this season as the Victoria, Texas native graduated high school a semester early in order to join the Red Raiders in early January. Elkins, a three-year starter for Victoria East High School, will give Texas Tech additional depth at catcher as she will combine with Sandy James for the majority of starts behind the plate. Elkins was the Co-Newcomer of the Year of district 30-5A during her 2010 freshman season and followed up by being named the district Co-MVP as a sophomore. She also garnered honorable mention All-American accolades in 2011 by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

FORMER SOCCER STANDOUT JOINS ROSTER FOR 2013 SEASON
Former Red Raider soccer standout Tiffini Smith joined the softball program prior to the season, giving Texas Tech additional speed on the base paths. Smith, who will have two years of softball eligibility remaining, was one of the top midfielders in school history the past four seasons for Tom Stone's soccer program that advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history in 2012. Smith wrapped her career tied for seventh all-time in Texas Tech history with eight career assists and eighth with 132 career shot attempts.

JAMES, KENNEY TO BATTLE FOR CAREER HOME RUN LEAD
Mikey Kenney and Sandy James will battle throughout the 2013 season for which senior finishes her career as the school's all-time home run leader. Kenney, who broke Kim Martinez' previous school record of 27 midway through last season, enters the year with 32 career home runs, five more than James. Kenney belted 13 home runs last season while James added 12 as well as both players are prominant in the Tech single-season record book as well. James set the single-season mark with 16 home runs in 2011 during her first season in scarlet and black, breaking the previous mark of 15 that was held by Martinez (1997) and Kenney (2010).

SCHOONMAKER, SIGREST AMONG NEW FACES IN THE TECH DUGOUT
Texas Tech will have two new faces in its dugout this season as assistant coach Chrissy Schoonmaker and volunteer assistant Sarah Sigrest are both entering their first year with the program. Schoonmaker arrives at Texas Tech after spending the past two seasons as the volunteer assistant at her alma mater, South Carolina. Sigrest, meanwhile, comes to Tech following a highly-successful pitching career at Jacksonville where she helped lead the Dolphins to their first NCAA Regional appearance in school history.

RED RAIDERS GET OKLAHOMA, TEXAS BOTH AT HOME
With five of seven Big 12 Conference teams currently ranked or receiving votes in either top-25 poll, Texas Tech will once again have its hands full when league play begins in late March. One positive for the Red Raiders, though, is that the conference's two top-ranked teams - No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas - will both travel to Lubbock for three-game sets this season. Tech will host the defending national runner-up Sooners on March 12-14 before Texas makes its trip to the South Plains on March 26-28. The Red Raiders went 18-4 last season at Rocky Johnson Field which includes a win over the then-No. 5 Longhorns in Texas' only trip during the season to Lubbock.

RED RAIDERS TO MAKE FIRST EVER APPEARANCE ON ESPN2
Texas Tech will make its first ever appearance on the ESPN Family of Networks in May as the Red Raiders' series opener at Baylor will air nationally on ESPN2. The Red Raiders and Bears were originally scheduled to open their three-game series on May 3, but will instead move to a Thursday-Saturday series. The Big 12 television schedule includes five conference games this season that will air on either ESPN or Fox Sports.

RED RAIDERS PICKED FOURTH IN BIG 12 PRESEASON POLL
Texas Tech earned its highest Big 12 preseason ranking in school history in January as the Red Raiders were picked to finish fourth in the seven-team league. The fourth-place nod marked the Red Raiders' highest preseason selection since the poll was created prior to the 2000 season, breaking the previous mark from 2001 when Tech was slotted to finish tied for sixth. Oklahoma was picked as the preseason favorite for the fourth time in the last five years as the Sooners, who finished as the national runner-up a year ago, notched 36 points in the poll followed by Texas with 29 and third-place Baylor with 28. Tech earned 20 points to finish ahead of Oklahoma State (20), Kansas (12) and Iowa State (6) in the poll.


 

 

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