Paladins Prepare To Open Softball Season At Auburn’s Plainsmen Invitational

Furman opens the 2018 season on Friday versus Marshall and Auburn.
AnnaRose Borrelli

Greenville, S.C. -- Furman, picked second in preseason polling of the Southern Conference's head coaches, is set to open the 2018 season this weekend at Auburn University's Plainsmen Invitational at Jane B. Moore Field in Auburn, Ala.

Impending inclement weather forced a change in the tournament schedule on Wednesday night and Furman is now slated to open the campaign against former SoCon foe Marshall on Friday at 12:30 p.m. ET. The Paladins will return to Jane B. Moore Field at 5:30 ET to battle 15th-ranked Auburn.

Although the forecast calls for heavy rains on Saturday and Sunday, Furman is currently scheduled to take on Marshall on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET before facing Wichita State at 8 p.m. ET. The Paladins are slated to conclude tournament play with an SEC Network+ streamed game versus Auburn at 5:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Furman returns eight position players who made 22 or more starts a year ago and its top two pitchers from a 2017 squad that posted a 31-23 overall record, 11-6 SoCon mark, and claimed a share of the SoCon regular season title.

The pitching staff is led by reigning SoCon Pitcher of the Year and preseason pitcher of the year Lindsey Bert. The senior from Tallahassee, Fla., went 18-12 with a 2.10 ERA a year ago and fanned 197 batters in 196.2 innings of work. She will team with junior right-hander Emily Demonte (10-11, 3.07 ERA in 2017) of Sumter, S.C., to give the Paladins one of the top pitching combos in the league. Furman added two arms for this season, including Marissa Guimbarda and Victoria Elder. Guimbarda, the single season home run leader in Georgia high school history, will have a chance to make an impact with her bat as well.

Senior Emma Ogburn, who counts 136 starts to her credit, returns behind the play. She sports a .264 career batting average with 22 extra base hits. Preseason second team All-SoCon pick AnnaRose Borrelli returns at first base after batting .289 with 21 homers over her first three seasons in the purple and white. Several players are likely to battle for time at third base after the graduation of Kalie Hicks with junior Sarah Windham and senior Hannah Reynolds among the most experienced players with a chance to earn playing time.

The middle infield will feature 2017 All-SoCon choice Brittany Houston at shortstop. The steady senior batted .317 last season and has logged playing time at all four positions in the infield during her four-year career. Sophomore Casey Bigham, who earned SoCon Freshman of the Year and first team All-SoCon honors at second base a year ago after hitting .294 with three homers and 24 RBI, will face stiff competition for playing time at the keystone from a group of players that includes redshirt freshman Cammy Pereira.

Furman's outfield boasts outstanding depth with Caroline Cash, Lauren Duggar, Candace Johnson and Taylor Vahle all starting more than 20 games a year ago. Cash, a senior from Spartanburg, S.C., hit .277 and swiped 17 bases in 2017, while Duggar batted .364 with nine thefts. Junior Hannah Seaver and sophomore Caroline Nageotte will also push for playing time.

Fans are encouraged to check back to FurmanPaladins.com and follow @FurmanSoftball on Twitter for the most up-to-date information about the weekend's schedule. Links for live streaming video and live statistics of this weekend's games will be posted on FurmanPaladins.com as they become available.

The Paladins open the 2018 home schedule on Friday, February 16, against Colgate. The doubleheader at Pepsi Stadium is slated to start at 3 p.m.