2018 Softball Preview: Texas Southern
2017 Result: 25-21 (12-6 SWAC), Won SWAC Softball Championship
Key Returners: P Jasmin Fulmore, P Lauren Rodriguez, OF Kelsey Riley, IF Jocilynn Ellis, IF Dominique Tello, IF Sierra Valdez, IF Madilynn Marek
Key Losses: DP Chanler Powell
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After winning their third Southwestern Athletic Conference softball championship in the past four years, the Texas Southern Lady Tigers come into 2018 as the likely favorite to claim another league crown.
Working in favor of Coach Worley Barker’s unit is that virtually every difference maker from last season’s titlist is expected back in the fold. Thus, the Lady Tigers should be one of the more balanced units in the conference.
The one area that the Lady Tigers could stand to address is the development of an offensive punch. Texas Southern averaged 4.3 runs a game and was one of the conference’s middling offenses last season, relying instead on lights-out pitching and defense as well as timely situational hitting to win games. That said, the Lady Tigers – from a statistical perspective – return some of the best hitters in the league so their offense should be primed for improvement.
Leading the way at the plate will be outfielder Kelsey Riley and infielder Jocilynn Ellis. Both players hit better than .360 last season while amassing at least 20 or more runs scored and 20 or more hits. Dominique Tello also figures in as one of the key bats in the TSU lineup, as she hit .351 with a team-best .491 slugging percentage, 40 hits and 28 runs scored in 2017. Tello also smacked 11 doubles and drove in 20 runs.
2017 Freshman of the Year Madilynn Marek (.333 BA, 32 H, 22 RBI, 2 HR) expects to build off a standout campaign, and projects as a potential option for the Lady Tigers as it relates to power hitting after tying for the team lead in home runs. Another name to watch from a run-producing standpoint is Sierra Valdez, who hit .305 and drove in a team-high 25 RBI on 32 hits.
Inside the circle is where the strength of the team lies as Texas Southern should field the strongest 1-2 punch in the league. The Lady Tigers led the SWAC with a 2.88 team ERA and stand to return the main components of said rotation.
2017 Pitcher of the Year Jasmin Fulmore (11-5, 2.47 ERA, 97 K in 102.0 IP) – who also earned the 2018 Preseason Pitcher of the Year nod – is set to anchor the rotation in her senior season.
Fellow senior Lauren Rodriguez is a Pitcher of the Year candidate in her own right following a 2017 campaign where she posted a 10-5 record with a league-leading 2.11 ERA while fanning 91 hitters in 112.2 innings worked.
Additionally, Tyra Williams offers a reliable arm that can pull starter duty at spots.
Texas Southern opens the season on February 14 in home doubleheader action against Our Lady of the Lake. Game one is set to begin at 3 p.m.