By Matt Green
Saturday, March 2: Lady Hawks (9-1, 0-0 GSC) at Christian Brothers (1-1, 0-0 GSC), 2 (DH)
Sunday, March 3: Lady Hawks at Delta State (5-7, 0-0 GSC), 2 (DH)
ROME – Shorter's softball squad hits the road this Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3, as it opens Gulf South Conference play with doubleheaders against Christian Brothers and Delta State.
The Lady Hawks begin the weekend in Memphis, Tenn., on Saturday with a 2 pm ET doubleheader against CBU before heading to Cleveland, Miss., on Sunday to take on Delta State in a twin bill beginning at 2 pm ET.
Shorter has picked up right where it left of in 2012, when the Lady Hawks won the school's first-ever softball national championship and set a school record with 53 wins.
The Lady Hawks (9-1) have won eight straight heading into this weekend's GSC doubleheaders, a run that includes a win over Indianapolis, ranked No. 6 in the latest NFCA Division II Top 25 Poll, and two wins over Armstrong Atlantic, ranked No. 10. Indianapolis, which is 10-2 this season, already owns a win over defending Division II national champion and GSC member Valdosta State while Armstrong Atlantic's only two losses in 14 games have come to the Lady Hawks.
Shorter has been an offensive juggernaut through 10 games.
Junior centerfielder Kayla Cooper has been on fire so far in her inaugural season as a Lady Hawk, batting .414 with a team-high three home runs and 10 RBI. Half of her 12 hits have gone for extra bases and Cooper has swiped a team leading six bags.
Junior shortstop Felicia Morris has a .379 average with three doubles, a homer and six RBI. Senior Bre Johnson is showing her power with two homers and two doubles to go along with 10 RBI and reigning Southern States Athletic Conference Player of the Year and NAIA All-America Jackie Castaneda is hitting .370 with six driven in.
As a team, Shorter is hitting .327 with nine home runs – Amanda Dailey, Kendall Johnson and Maddie Bray have also gone yard for the Lady Hawks. Shorter is also a perfect 18-for-18 in stolen base attempts.
Shorter has been equally as dominant in the circle with a staff led by Bray and newcomer Christina Ezell.
Bray, last season's NAIA Softball National Championship Most Valuable Player, is 2-1 with a 1.12 ERA through her first four appearances. Bray, just a sophomore, allowed just one unearned run in seven innings in Shorter's win over Armstrong and most recently, fanned three in a five-hit, complete game shutout of Missouri-St. Louis on Feb. 24.
Ezell, a junior fireballer, is 3-1 with a save and boasts a 1.48 ERA as well as 32 strikeouts in 23.2 innings pitched. Ezell, who has walked just seven batters, fanned six in Shorter's opening day win over Armstrong and a season-high 13 in the 4-2 victory over Indianapolis.
Still, Ezell's 9.46 strikeout per game rate is not tops on the Shorter staff – that honor belongs to junior Kristen Little whose 19 strikeouts in 12.0 innings has her at 11.08 strikeouts per game. Little (2-0) has walked just two batters.