Suns Begin Hunt for GSC Tournament Title

Arkansas Tech’s 2011 softball team has seniors who have seen it all before.

The Golden Suns have freshmen who don’t appear to understand how difficult college softball is supposed to be. If that combination of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance continues to click the way it has the past month-and-a-half, Arkansas Tech should enjoy its trip to the GSC Softball Tournament this weekend. The Golden Suns (33-17) will face North Alabama (16-25) in a first-round game at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 6, at the Greenbrook Softball Complex in Southaven, Miss. Radio station KCAB 980 AM will broadcast the game in the Arkansas River Valley.

Click here to access an Internet stream of that broadcast.

Arkansas Tech was picked to finish fifth in the GSC West Division this season, but the Golden Suns won 21 of their last 27 regular season games to return to the top of the GSC West after a one-year absence. Tech was GSC West softball champion in 2008 and 2009. Both of those seasons ended in losses in the championship game of the GSC Tournament. Current seniors Tiphani Moon of Euless, Texas, and Shanda Jimeson of Mansfield, Texas, were starters on those teams. Moon is a four-time All-GSC performer and Jimeson has earned three all-conference awards.

Moon, who plays right field and first base, is the most prolific hitter in the nine-year history of Arkansas Tech softball. She owns career school softball records for home runs (36), base hits (217), runs scored (114), runs batted in (137), doubles (50), total bases (381) and games played (219).

Jimeson is the Arkansas Tech second baseman, and she has been for almost every inning of every game for four years. She has appeared in 217 career softball games, second-most in school history. Her 75 career RBIs are tied for second-most in Golden Suns history, and her 184 career base hits rank fourth in school history.

Aside from Moon and Jimeson, most of the key figures in the Golden Suns’ hopes for a run through the 2011 GSC Tournament have never been in this position before. The Golden Suns’ youth — and thus their hopes for a very bright future in the new NCAA Division II Great American Conference starting next year — is best demonstrated by the fact that they rely heavily upon four freshmen. First baseman Hayley Hudson of Enid, Okla., pitcher/designated player Shelby Jo Fenter of West Memphis, shortstop Alicia Zack of Frisco, Texas, and pitcher Amy Horne of Harrison give Arkansas Tech a fearsome freshman foursome. Hudson is hitting .336 with single-season school record totals of 14 home runs and 43 RBIs. Fenter was 9-4 as a pitcher before injury limited her to just hitting for the final month of the season. She has a .312 average with five home runs. Zack is hitting .307 with 15 RBIs. All three of those freshmen were named to the 2011 All-GSC West Division team, as were Moon, Jimeson, senior pitcher Alex Doyle of Carrollton, Texas, and sophomore third baseman Natalie Magie of Perryville. Horne did not make the all-conference team, but only because her emergence as a key contributor came late in the season. After Fenter’s injury, the Golden Suns needed someone to step up and take her innings. Horne proved to be that person, accumulating a record of 6-1 with a team-best 1.64 earned run average during the regular season.

Horne has won her last three decisions, and her only loss this season came in a complete-game, extra-inning effort against Delta State. She has struck out 51 batters while walking just seven in 64 innings of work this season.

Tech’s first-round opponent at the GSC Softball Tournament — North Alabama — bounced back from a nine-game losing streak in late March to win seven of its final 12 games and make the postseason.

Arkansas Tech defeated North Alabama 4-2 at the GSC Crossover on April 7.

The winner of the Tech-UNA game will face the winner between nationally fourth-ranked Valdosta State and Ouachita Baptist at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, May 6. The Tech-UNA loser will take on the VSU-OBU loser in an elimination game at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, May 6. Play will continue on Saturday, May 7, and the GSC Softball Tournament championship game is scheduled for Sunday, May 8.

Click here to view the GSC Softball Tournament home page.

Click here to learn more about Arkansas Tech softball.