Softball opens practice for 2013 campaign
The Jacksonville University softball team started Monday with a 6 a.m. conditioning workout to kick off practice for the 2013 season.

The Dolphins, who return 11 players for 2012, are 25 days away from the opening games at Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M in the FSU Tournament on Feb. 9.

“We are all ready to get started up again,” JU head coach Ali Higgs said. “Our players worked really hard this fall and showed a lot of promise. I am excited to see that work ethic and focus transition into team practice this spring. As a unit, we are looking forward to a great season for JU Softball.”

In 2012, the Dolphins reached the 30-win plateau (31) for the third straight season and earned a spot in the conference tournament for the fourth consecutive year.

As a team, the Dolphins ranked second in the A-Sun in hitting (.278) and third in ERA (2.11). The pitching staff finished second in strikeouts at 370.

Leading the crop of returners are second-team all-conference selections in juniors Karson Tuck and Codi Kelly and sophomore Ashley Simon.

Tuck batted .279 (43-154) with eight doubles, four home runs and 30 RBI in 54 games during her sophomore season. Kelly led the Dolphins in A-Sun play with a .364 (20-55) average and five doubles, while Simon batted .299 (35-117) with six doubles and 14 RBI to receive her accolades.

Senior Sarah Simon is also back after leading the Dolphins in RBI (40) and home runs (8), while ranking third in doubles (8) last season.

In the circle, the Dolphins will have to fill the huge shoes left through the graduation of Sarah Sigrest and Brittney Eppley.

Shouldering most of the load will be freshmen Taylor Rossman, Victoria Brown and Cecile Gomez and senior Dale Tillman. The freshmen trio took most of the innings in the fall and helped the Dolphins to a 7-1 record.

“We are a new team with a fresh look,” said Higgs. “Three of the six freshmen are pitchers so our conference is not going to really know what we are putting out on the mound. We are going to be a new look all around.”

The Dolphins start the season playing three 2012 NCAA Tournament opponents in the first six games, highlighted by the home opener against Florida on Feb. 13 at 6 p.m.