On Saturday, the East Tennessee State University softball team will start their season at the Gardner-Webb tournament. The tournament features ETSU, North Carolina A&T, Gardner-Webb and Alabama A&M.

“We’re looking to set a good tone for the year in these upcoming games,” said ETSU Head Coach Brad Irvin. “We’ve had the opportunity to scrimmage a few of these teams this spring so it should be competitive.”

The team lost six players last season, however, they’re returning with 13 players from their 20 win season last year.

Of the 13 players returning, seven are seniors led by Danielle Knoetz (San Diego, California) and Lindsey Fadnek (Coalfield, Tennessee). The team is still looking to take a huge step forward this season and be among the top teams in the Southern Conference.

One thing the Bucs should be equipped with again this season is veteran pitching.

“As far as pitching, we are looking for the pitching rotation as a whole to make an impact,” Irvin said.

Junior Madison Ogle (Maryville, Tennessee) will get to start the first game Saturday against North Carolina A&M. Ogle started 10 games last season, and Irvin is looking for her to continue to improve.

The pitching rotation includes SoCon pre-season all-conference Fadnek and senior Rebecca Wahrmund (Morrilton, Arkansas) who Irvin is looking to build on from a good offseason.

The Buc’s offense is what separates them from being among the conference’s best or bottom teams. Last season when the Bucs scored four or more runs, their record was an impressive 17-3. When they failed to score four or more runs, their record was 3-19.

The Bucs will look to Knoetz, who was among the Bucs’ leading hitters and tied in home runs with nine. Knoetz is also a pre-season all-conference player as well.

Senior Taylor Carter (Brazil, Indiana) is an explosive home run hitter for the Bucs. Last season she tied the team in home runs with nine while bringing in 26 runs.

Irvin believes junior Cassi Pickett (Chattanooga, Tennessee) and pre-season all-conference player junior Kelsey Smith (Tucson, Arizona) are key as RBI hitters. Both have the ability to get on base and knock in runs for this upcoming season.