Winthrop's softball team is unique in that it has two quality starting pitchers. Most college programs have just one ace.
The 2009 Lady Eagles will be relying on the left and right arms of Megan Evans and Cari Wooldridge, respectively, this season, which begins today at the Red & Black Showcase in Athens, Ga. Winthrop plays at 2 p.m. against Longwood University.
Wooldridge will get the nod from coach Mark Cooke. She likes the idea of facing the Lancers, a team the Bedford, Va., native considered joining before opting for Winthrop.
"I'm ready, I want them bad," Wooldridge said at sun-drenched Terry Field prior to Thursday's practice. It was the team's final tuneup for the season opener. The bus was scheduled to leave at 7 a.m. today for the University of Georgia.
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Winthrop will play Elon on Saturday morning, then play two games Sunday, one each against Cleveland State and the Georgia Bulldogs.
Longwood was 27-18 last season. Elon finished 26-27 a year ago. Cleveland State, out of the Horizon League, was 31-18 in 2008, while Georgia was 46-24.
Wooldridge said all her pitches are working for her. She has primarily used the drop and changeup her first two years. Now the junior has added a rise and curve to her repertoire.
"The drop ball has always been my go-to pitch. Mal (senior first baseman Mallory Hogan) calls it my stinky cheese," Wooldridge said with a laugh.
The pitch is nasty and has helped Wooldridge to two stellar years to start her college career. She was 16-10 last year and 17-6 as a freshman.
Evans will start Saturday's game against Elon. She is anxious to get the season started.
"I think I'll be a little nervous, but once I get through the first inning, I'll be okay," Evans said.
That's a little surprising for the preseason Big South Conference pitcher of the year. Evans, from Brooklin, Ontario, has posted a 43-14 record in her first two seasons at Winthrop.
Cooke was quick to note that Evans is a much different player in practice than she is on the mound come game day.
"She is a complete pitcher. She doesn't think strikeout, she thinks putout," Cooke said.
"Both pitchers have matured and learned to trust their infield. They are not just throwers. They have learned how to win."