Story by Cody Strickler / Staff Writer
The Blue Raider softball team is coming off a 23-31 campaign in 2016. The group is coming into the new season after losing key seniors to graduation such as Randi Cookus, Kelci Cheney, Carlie Jenkins and Megan Griffith. However, MTSU will look improve on their previous record with key players like Austin Whaley and Morgan Harris leading the way. The Blue Raiders received four National Letters of Intent on the first day of the early signing period ranging from Middle Tennessee to California.
The first signee to dot her name on the line was Claire Smith, an infielder coming to Murfreesboro from right down the road at Wilson Central High School in Lebanon, Tenn. Smith ended her junior season batting a .513 average to go along with 29 runs for the Wildcats. In her sophomore year, Smith’s team reached the pinnacle, winning the state championship.
Going across the contiguous states, the Blue Raiders picked up their final three signees of the day from California.
Jocelynn De La Cruz, a third baseman and catcher from Vista Murietta High School in Murietta, Calif., is coming out of a junior season where she averaged a .481 batting percentage, tallied four home runs and totaled 26 runs batted in for the Broncos. In her freshman season, De La Cruz and her team took second place in the Southwestern League Conference and made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the Division I California Interscholastic Federation Playoffs.
The final two signees are pitcher Amber Baldwin and catcher Ryan King, both out the same high school in Huntington Beach, Calif. This is a dream pairing for the Blue Raiders as the chemistry between the two has been tested over their years together at Marina High School. The duo has also tasted success in their careers together, taking home the Sunset League Championship in 2014.
While the Blue Raiders signed three from the west coast, this is not the first time they have recruited players from the area. In the past three recruiting classes, the Raiders have signed at least one player from the state of California. The three new signees fall into great company with names such as Danielle Munoz, Samantha Vacko, Kaylyn Slatter and Deja Portillo.
As for the current Blue Raider team, they now turn their attention to a new year with a tough first game. MTSU kicks off the 2017 season with a matchup against the University of Tennessee in the Georgia Southern Tournament on Feb. 10.
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