Western Kentucky's softball team is set to open the 2019 season this weekend in Gulf Shores, Ala., at the Sand Dollar Classic.
Five games are on the slate for the Hilltoppers as the squad will play doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday before taking the field for the final time on Sunday. Losing a total of one starter and two letterwinners from its 2018 squad, WKU returns experience at nearly every position.
Weekend action will open Friday morning with a game against Missouri State, a squad that WKU has faced twice prior. The Hilltoppers are 1-1 all-time against the Bears. MSU went 32-20 during the 2018 season.
WKU’s Friday night matchup will be against No. 17 Auburn, which leads the all-time series with the Tops 2-0. The Tigers posted a 41-17 record a season ago.
Since 2000, WKU's softball team has played 11 different SEC squads. The Hilltoppers have gone 18-43 up against SEC opposition. Under coach Amy Tudor, the 2014-2018 squads have gone head-to-head with seven of the SEC programs, putting together a record of 5-10. In 2014 the Hilltoppers took down No. 2 Tennessee on the Volunteers’ home turf in Tudor’s second game coaching for WKU against an SEC school. Over the 2017 opening weekend, WKU headed to Starkville, Miss., and took down the host Bulldogs in a 1-0 decision. WKU dropped decisions to No. 8 LSU and No. 18 Kentucky in 2018.
Saturday morning, the Hilltoppers will play back-to-back contests against Florida A&M followed by Tennessee State. WKU and FAMU have never met while WKU owns a 24-2 advantage all-time over TSU. Florida A&M is coming off a 23-29 season while Tennessee State went 4-48 last season, including two losses to WKU.
Weekend action will conclude Sunday against former Sun Belt Conference foe, South Alabama. WKU trails the Jaguars 15-11 all-time. USA went 29-27 a season ago.
WKU has claimed its season-opener in each of the last six seasons. Tudor is 14-0 in her career in season-opening contests entering her 15th season as at the helm of a program.
The Hilltoppers feature five players in their final seasons at WKU including Cassidy Blackford, Rebekah Engelhardt, Kelsey McGuffin, Shannon Plese and Jordan Vorbrink. Blackford redshirted her first year at WKU but will exit at the same time as her fellow four-year teammates, Engelhardt and McGuffin. Vorbrink enters her second season with the Hilltoppers after playing her first two years at Louisville. Plese is a redshirt-senior addition that has made stops at Chattanooga State CC, South Carolina and Tennessee before spending her final season with the Tops.