Coming off a record-setting year, the Lady Flames won their third Big South Championship title, earning their third NCAA playoff berth. They also notched a program-record 49 wins, and advanced to an NCAA Regional final for the first time in program history. Coach Dot Richardson and her staff were also named the 2018 NFCA Mid-Atlantic Regional Coaching Staff of the Year, and associate head coach Paige Cassady was awarded the 2018 Easton/NFCA Division I National Assistant Coach of the Year.
As the Lady Flames have continued their success during their transition to the ASUN conference, they were voted preseason favorites to win the ASUN title by the eight head coaches in the conference. Three of the Flames were also awarded preseason honors as well. Junior IF Autumn Bishop was voted ASUN Preseason Player of the Year, and senior Julia DiMartino was awarded ASUN Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Along with Bishop and DiMartino, junior IF Amber Bishop was also named a member of the ASUN preseason all-conference team.
Coming off a terrific sophomore season, Autumn Bishop hopes to continue her stellar play. Bishop was named to the NFCA All-Mid-Atlantic Region team for the second time, and, along with her second consecutive Big South first team season, she was voted the Big South Tournament MVP. Bishop notched a .365 BA, and ranked second in the nation with a program-record 25 doubles. Autumn is an obvious leader for the Lady Flames on and off the field.
“We have a goal to get back to where we were last year, and want to show off the skills we’ve been given and share them with others what God has given us” said Bishop about continuing the team’s success. “Our big goal is to win an NCAA Regional, and go to a Super Regional and my perspective is I don’t want to hear ‘Hats off’ again. Our team is good enough and I think if we continue to play Liberty softball then we’ll do it. The joy that each of us bring and the love we have for each other will be something to watch for. ”
Not to be outdone, Amber Bishop was also named to the NFCA All-Region first team in 2018, and was a member of Big South All-Conference first team for the second consecutive year. Last season Amber tied with a team-high .365 BA, leading the Lady Flames in RBI (42), HR (11) and slugging percentage (.644), was ranked nationally in hits (76th) and doubles (8th).
Amber is a calming presence for the lady Flames and she said “We want to stay relaxed in pressure situations, play our game, and stay focused on just staying relaxed and loving softball. This year is gonna be a lot of fun were going to be playing stronger teams and its going to be fun to watch for all the fans.”
“We feel expectations of others but as a team were focusing on not trying to meet everyone’s expectations but focusing on doing what we need to do as a team and not as individuals,” Amber Bishop said on her goals for the season. “The team energy we have is something to want to watch and support.”
No stranger to Softball fans, P Julia DiMartino has dominated during her time at Liberty. She was the 2018 ECAC and VaSID All-State Pitcher of the Year and two-time Big South Pitcher of the Year and like the Bishop twins, DiMartino was also a member of the 2018 NFCA All-Mid-Atlantic Region team. In 2018, DiMartino notched a 29-8 record, tossing an impressive 1.72 ERA. She also had 230 strikeouts, 10 shutouts, 6 saves and held opponents to a .198 BA. DiMartino’s 2018 campaign was also record-setting for wins, shutouts, saves and strikeouts. With one year still play, DiMartino already holds the school record for victories (68), shutouts (24) and strikeouts (592).
Where the Bishop twins are the glue and consistency of the Lady Flames, DiMartino is the passion and competitive drive. “Our team’s gotten more mentally stronger and smarter. We work great as a unit in practice and everyone is involved and working together.”
When asked about playing a tough schedule, DiMartino said, “It doesn’t matter the name on your jersey. Everyone on this level can play and we just have to focus on knowing who we are and focusing on how we play, and that we can play with anyone that we face. We’re confident that our team can top anyone in the conference. Players 1 through 9 are solid and there’s no excuses for us not to play well.”
The Lady Flames return 8 all-conference players from last season’s record setting year.
For the first time in program history, Liberty softball ris anked No. 22 in the inaugural Softball America national poll (one of the three collegiate softball polls). Liberty also received top 25 votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll and the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll.
Autumn Bishop was named to the 2019 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List.
Friday, the Liberty Softball team will open their season in Mexico against BYU in the FloSoftball.com Puerto Vallarta Challenge. Session one of the tournament will be held February 8-10, and other competing schools include Washington, South Carolina, Baylor, BYU, Duke, North Carolina, and Notre Dame.
The Lady Flames will host their first home game on February 22 against Wright State, as part of the Liberty Softball Challenge.