GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The 2008 Tusculum College softball team will open its season this weekend when the Pioneers host the TC/Comfort Inn Classic at Red Edmonds Field. The classic will feature five teams, including host Tusculum in a round-robin slate beginning with five games on Friday and five on Saturday.

Tusculum, under the direction of second-year skipper Fred Gillum, will be looking to continue the strong foundation of success it built last season. The Pioneers posted a 29-25 campaign, its first winning season in three years and an 11-win improvement from 2006.

Tusculum will open the season on Friday morning at 11 a.m. when the Pioneers host Bellarmine University. TC will also face Glenville State later in the day at 5 p.m.

Tusculum returns four starters from last year's squad, including junior Makenzie Loy, who is slated to move from second base to catcher this season. Loy finished second on the team, batting .358 with 12 doubles, four triples, six home runs and 31 runs batted in. The Knoxville, Tenn. product was third on the team in walks (18) and fourth in runs scored (28). She was also one of only two players from last year to start in all 54 games.

Also back is senior third baseman Anna Johnson. The Jonesborough, Tenn. native posted a .308 batting average and finished tied for the team-lead in triples (5) with returning outfielder Holli Cadenhead. Johnson was second on the TC roster with 15 doubles and also accounted for a pair of home runs. She also led the team in runs scored (41) and sacrifice hits (10).

Cadenhead, a sophomore from Van Vleck, Texas, served double-duty both in the field and in the pitching circle. At the plate, she batted .239, but posted five triples and accounted for five stolen bases. In the circle, she accounted for a 9-9 record in her 21 appearances, including 19 starts. She had eight complete-game outings in her 103.1 innings of work, as she struck out 52 and posted a 3.39 earned run average in her first Tusculum campaign.

Also returning in the starting line-up for the Pioneers is versatile infielder Ashley Basilicato. Basilicato, an East Patchogue, N.Y. junior, batted .290 in 2007 with 11 doubles and a pair of home runs. She also accounted for 20 RBI and a pair of stolen bases.

Senior pitcher Megan DuBois is back for her final Tusculum campaign. The Chino, Calif. senior led the Pioneers in wins (11), appearances (24), games started (20), ERA (2.17), innings pitched (126) and strikeouts (96).

In all, Tusculum returns nine lettermen, including key contributors Rachael Wilburn (Chuckey, Tenn.) Jess Greer (Rogersville, Tenn.) and Lynnsey Jett (Jefferson City, Tenn.). Also back in the Tusculum line-up is junior Cori McVeigh, who will provide leadership in the circle for the Pioneers in 2008. McVeigh (Jonesborough, Tenn.) made nine pitching appearances in 2006 as she posted a 0-1 record and a 4.57 ERA.

But gone from last year's squad are All-Region catcher and Tusculum's all-time leading home run hitter Brie Griffin and All-South Atlantic Conference first baseman Chrissy Wilkison.

Coach Gillum has assembled a talented group of 10 newcomers who will be looked to mature quickly and contribute immediately. The Pioneers showed that in the fall as Tusculum posted some big wins, but none bigger than seventh-inning come-from-behind win over NCAA Division I Regional finalist Tennessee Tech.

Taylor MacDonald, a freshman outfielder from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is slated to be the starting shortstop on opening day. Another rookie expected start in infield is first baseman Shanda Kimbrough. Kimbrough was a two-time All-Conference standout at Morristown West High School as the Trojans won the region title.

Another East Tennessee product earning a start in