Jacksonville Sweeps Major Preseason Conference Honors

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

MACON, Ga. – After claiming last year’s Atlantic Sun Softball Championship for the first time in school history, Jacksonville is picking up right where it left off — in first place. The Dolphins picked up nine first-place votes in the coaches’ preseason poll, while JU’s pitcher-catcher duo Sarah Sigrest and Sarah Simon were tabbed as the Preseason Pitcher and Player of the Year.

Sigrest, the 2011 A-Sun Pitcher of the Year, posted a 27-7 record with a conference-leading ERA of 1.10 last season struck out 208 batters. She held the opposing team’s bats to just .171 hitting. Junior catcher Simon returns after leading JU in batting average (.365), slugging percentage (.641), on-base percentage (.500), home runs (10), total bases (107), walks (42) and triples (3).

Dolphins’ infielder Amanda Schmidt was also a unanimous selection to the team after leading Jacksonville with 50 RBI. Schmidt tallied nine home runs in 221 plate appearances.

Last years’ conference championship runner-up, Lipscomb, was certainly not left out, receiving one first-place vote and two coaches predicted the Bison to take the conference championship. Last year Lipscomb posted a 15-5 conference record en route to their third-consecutive appearance in the A-Sun Championship Final.

The Bison also had a pair make the All-Atlantic Sun Team with pitcher Whitney Kiihnl and outfielder Caroline Mason. Kiihnl finished last season with a 20-11 record and 328 strikeouts. Mason lead the team in hits (43), home runs (9) and slugging percentage (.586). Kiihnl earned the fan vote on Facebook as she was tabbed the Fan-Voted Preseason Pitcher of the Year.

FGCU was tabbed to finished third in the conference by the league coaches just ahead of USC Upstate in fourth. The Eagles are eligible for the conference championship for the first time since transitioning to Division I.

Fifth-ranked Kennesaw State had a trio of players named to the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun team with junior infielder Sharon Swanson, senior outfielder Sara Sikes and junior utility Jessica Cross, who was a unanimous choice by the coaches. Swanson led the Owls at the plate with a batting average of .358, and led the conference with 14 home runs. Sikes was best for the Owls in triples (3) and tied for the team lead in doubles with nine. Cross ranked second in the conference with 13 home runs and first on the Owls with 25 walks. North Florida claimed the sixth spot in the preseason tally.

Mercer’s senior infielder Sara Stukes landed on the preseason team after she led the Bears in slugging percentage (.509) and drove in 37 runs. She also recorded a team-high 10 doubles and one triple with a team-high seven home runs. The Bears were picked seventh in the coaches' poll.

An All-Freshman selection last season, Stetson’s sophomore outfielder Chrissy Morello earned a spot on the all-conference team after leading the Hatters at the plate with a .344 batting average last season. Morello also topped the Hatters in runs scored, with 27 and hits with 55. The A-Sun’s stolen base lead in 2011, Morello tallied 28 stolen bases.

ETSU’s Sam Lower completed the preseason all-conference team and was also named the Fan-Voted Preseason Player of the Year. Lower led the Bucs with a .353 batting average and totaled 149 plate appearances. Belmont was predicted to finish ninth in the conference.

The 2012 softball season gets underway on February 10th, while the Atlantic Sun season concludes with the 2012 A-Sun Softball Championship in Spartanburg, S.C. on the campus of USC Upstate from May 9-12.

2012 Softball Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team
Pos. Name (Class) School
C Sarah Simon (So.) Jacksonville
INF Sam Lower (Jr.) ETSU
INF *Amanda Schmidt (Sr.) Jacksonville
Sharon Swanson (Jr.)
Kennesaw State
INF Sara Stukes (Sr.)
OF Sara Sikes (Jr.) Kennesaw State
OF Caroline Mason (Sr.)
OF Chrissy Morello (So.)
DP/Utility *Jessica Cross (Sr.) Kennesaw State
P Whitney Kiihnl (Jr.)
P *Sarah Sigrest (Jr.)
* - Unanimous Selection
Preseason Pitcher of the Year:Sarah Sigrest, Jacksonville
Preseason Player of the Year: Sarah Simon, Jacksonville

2011 Atlantic Sun Softball Preseason Poll
Rank School (First Place Votes)
1. Jacksonville (9)
2. Lipscomb (1) 90
3. FGCU 76
USC Upstate 66
5. Kennesaw State 64
North Florida 48
7. Mercer 41
8. Stetson 30
9. Belmont 20
10. ETSU 16
Tournament Champion: Jacksonville (6 Votes)

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