FGCU Returns as Heavy Favorite in A-Sun Softball Preseason

Thursday, January 24, 2013

MACON, Ga. - FGCU was picked to be the Atlantic Sun Softball Preseason favorite in the A-Sun Coaches Poll, receiving all ten first-place votes. The Eagles are the returning A-Sun regular season and tournament champions and finished the 2012 season with a 14-4 conference record as well as an upset win over fifth-seeded Florida in the first game of the NCAA Tournament.

The Eagles swept the major preseason individual awards with junior Chelsea Zgrabik landing the A-Sun Preseason Player of the Year nod and sophomore, Shelby Morgan, staking her claim as the A-Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year.

Zgrabik led the Eagles in batting average (.329), hits (55), home runs (13) and RBI (53) last season and was named to NFCA All-South Region Second Team as well as the A-Sun All-Conference team. She ended the 2012 season with a 13-game hitting streak.

Morgan, the 2012 Pitcher of the Year and A-Sun Championship Most Valuable Player, held a 1.55 earned run average last season; the best in the A-Sun. Morgan ended the season with 150 strikeouts with a career-high ten strikeouts in a single game vs. Maryland.

FGCU also found Jessica Barnes and Kirsten Bembnowski on the preseason team. Barnes scored 46 runs and stole 25 bases last season, while teammate Bembnowski hit a crucial one-run home run against No. 5 Florida at the NCAA Gainesville Regional in the 2-1 FGCU victory.

Kennesaw State came in at No. 2 in the coaches poll with 89 points and found two players on the preseason team. Kaylee Williams and Sharon Swanson lead the Owls this season with second baseman Williams registering a .971 fielding percentage last season. Swanson posted a team-best .679 slugging percentage and a .409 on-base percentage.

At No. 3 in the A-Sun Coaches Poll, USC Upstate stamped three players on the Preseason All-Conference Team. Hannah Alexander preceded all A-Sun pitchers with 26 wins on the season, while teammate Cheyenne Griffin ranked third in the A-Sun in batting average (.384). Shellie Robinson, 2012 A-Sun Freshman of the Year, led the A-Sun in runs (49), doubles (14), slugging percentage (.816) and total bases (133).

Lipscomb’s Kelsey Cartwright knocked out the most home runs in the A-Sun last season with 18 and helped the Bisons find their spot at No. 4 in the coaches poll.

Jacksonville and Stetson came in at a close fifth and sixth in the coaches poll with Jacksonville drawing 58 points in the poll and Stetson securing 56 points. North Florida followed at No. 7 with 40 points respectively.

Northern Kentucky and Mercer tabbed 27 points each to come in tied at No. 8 in the coaches poll. The Bears' McKenzie Woody had 22 multi-hit performances last season and set the team single-season hit record with 74 hits to mark a spot on the preseason team

ETSU rounded off the coaches poll with 13 points.

For the second-time in conference history, the A-Sun let the fans vote on the preseason awards via Facebook. FGCU was awarded the most votes from the fans to win the A-Sun regular season title. Kennesaw State's Amanda Henderson received the most votes to be named the Fan-Voted Preseason Pitcher of the Year, while the Eagles Chelsea Zgrabik edged out the competition to win the A-Sun Fan-Voted Preseason Player of the Year.

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The Atlantic Sun Conference is an NCAA Division I league with 10 member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, Northern Kentucky University, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.