Tuesday, July 05, 2011
MACON, Ga. – Softball continued to be one of the premier sponsored sports in the Atlantic Sun Conference during the 2011 season, finishing as the 12th ranked RPI conference in the nation. Five teams finished inside the top-100 including Jacksonville (44th), Lipscomb (69th), Kennesaw State (92nd), USC Upstate (95th) and Mercer (99th).
The continued success of the softball programs in the A-Sun could be attributed to several factors, but one of the most prevalent reasons is the conference’s pitching staffs. In 2011, the A-Sun led the nation with seven pitchers inside the top-50 for ERA – with a minimum of 100 innings pitched – as all seven hurlers recorded a 1.67 ERA or better.
The A-Sun Pitcher of the Year, Jacksonville’s Sarah Sigrest ranked 7th with a 1.10 ERA, while the 2008 Pitcher of the Year, USC Upstate’s Morgan Childers landed in the 15th spot with a 1.33 mark. Childers’ teammate Hannah Alexander claimed 19th at 1.40 with Mercer’s Kari Chambers taking 34th at 1.53. The 2010 A-Sun Pitcher of the Year, Lipscomb’s Whitney Kiihnl (40th; 1.62) accompanied the previously mentioned in the top-50 as did FGCU’s Catherine McDaniel (42nd; 1.65) and Jacksonville’s Olivia Kline (44th; 1.67).
Not only did A-Sun pitchers record a low ERA in 2011, but also struck out batters at an alarming rate as three hurlers ranked inside top-25 for fanned batters, which tied the A-Sun for second most in nation in the category. Childers, who is second all-time in the A-Sun with 1,338 strikeouts, ranked sixth nationally with 375 strikeouts this season and was joined in the top-25 by Kiihnl (15th; 328) and North Florida’s freshman hurler and A-Sun Freshman of the Year Cortney Radke (22nd; 308).
The production in the circle paid dividends for the A-Sun pitchers this season as 11 recorded double-digit wins and four reached the 20-win plateau; Childers (29), Sigrest (27), Radke (22) and Kiihnl (20), which ranked Childers 14th in the nation with Sigrest and Radke earning 21st and 46th, respectively.
The A-Sun, which has been ranked at least 12th the past four seasons, earned its 13th postseason victory in the past 10 seasons when Jacksonville earned a win in the Gainesville Regional after claiming the 2011 A-Sun Championship title. Over the ten-year stretch, five different A-Sun teams have earned victories in the NCAA Tournament.
In the classroom, every single A-Sun softball program placed at least 50 percent of its student-athletes on the Academic All-Conference team. In total, 73.04 percent of softball student-athletes achieved at least a 3.0 GPA, which ranks the sport fifth best in the conference.