MACON, Ga. - USC Upstate, a school in its final year of its Division I transition, earned top billing from the conference coaches, edging out both FGCU and Lipscomb, all whom shared the Atlantic Sun regular-season title. The Hatters, who will host the A-Sun Championship in May, overwhelmingly won the nod as the favorite to win the tournament.
The Spartans return seven starters including 2008 Pitcher-of-the-Year and Freshman-of-the-Year Morgan Childers. The right-hander earned the coaches' nod as the preseason Pitcher of the Year. During her outstanding freshman campaign, she led the A-Sun in wins (27), ERA (1.37) and opponent's batting average (.171). The Kings Mountain, N.C., earned the victory in 12 of USC Upstate's 16 conference win. He 258 strikeouts ranked fourth in the conference and established a Spartans' single-season school record.
FGCU followed in second place, trailing Upstate by only five points. A pair of 2008 First-Team All-Conference players, shortstop Jessica Paez and third baseman Cheyenne Jenks earned a spot on the preseason list. Paez and Jenks both earned spots on the 2008 All-Atlantic Sun team after earning a share of the regular-season title with Lipscomb and USC Upstate. Eleven Eagles return to the field this spring.
Stetson landed third on the poll and placed infielder Andrea Migliori on the Preseason All-Conference list. Migliori established herself as one of the most feared sluggers in the nation. She batted .337 for the second straight year and broke her own school records with 20 home runs and 65 RBI. The senior tied for seventh in the nation in home runs and was the only underclassman to go deep 20 times.
Rounding out the top of the list, Kennesaw State, Lipscomb and Mercer secured the fourth through sixth slots. Lipscomb shortstop Abby Keese and designated player Kellie Sirus grabbed preseason All-Conference honors. Keese and Sirus earned second-team All-Conference honors after the Lady Bisons shared the regular season title, their best finish since joining the conference in 2004. Outfielder Holly Oglesbee represented the Bears on the list.
Campbell, the 2008 A-Sun Tournament Champions, took the seventh spot with UNF and ETSU placing eighth and ninth. Osprey pitcher Devyn Findley and catcher Ashley Battaglia join outfielders Katie Hinton, from the Camels and Katy Jett, of the Lady Buccaneers, on the preseason team. Findley tied with Childers with a conference leading 1.37 ERA and compiled a career-high 228 strikeouts, while throwing 26 complete games – four of which were shutouts – and holding opponents to a .182 batting average. Battaglia threw out 40 percent of would-be base stealers on the year, while committing only six errors in 2008.
The Atlantic Sun's 24th season begins on February 6 when UNF travels to the USF Tournament to face UNC Greensboro. The season will conclude in DeLand, Fla., for the Atlantic Sun Championship to be held from May 7-9. This season marks the sixth time the Hatters will serve as the host of the tournament. Stetson hosted in 1987, 1991, 1994, 2006 and 2007. The Hatters won in 1987 as well as 2006.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. 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: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.
|2009 A-Sun Preseason Coaches' Poll|
|#||School (1st Place Vote)||Points|
|1.||USC Upstate (6)||112|
Tournament Champion: Stetson
|2009 A-Sun Preseason All-Conference Team|
|Pitcher||Morgan Childers (So.)||USC Upstate|
|Pitcher||Devyn Findley (Jr.)||North Florida|
|Catcher||Ashley Battaglia (Sr.)||North Florida|
|Infielder||Cheyenne Jenks (Sr.)||FGCU|
|Infielder||Abby Keese (Jr.)||Lipscomb|
|Infielder||Andrea Migliori (Sr.)||Stetson|
|Infielder||Jessica Paez (Sr.)||FGCU|
|Outfielder||Katie Hinton (Jr.)||Campbell|
|Outfielder||Katy Jett (Jr.)||ETSU|
|Outfielder||Holly Oglesbee (Jr.)||Mercer|
|DP||Kellie Sirus (Jr.)||Lipscomb|
Player of the Year: Cheyenne Jenks, FGCU
Pitcher of the Year: Morgan Childers, USC Upstate