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Thursday, February 03, 2011MACON, Ga. – After advancing to the finals of the NCAA Softball Regional last season, Lipscomb returns as the Atlantic Sun Conference favorite after picking up eight first-place votes in the coaches’ preseason poll.
The Lady Bisons placed three student-athletes on the Preseason All-Conference team including Whitney Kiihnl, the 2010 A-Sun Pitcher and Player of the Year, who the coaches tabbed the Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
Joining Kiihnl as unanimous choices from Lipscomb on the all-conference team includes catcher Mollie Mitchell and infielder Courtney Billington. The trio combined to lead the Lady Bisons to a 50-13 mark last season en route to winning the A-Sun Regular Season title with an 18-2 conference record before claiming the A-Sun Championship by defeating USC Upstate in the title game.
Kiihnl returns for her junior season after a standout sophomore campaign in which she recorded 33 wins and a league-leading 0.95 ERA and being named a Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American. Mitchell batted .344 for Lipscomb as a freshman adding seven homers and 41 RBI, while Billington led the conference in batting average at .373 and hits with 75 as both made the 2010 All-Atlantic Sun First Team.
USC Upstate earned two first-place nods in the preseason rankings as senior pitcher Morgan Childers joined Kiihnl as an unanimous choice on the all-conference team. Childers topped the conference in wins and strikeouts last season with a 34-7 record and 428 fanned batters. The Spartans finished the season with a 41-15 mark, and went into the A-Sun Championship as the four seed and advanced to the championship game before falling to the Lady Bisons.
The Kennesaw State Owls picked up the final first-place tally after a 27-26 mark in 2010 season, which included an 11-9 conference record. The Owls’ dual threat, Jessica Cross, earned the Preseason Player of the Year honor after finishing last season with a 15-11 record as a hurler accompanied by a 1.76 ERA, while also batting .258 from the plate with 12 dingers and 36 RBI. Ashlee Burkett, who batted .343 for the Owls with eight home runs, 36 RBI and 12 doubles joined Cross on the all-conference team.
Outfielder Courtney Platt represented the fourth-place FGCU Eagles on the all-conference team after a 2010 campaign in which she led the league in walks with 40, while hitting .311 from the plate including nine homers and 31 RBI for the Eagles, who went 12-8 in conference play.
Jacksonville rounds out the top-five of the coaches poll after finishing last season as the five-seed in the A-Sun Championship in which the Dolphins totaled 33 wins, ten coming in A-Sun play. Katie Kelly and Kayla Ouellet earned preseason all-conference nods as Kelly, an infielder, batted .283 with 12 doubles and 34 RBI and Ouellet, an outfielder, swiped 16 bases and added 66 hits for JU.
Stetson’s Chelsey Trotto and Campbell’s Sarah Forgacs complete the preseason all-conference team for the sixth- and seventh-ranked teams. Trotto’s 17 sacrifice bunts topped the league last season as a sophomore, while Forgacs batted .349 from the plate to go along with her 19 stolen bases.
Mercer, UNF, ETSU and Belmont finished out the remainder of the preseason coaches’ poll.
The 2011 softball season gets underway next week starting on February 10th, while the Atlantic Sun season concludes with the 2011 A-Sun Softball Championship in Spartanburg, S.C. on the campus of USC Upstate from May 12-14.
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This release was provided by the Atlantic Sun Conference.