Feb 4, 2013 3:24 PM by Sun Belt Sports
Nerissa Myers and Jordan Wallace received top individual honors and a total of six members of the Ragin' Cajuns softball team were selected to the 2013 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team on Monday, as announced by the league office and voted upon by the conference's coaches.
Myers, last season's national leader in runs scored and third in RBI, was tabbed the Sun Belt's Preseason Player of the Year. Wallace, who established the NCAA record for best to a career by a freshman with a 23-0 record, was the choice for Sun Belt Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
In addition to Myers and Wallace, Cajuns selected to the Preseason All-SBC team included: catcher Sarah Draheim, first baseman Mattte Haack, third baseman Natalie Fernandez and outfielder Brianna Cherry.
The five-time defending regular season champion Ragin' Cajuns were a unanimous pick to capture another league title, receiving all nine first-place votes. Louisiana enters the season having won 11 of the 12 SBC regular season championships in league history (2001-present).
"Receiving awards and recognition is always humbling," head coach Michael Lotief remarked. "Our goal is to work hard every day to earn and deserve those distinctions, with our focus being on daily improvement, getting better and chasing our potential.
"We have a tough road ahead of us," Lotief added. "Individual awards are not as important as developing as a team and making sure that each of one us understands how vital and important we all are in order for us to achieve real success."
The Ragin' Cajuns six selections marked the most of any Sun Belt squad which had players listed on the 17-person preseason team.
South Alabama and FIU each placed three players on the Preseason All-SBC team, Western Kentucky placed a pair of student-athletes on the team and Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic and Troy placed one player each to round out the Preseason All-SBC team.
Five of the Cajuns' six honorees are returning All-Sun Belt honorees from 2012. Fernandez, Haack, Myers and Wallace were first team selections a year ago, while Draheim was a second team recipient.
Myers, recognized last week as one of the 50 student-athletes listed on the "Watch List" for the 2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, adjusted her swing a year ago to produce a career-best 13 home runs and 79 RBI. The Petal, Miss., native sported a sparkling .514 on-base percentage and struck out only 13 times in 239 plate appearances. The result was a team-best 83 runs scored, a figure which led the nation. She also ranked third nationally in RBI.
Wallace, the reigning Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, is poised to serve as the Ragin' Cajuns ace pitcher. The four-time SBC Pitcher of the week, Wallace picked up victories over No. 5 Arizona State, No. 12 Michigan, No. 16 Stanford and No. 24 Tulsa. She ranked Top 25 nationally in fewest hits allowed per game during the regular season and led the SBC in victories.
Cherry is coming off a breakout season offensively, finishing 2012 with a .352 average, seven home runs and 47 RBI. The average was 100-plus points higher than her previous best (.239 in 2011) and the RBI increase was three-fold (12 was previous high).
Draheim, a two-time All-Sun Belt selection, returns as the Cajuns starting catcher for the third straight season. She's started 117 games the past two seasons and worked with a pitching staff that's featured three 20-plus game winners and a staff that's recorded 300-plus strikeouts both years.
Fernandez ranked 12th nationally in batting average with a .436 mark in 2012, registering a hit in 50-of-59 contests played. The Denham Springs, La., native made 58 starts at the "hot corner" of the infield and committed only six errors in 142 chances, finishing Top 10 in Sun Belt in assists (90).
Haack debuted with the Cajuns last season after spending her first two collegiate seasons at Arizona and produced an All-Sun Belt first team accolade. The Katy, Texas native belted nine home runs and collected 56 RBI on the way to finishing Top 5 in the Sun Belt in hits (63), RBI (56) and total bases (104). Haack was third with on the team with 16 multiple-RBI games and fourth with 16 multiple-hit games.
Louisiana opens the 2013 campaign on Saturday (Feb. 9) with a pair of games in the Hilton Plaza Classic in Houston. UL faces Lipscomb at 4:30 p.m. and Iowa at 7 p.m. at Cougar Softball Field on the UH campus.
Preparing to embark on the 33rd season in program history, the Ragin' Cajuns are coming off one of their more successful seasons. In 2012, Louisiana (53-6, 21-3 Sun Belt) lost only four times during the regular season, hosted an NCAA Regional at Lamson Park and came within one win of reaching the Women's College World Series. The Ragin' Cajuns made their 14th consecutive NCAA Regionals appearances and 21st in last 22 years.
For all of the latest news and information on Ragin' Cajuns Athletics, visit RaginCajuns.com. Fans can also follow the athletics department on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/ULRaginCajuns along with @ULRaginCajuns on Twitter.
2013 PRESEASON ALL-SUN BELT CONFERENCE TEAM
Jordan Wallace (Louisiana, Sophomore, P)
Hannah Campbell (South Alabama, Junior, P)
Sarah Draheim (Louisiana, Senior, C)
Matte Haack (Louisiana, Senior, 1B)
Kayla Toney (Middle Tennessee, Junior, 2B)
Nerissa Myers (Louisiana, Senior, SS)
Natalie Fernandez (Louisiana, Junior, 3B)
Jessy Alfonso (FIU, Senior, OF)
Brianna Cherry (Louisiana, Senior, OF)
Blair Johnson (South Alabama, Sophomore, OF)
Kelsie Mattox (WKU, Junior, OF)
Taylor Fawbush (Florida Atlantic, Senior, UT/DP)
Kayla Burri (FIU, Senior, At-Large)
Brie Rojas (FIU, Senior, At-Large)
Britney Campbell (South Alabama, Senior, At-Large)
Hannah Renn (Troy, Senior, At-Large)
Karavin Dew (WKU, Senior, At-Large)
PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Nerissa Myers, Louisiana
PRESEASON PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Jordan Wallace, Louisiana
2013 PRESEASON SUN BELT COACHES POLL
Voted on by the league's head coaches • (First place votes in parenthesis)
1. Louisiana - 81 (9)
2. South Alabama - 71
3. FIU - 52
4. Troy - 49
5. North Texas - 48
6. WKU - 43
7. Florida Atlantic - 25
8. Louisiana-Monroe - 24
9. Middle Tennessee - 12