Feb 3, 2014 8:43 PM by Sun Belt Sports
NEW ORLEANS - The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns enter the 2014 softball season as the conference favorite while WKU infielder Olivia Watkins was selected as the Preseason Player of the Year on the 2014 Sun Belt Conference Softball Preseason All-Conference list released on Monday. Louisiana junior pitcher, Jordan Wallace, was selected as the Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
The selections were made in a vote by the league's eight head coaches.
Watkins is coming off an impressive season in which she was named to the NFCA All-Region First Team, the Sun Belt All-Conference First Team and Sun Belt Conference All-Tournament Team. She ranked 19th in the nation in stolen bases per game with 0.62 average and led the conference with 38 stolen bases.
Wallace earned 32 victories and struck out 382 batters last season, while also throwing three-consecutive shutouts in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional. She finished the year with a 32-9 record, a 1.70 ERA and ranked third in the nation with the 382 strikeouts.
The Ragin' Cajuns are coming off a 2013 season in which they won the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional by winning back-to-back games. The Ragin' Cajuns forced a decisive game three in the NCAA Ann Arbor Super Regional, but their season ended with a 47-15 record and their first back-to-back trip to NCAA Super Regionals in school history.
South Alabama senior pitcher Hannah Campbell, who was a Second-Team All-America honoree by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), was named a Preseason All-Conference Pitcher. South Alabama tied with WKU for the most honorees on the preseason list with three. Joining Campbell on the list were her teammates Kaitlyn Griffin (shortstop) and Balir Johnson (outfield). WKU infielder Preslie Cruce and pitcher Emily Rousseau (at-large) were also honored, joining Watkins.
Several conference newcomers earned preseason laurels. Georgia State junior Callie Alford earned distinction as both a catcher and an at-large player (infield) on the list. Teammate Jessica Clifton was named to the list as an outfielder while UT Arlington junior Nina Villanueva, and sophomore Britnea Barilli were each named at-large selections.
The 2014 Sun Belt Conference Softball season begins this Thursday, Feb. 6 as South Alabama hosts UAB and Troy hosts Auburn. Conference play begins on Saturday, March 22. All eight teams will advance to the conference tournament held May 7-10 in Lafayette, La., on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
2014 Sun Belt Conference Preseason All-Conference Team
P: Hannah Campbell (South Alabama, Senior, Pitcher); Jordan Wallace (Louisiana, Junior, Pitcher)
C: Callie Alford (Georgia State, Junior, C/3B)
1B: Kacie McAllister (Troy, Senior, 1B)
2B: Olivia Watkins (WKU, Senior, 2B)
SS: Kaitlyn Griffin (South Alabama, Junior, SS)
3B: Preslie Cruce (WKU, Junior, 3B)
OF: Shellie Landry (Louisiana, Sophomore, OF); Blair Johnson (South Alabama, Junior, OF); Jessica Clifton (Georgia State, Senior, OF)
DP: Sara Corbello (Louisiana, Sophomore, DP)
At-Large: Emily Rousseau (WKU, Senior, Pitcher); Nina Villanueva (UT Arlington, Junior, SS); Callie Alford (Georgia State, Junior, 3B); Britnea Barilli (UT Arlington, Sophomore, OF)
2014 Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year
Olivia Watkins (WKU, Senior, 2B)
2014 Sun Belt Conference Preseason Pitcher Player of the Year
Jordan Wallace (Louisiana, Junior, Pitcher)
2014 Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Preseason Poll (First Place Votes)
Louisiana (6)-62 pts
South Alabama (2) -57 pts
WKU (0) -47 pts
Texas State (0) -33 pts
Georgia State (0) -30 pts
Troy (0) -27 pts
UT Arlington (0) -21 pts
UL Monroe (0) -11 pts