NEW ORLEANS - The Sun Belt Conference announced its 2021 softball postseason honors Monday, highlighted by Louisiana capturing four individual awards. Senior outfielder Ciara Bryan picked up both Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honors, while senior pitcher Summer Ellyson was named Pitcher of the Year for the second occasion in her career. Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Gerry Glasco earned consecutive Coach of the Year nods, while Texas State infielder Sara Vanderford was tabbed Freshman of the Year.
Additionally, the All-Sun Belt teams were selected with 15 student-athletes represented on both the first and second teams. The Ragin’ Cajuns totaled a league-high eight selections, including four representatives on the first team and four on the second team. Texas State and Troy had five honorees each.
The individual awards and all-conference selections were voted on by the league’s 10 head coaches. Student-athletes that were freshmen or newcomers during the 2020 season were eligible for the Freshman of the Year and Newcomer of the Year awards due to last season's cancellation because of the coronavirus global pandemic.
Bryan, who transferred from Georgia, became the first Sun Belt player to be crowned the league’s top player and newcomer in the same season, since the newcomer award was installed in 2017. The Covington, Georgia, native led the conference with 75 hits, which ranks third in the nation, a .434 batting average and 31 stolen bases, tied for eighth nationally.
In a 40-win season for the Ragin’ Cajuns (40-10, 21-3 SBC), Ellyson earned 20 victories in the circle to co-lead the league and tie for ninth in the nation. Facing the toughest schedule in the league with eight games against top-15 teams, Ellyson picked up wins against then-No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 10 Texas. She finished with a 2.17 ERA, ranked fourth in the Sun Belt, while limiting opposing batters to a .208 hitting clip, fourth-best in the conference.
The Ragin' Cajuns collected the program's 17th Sun Belt regular-season championship in the 20 seasons of completed competition in league history. It's the second-consecutive title under the guidance of Glasco, who is in his fourth season with Louisiana. Glasco has led the Ragin’ Cajuns to its third 40-win season under his guidance, finishing the regular season ranked 14th in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll and 21st in the RPI.
Three-time Sun Belt Player of the Week Vanderford led the Sun Belt with 12 homers and a .797 slugging percentage. She helped the Bobcats (36-10, 17-6), who finished second in conference, to 25 home wins this season behind a .414 hitting average and 42 RBI, which ranks second in the league. Texas State ranks 29th in the RPI and is receiving votes on the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll.
The 2021 Sun Belt Softball Conference Championship [sunbeltsports.us7.list-manage.com] begins Tuesday in Troy, Alabama, and runs through May 15, when a conference champion will be crowned and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
2021 Sun Belt Conference Postseason Awards
Player of the Year: Ciara Bryan, Louisiana
Pitcher of the Year: Summer Ellyson, Louisiana
Freshman of the Year: Sara Vanderford, Texas State
Newcomer of the Year: Ciara Bryan, Louisiana
Coach of the Year: Gerry Glasco, Louisiana
All-Conference First Team
Ciara Bryan, Louisiana
Summer Ellyson, Louisiana
Sara Vanderford, Texas State
Leanna Johnson, Troy
Jessica Mullins, Texas State
Olivia Lackie, South Alabama
Kj Murphy, UTA
Katie Webb, Troy
Jayden Mount, ULM
Kandra Lamb, Louisiana
Kendall Talley, Louisiana
Meredith Keel, South Alabama
Tara Oltmann, Texas State
Jade Sinness, Troy
Katie Lively, Troy
All-Conference Second Team
Kelly Horne, Troy
Meagan King, Texas State
Mackenzie Brasher, South Alabama
Bailee Wilson, Georgia Southern
Makiya Thomas, Coastal Carolina
Kaitlyn Alderink, Louisiana
Abby Krzywiecki, South Alabama
Kenzie Longanecker, App State
Alissa Dalton, Louisiana
Julie Rawls, Louisiana
Korie Kreps, ULM
Kayla Rosado, Coastal Carolina
Justice Milz, Louisiana
Gabby Buruato, Appalachian State
Arieann Bell, Texas State
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