Macon, Ga. – The reigning A-Sun regular season and tournament champion FGCU softball team was picked to defend its crown as it was tabbed the league’s preseason favorite by the league head coaches on Thursday, getting all 10 first place votes. Junior catcher Chelsea Zgrabik (Venice, Fla./Venice HS was tabbed the A-Sun Preseason Player of the Year, while sophomore Shelby Morgan (High Springs, Fla./Santa Fe HS) earned A-Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year honors to complete the Green and Blue’s sweep of the major awards.
Zgrabik and Morgan were two of four FGCU student-athletes to be named to the A-Sun Preseason All-Conference team which was the most by any school. Junior center fielder Jessica Barnes (Winter Haven, Fla./Haines City HS) joined Zgrabik and Morgan on the All-Conference team and junior Kirsten Bembnowski (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake HS) rounded out the quartet.
Zgrabik was unanimously named the Preseason All-Conference team catcher and was the only player out of 11 on the team to be selected unanimously. Zgrabik finished off 2012 by being named to the NFCA All-South Region Second team and the A-Sun All-Conference first team. The Venice, Fla. native was stellar at the plate last season, as she led the Eagles in batting average (.329), hits (55), homeruns (13) and RBI (53).
Morgan, who was also named to the Preseason All-Conference team as one of the two pitchers, is looking to pick up where she left off at the end of a fantastic freshman season in which she was named the A-Sun Pitcher of the Year, along with being named to the NFCA All-South Region Second team and the A-Sun All-Conference first team. In 203.1 innings pitched in 2012, Morgan recorded a 1.55 ERA, which was the lowest in the A-Sun and 32nd in the nation. Her arm helped FGCU capture its first ever NCAA Tournament victory in Division I as she allowed just one run on five hits at the Gainesville Regional as the Green and Blue took down No. 5 Florida 2-1, on its home field.
Barnes was named to the 2013 Preseason All-Conference team as an outfielder after a 2012 campaign that included being the team leader in runs scored (46), walks (41) and stolen bases (25). Barnes was named to the 2012 A-Sun All-Conference first team at the end of last season after having started 56 games in the outfield and finished second on the team in batting average (.319), hits (51) and RBI (31).
Bembnowski also made the A-Sun All-Conference team, but in the infield where she recorded 58 starts last season at third base. An A-Sun All-Conference second team selection last season, Bembnowski was responsible for one of the two solo home runs hit by FGCU in their 2-1 victory over No. 5 Florida at the Gainesville Regional in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
The Atlantic Sun also held voting on their Facebook page where fans could vote for Preseason Pitcher of the Year, Preseason Player of the Year and the 2013 A-Sun Champions. Zgrabik was also named the Fan Voted Preseason Player of the Year and FGCU was selected first in the 2013 Preseason Facebook Fan Poll.
The Eagles will begin the 2013 season when they travel to Miami, Fla. to play a doubleheader against FIU on February 13 at 6 p.m. FGCU will return home two days later to host the LaQuinta Inn at the Airport Tournament in which it will play defending national champion and No. 1 Alabama on February 15 at 8:15 p.m.
2013 Atlantic Sun Softball Preseason Honors
Preseason Player of the Year: Chelsea Zgrabik, FGCU
Fan Voted Preseason Player of the Year: Chelsea Zgrabik, FGCU
Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Shelby Morgan, FGCU
Fan Voted Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Amanda Henderson, Kennesaw State
2013 Preseason All-Conference Team
*C - Chelsea Zgrabik, FGCU, Jr.
P - Shelby Morgan, FGCU, So.
P - Hannah Alexander, USC Upstate, Jr.
INF - Kirsten Bembnowski, FGCU, Jr.
INF - Kaylee Williams, Kennesaw State, So.
INF - Kelsey Cartwright, Lipscomb, Sr.
INF - Cheyenne Griffin, USC Upstate, So.
OF - Jessica Barnes, FGCU, Jr.
OF - McKenzie Woody, Mercer, Jr.
OF - Shellie Robinson, USC Upstate, So.
DP/UT - Sharon Swanson, Kennesaw State, Sr.
2013 Preseason Softball Coaches Poll
1. FGCU (10) - 100
2. Kennesaw State - 89
3. USC Upstate - 73
4. Lipscomb - 67
5. Jacksonville - 58
6. Stetson - 56
7. North Florida - 40
T8. Northern Kentucky - 27
T8. Mercer - 27
10. ETSU - 13
2013 Preseason Softball Facebook Fan Poll
1. FGCU - 66
2. Kennesaw State - 40
3. North Florida - 36
4. Lipscomb - 30
5. Jacksonville - 23
6. USC Upstate - 20
7. Northern Kentucky - 19
8. ETSU - 11
9. Mercer - 8
10. Stetson - 5