Carmen Paez Earns Spot On A-Sun Preseason Team, Eagles Predicted to Finish Sixth in Conference
Macon, Ga. – Stetson, a team perennially near the top of the Atlantic Sun softball standings earned top billing from the conference coaches, edging out the 2007 regular-season champ Kennesaw State for the top spot in the 2008 preseason poll. The Hatters, who will host the Atlantic Sun Championship in May, overwhelmingly won the nod as the favorite to win the tournament.
The Hatters return four regulars and two of their top three pitchers from last season’s tournament-winning squad, including All-Conference pitcher Erica Demers. She has led the A-Sun in ERA in each of the last two seasons. She will attempt to join former Hatter Shannon Dowdy as just the second pitcher in league history to win the ERA title three straight years. Dowdy posted the lowest ERA from 1992-94. Stetson placed two others on the All-Conference team in catcher Blythe Golden and first baseman Andrea Migliori. Migliori led the conference in home runs, 16 and RBI, 58.
Narrowly trailing Stetson, Kennesaw State placed second in the poll, earning five first-place votes. The Owls won the 2007 regular-season title with a 14-4 mark and have gone 29-9 in league play since joining in 2006. Kennesaw State will again be led by senior pitcher Brittany Matthews. The 2007 Pitcher of the Year and two-time First-Team All-Atlantic Sun selection led the league in wins, 23; strikeouts, 246; and shutouts, 10. In two years, she sports a sparkling 41-9 record with 419 strikeouts in 349.1 innings.
UNF placed third in the poll and feature the preseason Player of the Year, Gwen Williams. The senior second baseman finished third in the A-Sun in hitting with an average of .374. She led the Ospreys and set career highs in batting average, hits, 64; home runs, 10; RBI, 43; slugging percentage .626; and runs, 36. Gardner-Webb placed fourth with ETSU fifth. The Buccaneers joined the Hatters as the only two teams with multiple players on the All-Conference team in outfielder Katy Jett, the lone sophomore on the All-Atlantic Sun team and designated player Amanda Haverman. Jett led the team in hits and finished second in runs scored in being named to the All-Freshman team.
Rounding out the top half of poll, Florida Gulf Coast earned the sixth spot. In the Eagles’ last two years in Division II, they put together a 120-17 record. They enter the A-Sun returning two pitchers and six starters, including Carmen Paez. Paez earned a spot in the outfield on the preseason All-Atlantic Sun team after smashing 28 home runs while hitting .443 and driving in 80 RBI with a .953 slugging percentage. The 28 home runs ranked as the highest in the NCAA across all three divisions and established a Division II single-season record, breaking the 12-year mark of 26 set in 1995 by Jackie Aiken of Wisconsin-Parkside.
Lipscomb and All-Conference selection Heather Collins took seventh in the poll. Collins finished 2007 in the top four in the league in average, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. Campbell ranked eighth with USC Upstate ninth. Mercer and All-Conference selection Jamie Madruga placed 10th. Madruga enters her senior campaign ranking in the top 10 in a pair of career statistics. Her average of .361 ranks ninth, as does her home run total, 29. Jacksonville, featuring All-Conference selection Jillian Mirante, and Belmont complete the poll.
Play in the Atlantic Sun’s 23rd season begins on February 7 when Jacksonville hosts Minnesota. The season will conclude in DeLand, Fla., for the Atlantic Sun Championships to be held from May 8-10. This season marks the fifth time the Hatters will serve as the host of the tournament. Stetson hosted in 1987, 1991, 1994 and last season. The Hatters won in 1987 as well as last year.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is a 12-member league committed to Building Winners for Life, with a focus on academic and athletic integrity and a balance between the two for the student-athlete, and maintaining a high level of sportsmanship. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun encompasses six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun consists of some of the most dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Gardner-Webb University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.
2008 Atlantic Sun Softball Preseason Poll
1. Stetson (7) 138
2. Kennesaw State (5) 135
3. UNF 99
4. Gardner-Webb 91
5. ETSU 85
6. Florida Gulf Coast 84
7. Lipscomb 82
8. Campbell 62
9. USC Upstate 60
10. Mercer 50
11. Jacksonville 30
12. Belmont 20
Tournament Champion: Stetson
2008 Atlantic Sun Softball Preseason All-Conference Team [Position Name (Class) School]
P Brittany Matthews (Sr.) Kennesaw State
P Erica Demers (Jr.) Stetson
C Blythe Golden (Sr.) Stetson
IF Gwen Williams (Sr.) UNF
IF Jamie Madruga (Sr.) Mercer
IF Andrea Migliori (Jr.) Stetson
IF Heather Collins (Sr.) Lipscomb
OF Jillian Mirante (Sr.) Jacksonville
OF Carmen Paez (Sr.) Florida Gulf Coast
OF Katy Jett (So.) ETSU
DP Amanda Haverman (Sr.) ETSU
Preseason Player of the Year: Gwen Williams, Infielder, UNF
Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Brittany Matthews, Pitcher, Kennesaw State
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