NEW ORLEANS - Four-time defending Sun Belt Conference champion Louisiana-Lafayette was picked to win another league title, receiving eight first-place votes by the league’s nine head coaches, as announced by the conference office on Monday.
Headlining the 2012 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team are ULL’s Christi Orgeron, selected as the Preseason Player of the Year, and South Alabama’s Hannah Campbell, who was selected as the Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
The Cajuns received 80 total points with eight of the nine first place votes. South Alabama narrowly edged Florida Atlantic for the second spot with the Jaguars receiving 64 points to the Owls’ 62. FIU came in fourth with 49 points, followed by Troy and Western Kentucky tied for fifth place with 40 points each. WKU also received one first place vote. Rounding out the poll was North Texas (29), Louisiana-Monrore (26) and Middle Tennessee (15).
ULL enters the season having won 10 of the past 11 Sun Belt Conference regular season and tournament championships, including the past four. The Cajuns posted their seventh 50-plus victory season in 2011 under co-head coaches Stefni and Michael Lotief. Last season, Louisiana-Lafayette made its 13th straight NCAA Regionals appearance since 1999 and the 21st in the last 22 years. The Cajuns rank ninth in total NCAA appearances with 21, 10th with 50 NCAA Tournament victories and 11th for consecutive NCAA Regional appearances.
Orgeron, a utility player from New Orleans, was recognized as a USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 10 Finalist last year and is on the 2012 USA Softball Top 50 Watch List. As a junior, Orgeron was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and Sun Belt Tournament Most Outstanding Player after leading ULL to its tenth Sun Belt Conference regular season championship and 11th conference tournament title. She finished the year batting .414 with 23 home runs and a Sun Belt Conference and ULL single-season record of 101 RBI - a mark that led the nation in 2011 and ranks third all-time in the NCAA record books. Orgeron is one of only four players in NCAA Division I to surpass 100 RBI in a season. Orgeron also led the SBC in slugging percentage (.886), and recorded the second most hits (87) and total bases (186) in Ragin’ Cajuns single season history. She ranked third in the NCAA in home runs per game (0.37) and second in total home runs, second in runs per game (1.21), fifth in slugging percentage (.886), and 21st in doubles per game (0.32). She was named to the Louisville Slugger/NFCA First Team All-Region, was All-American Third Team, and helped team USA to a gold medal in the Pan-American Games in October 2011.
Campbell earned 2011 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year honors for her work in the circle last season. Campbell finished the year with a 2.51 ERA and a 19-7 record while leading the league in saves with four - a mark that ranks third in the SBC single season record books and is the fifth highest total in a career. She was named to the NFCA All-Region team and to the All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team. She was fourth in shutouts (5) and wins (19) and eighth in strikeouts per game (5.16).
Joining Orgeron on the Preseason All-Conference team are teammates Nerissa Myers and Katie Smith to give the Cajuns the most on the team. Myers led the nation in runs per game (1.24) last season and reached base in 58 of 62 games in 2011. Her 77 runs scored tied a ULL and SBC single-season record and she broke the SBC Tournament record for most runs scored in a tournament with seven. Smith has started in 176-of-178 games in her career. The swift moving outfielder batted .352 and was second on the squad swiping 20 bags in 22 attempts last season. Smith has a career .369 batting average and is fourth all-time in school history with 68 stolen bases.
South Alabama and Troy each put two players on the Preseason All-SBC team. USA’s Brittany Fowler joined Campbell as the other Jag on the team, and Nikki Hollett and Hayden Gann represented the Trojans.
Fowler is a two-time all-conference player who ended 2011 batting .340 and led the team in hits (53), RBI (52), sac flies (5), triples (3) and slugging percentage (.571).
Gann earned Second Team All-Sun Belt honors a season ago after starting all 59 games for the Trojans in 2011, while hitting .318 with seven home runs and 31 RBI. Senior slugger Hollett earned NFCA All-Region honors, and her 20 home runs placed her seventh in the nation and helped her post a .795 slugging percentage, the 19th best mark in the country. She also batted a team-high .354 and started every game for the Trojans.
FIU’s Ashley McClain was also named to the 2012 USA Softball Top 50 Watch List. The dual threat at pitcher and in the outfield started all 58 games for the Panthers and notched an FIU single season record with a .409 batting average in 2011. She received her second consecutive NFCA All-South Region First Team honors and was named to the All-Sun Belt Conference First Team for the second straight season.
Also earning spots on the Preseason All-SBC team are Florida Atlantic’s Taylor Fawbush, Western Kentucky’s Karavin Dew and North Texas’ Lisa Johnson.
Fawbush was one of FAU’s two primary pitchers during 2011 and was one of the toughest batters in the nation to strike out, going down on strikes just seven times in 103 at-bats.
Dew was a First Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection in 2011 and appeared in 45 games, starting in 44 of them. She led the Lady Toppers with a .341 batting average while adding five doubles, five triples, three home runs, and 19 RBI. Dew’s five triples tied WKU’s single-season record and led the Sun Belt.
Johnson has started all but 11 games in her career and holds the Mean Green single-season walks record (29) and the career walk record (68) and is fifth on the career home run list (23). Johnson is listed in the top 10 at North Texas in runs, hits, RBI, doubles and total bases.
2012 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team
Taylor Fawbush (Florida Atlantic, Junior, P)
Hannah Campbell (South Alabama, Sophomore, P)
Karavin Dew (Western Kentucky, Junior, C)
Hayden Gann (Troy, Senior, 1B)
Lisa Johnson (North Texas, Senior, 2B)
Nerissa Myers (Louisiana-Lafayette, Junior, SS)
Nikki Hollett (Troy, Senior, 3B)
Ashley McClain (FIU, Senior, OF)
Katie Smith (Louisiana-Lafayette, Senior, OF)
Brittany Fowler (South Alabama, Junior, OF)
Christi Orgeron (Louisiana-Lafayette, Senior, U)
Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Hannah Campbell, South Alabama
Preseason Player of the Year: Christi Orgeron, Louisiana-Lafayette
Preseason Sun Belt Coaches' Poll
Voted on by the league's head coaches
(First place votes in parenthesis)
1. Louisiana-Lafayette - 80 (8)
2. South Alabama - 64
3. Florida Atlantic - 62
4. FIU - 49
5. Troy - 40
5. WKU - 40 (1)
7. North Texas - 29
8. Louisiana-Monroe - 26
9. Middle Tennessee - 15