They Got It Right…Well, Almost!
The Sun Belt Conference gave out their major individual softball awards, on Tuesday, including the 2011 All-Sun Belt Conference Team, and unlike last year, I actually don't have a lot to complain about, much. See more, below.
UL junior outfielder was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year
Last year, Louisiana's Ragin' Cajun softball team placed six players on the All-Sun Belt Conference Team, four on the first-team, and two on the second-team.
That seemed justified, as the Cajun were regular-season champions.
It was FIU, however, that brought home the Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, and Co-Coach of the Year awards, despite finishing second to UL.
This year, I applaud the coaches, who I think voted correctly, with maybe an exception, or two.
Here's a list of this year's first-team selections:
Catcher---Karavin Dew---WKU: Dew hit a .357, with three homers, with 16 rbi's. I could make a solid argument for UL sophomore catcher Sarah Draheim, who drove in 32 more runs, but Dew is an outstanding defensive catcher, to go along with her high batting average, so I don't have a problem with that selection.
First Base---Gabrielle Bridges---UL: No question here. Bridges' 21 homers was tops in the league, plus she was third in batting average, and second in rbi's.
Second Base---Heather Barnes---FAU: Barnes hit a .324, with three homers, and 18 rbi's. Again, I could make a solid argument for a Cajun, as Paige Cormier hit a .298, and had 10 more runs driven in, and 14 less errors than Barnes. Barnes is a solid player though, so I can accept this.
Shortstop---Kayla Burri---FIU: Ok, this is one that I have a little bit of a problem with. Burri is a good player, but I, personally, would not have voted her on the first, or second teams. Burri hit a .317, with five homers, 29 rbi's, and six stolen bases, with 21 errors. UL shortstop Nerissa Myers, by comparison, hit a .360, with one homer, 38 rbi's, and 19 stolen bases, with only five errors. Myers also was second in the league, and in the top five in the nation, with 66 runs scored, compared to only 25 for Burri. I also would have voted for South Alabama's Jenny Stevens ahead of Burri, but teams normally have a great athlete at shortstop, so it always a difficult pick. I will say that I was surprised that Troy's Nikki Hollett wasn't named to the first or second teams. Her 28 errors were too many for me to overlook, but she did have 19 home runs, and I thought that would hold more weight than it did.
Third Base---Jessy Alfonso---FIU: Alfonso hit a .273, with six homers, 20 rbi's, and 10 stolen bases. Those aren't eye-popping statistics, but they are the best among the third baseman in the league, and her 8 errors sho she's solid defensively.
Outfield---Christi Orgeron---UL: Orgeron finished second in the league in batting average (.414), second in homers (21), first in rbi's (84), first in runs scored (68), and first in total bases (163). She was the regular-season leader, in the country, in both runs scored, and rbi's, and set a new school, and conference, single season record, for the latter. No-brainer here.
Outfield---Brianna Love---ULM: Love is a terrific all-around player. She hit a .376, with 15 homers, and 27 stolen bases. She can also go get it in centerfield. Love has to be on the first-team.
Outfield---Ashley McClain---FIU: McClain, like Love, can beat you in many ways. She hit a .414, with 12 homers, 43 rbi's, and 10 stolen bases. Orgeron Love, and McClain are the three outfielders that I would have cast my vote for.
Designated Player---Corrie Abel---Middle Tennessee: I think Abel is an underrated player. She was fourth in the league in hitting (.378), and third in doubles (15), so it was nice to see her get a little praise.
Pitcher---Ashley Brignac---UL: After missing the 2010 season, Brignac came back this year to lead the conference in wins (27), and era (1.24). The scary thing for the rest of the Sun Belt, is that she's going to be even better next year.
Pitcher---Rose Gressley---FAU: Gressley was tied for second in the league in wins (17), and tied for second in era, among pitcher with 100, or more, innings pitched (1.94). She's on as a pitcher, but she's also not a bad hitter, so she deserves to be named first-team.
Now, on to the major individual awards:
Player of the Year---Christi Orgeron---UL: I touched on it above...Orgeron had mid-blowing statistics. Her only true competition for this award is her teammate, Gabrielle Bridges. When somebody leads the nation in runs scored and runs batted in, it's awfully difficult not to vote for them.
Pitcher of the Year---Ashley Brignac---UL: I was concerned Brignac wouldn't get this, but she deserves it. She came back from injury, was the leader of a young pitching staff, and put together a great year, leading the league in wins, and era. This is one you shouldn't have to think about, much.
Newcomer of the Year---Hannah Campbell---South Alabama: There were questions about South Alabama's young pitching staff, coming into the season. Campbell helped ease those concerns, winning 16 games, with a 2.43 era. If she develops the way I think she will, this won't be the last time she'll be honored by the league. Good choice.
Coach of the Year---Becky Clark---South Alabama: I think that Clark did a really good job this year. The Jaguars had a lot of question marks coming into the year, and she guided them to a third place finish, and the second most overall wins in the league (35). That being said, and with all due respect to coach Clark, Mike and Stefni Lotief are my "Coaches of the Year." I'm not surprised they didn't get the award, because people just get tired of voting for the Cajuns, and it's just assumed that they have the best talent. Here's why I would have voted for the Lotief's: Ashley Brignac was coming off major shoulder surgery. She didn't pitch at all last year, and she hadn't pitched full-time since 2008. They lost their top two pitchers form last year, including one who transferred (Donna Bourgeois) that was a two-time Louisiana Pitcher of the Year. They had to replace a four-year starter at catcher (Lana Bowers). They had an infielder that wasn't transfer-eligible (Courtney Hollier). They had a left-fielder (Katie Smith) coming off a torn ACL. They lost their number two pitcher (Christina Hamilton) for over a month, with an appendectomy, during the season. They lost a middle of the order power hitter (Taryn Broussard) for over two months, with a broken ankle. First baseman Gabrielle Bridges has been playing for about a month with a bum ankle. I think this coaching staff is as good as any in the country, and they proved that again, this year. Credit the team, for overcoming those obstacles, but credit the coaching staff, for leading them. I just don't think too many programs, if any, could have accomplished what this team has, with all that was thrown at them. Credit the coaching staff, for a masterful job, that has gone overlooked by many...but not me.
Just a reminder: The views expressed by myself do not necessarily reflect those of Sports Radio ESPN 1420, or Town Square Media...but they should!