ROCK HILL, S.C. — The Lincoln Memorial University softball team was tabbed for an eighth-place finish in South Atlantic Conference, while Amanda Snow and Brianna Mulkey garnered Preseason All-SAC First Team laurels, as league officials unveiled the results of the 2013 preseason coaches’ poll and the selections to the preseason All-SAC teams on Wednesday afternoon.
The Lady Railsplitters received 21 total points to fall to eighth in the poll. Lincoln Memorial will head into the 2013 campaign following an 18-28 overall mark and a 6-11 record in conference play in 2012. LMU finished ninth in the league last season, however, they open 2013 with rejuvenated hope and enthusiasm, as they will be going forward under the direction of first-year head coach Natalie Layden.
Lenoir-Rhyne, the three-time defending SAC Softball Tournament champions, earned six of the ten first-place votes and racked up 78 total points to grab the top spot in the preseason poll. The Bears went 48-13 overall last season and 14-4 in the league, advancing to the final game of the NCAA Division II Softball Championship Southeast Regional before being eliminated.
The other four first-place votes went to No. 2 Anderson, who fell just behind Lenoir-Rhyne with 71 total points in the poll. The Trojans finished 38-13 overall and 12-6 in the SAC last season, and will be bolstered by the return of SAC Player of the Year Abby Child.
Catawba finished third in the poll with 64 points following an appearance in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, while No. 4 Carson-Newman (57 points) and No. 5 Tusculum (45 points) wrap up the top five. Wingate sits at No. 6 in the poll with 41 total points. Mars Hill fell just ahead of Lincoln Memorial at No. 7 with 34 points with No. 9 Brevard (19 points) and No. 10 Newberry (14) capping the preseason coaches’ poll.
Heading into the 2013 campaign, the Lady Railsplitters will be looking to improve on the offensive side of the game, as they ranked ninth in the league in batting average (.252), slugging percentage (.358) and runs scored (173) while ranking last in hits (297). However, all signs indicate that the Lady Railsplitters will experience an offensive resurgence this year under the tutelage of first-year hitting coach Michelle Batts (Northwestern ‘11) as well as the leadership and presence of a pair of Preseason All-SAC First Team selections.
Sophomore Amanda Snow, a 5-7 utility player out of Knoxville, was a first team selection after a stellar debut season for the Lady Railsplitters in 2012. Snow was named to the 2012 All-SAC First Team for her efforts last season which included a team-leading .331 batting average, a .543 slugging percentage, a .418 on-base percentage with seven home runs and 42 hits. As a freshman, she also paced the team with 30 RBIs. Amanda’s impact was not limited to the batter’s box, as she tossed 84.2 innings and compiled a 2.98 earned run average on the mound for the Lady Railsplitters. Over that 84.2 inning span, Snow fanned 78 batters while accumulating a 6-7 mark.
In the outfield, junior Brianna Mulkey was also selected to the preseason All-SAC first team. Last season, Mulkey (Kettering, Ohio) garnered All-SAC First Team laurels as well as Daktronics All-Southeast Region Second Team and NFCA Division II All-Southeast Region Second Team for her efforts. Brianna accumulated a .302 batting mark with 39 hits, and a South Atlantic Conference leading 27 stolen bases. In just two seasons at Lincoln Memorial, Mulkey has tallied 66 stolen bases to rank third on the all-time list in school history. She currently sits 25 behind Jackie Adams and Jo Jo Mize for tying the all-time lead. Mulkey has been an All-SAC selection in her previous two seasons at Lincoln Memorial, earning the nod for the second team following her freshman campaign.
The offensive unit will also boast the presence of several key contributors from last season who look forward to the 2013 campaign with another year of college experience under their belt. Senior Sarah Walz, a 5-3 utility player, started 29 games for the Lady Railsplitters last season, compiling 24 hits with 13 RBIs and five doubles. Senior Cierra Mudd as well as juniors Kristi Franz and Danae Reed will look to add more production to the lineup this season. Mudd (Washburn, Tenn.) appeared in 35 games last season and notched 19 hits, while Franz (Vandalia, Ohio) posted 14 hits in 64 chances. Danae Reed (Broadway, Va.) was equally potent in 2012, figuring in with a .218 batting average in 40 starts for the Lady Railsplitters, playing mainly third base.
Sophomore Kelly Dreier (Knoxville) is primed to play a pivotal role in the Lady Railsplitters’ offense this season, as she looks to build on a freshman campaign that saw her swipe 18 bases in 20 attempts and accumulate 21 runs and eight RBIs. Paired with Mulkey and newcomer Laura Taricano (Bradenton, Fla.), Dreier will solidify an athletic trio that will look to wreak havoc on the base paths this season. Taricano, a 5-4 utility player, joins the Lady Railsplitters after a two-year stint at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, where she hit .220 and started in right field for a team that competed in the JUCO World Series during her sophomore season.
Offensively, the Lady Railsplitters will also expect production from senior Brittani Bezanson (Barrie, Ontario) and sophomore Jordyn Wilson (Powell, Tenn.), while fresh faces Andrea Foster (Harriman, Tenn.) and Ashley Hanes (Greenville, Ohio) look to fit into the mix and make immediate contributions this season.
The Lady Railsplitters aim to shore up their work on the bump this season as well, as they capped the 2012 campaign ranked ninth in the SAC in earned run average (3.61) and opposing team batting average (.286). Freshman Samantha Smith is poised to make an immediate impact for the Lady Railsplitters in that department, as she comes to Lincoln Memorial after a stellar four-year career at Gibbs High School where she garnered All-State laurels on three occasions and led her team to the Class AA State Championship last season. The 6-foot right-hander capped her prep career with a 1.62 cumulative earned run average.
Newcomer Kirstin Toole also looks to bolster the Lady Railsplitter staff, as the De Bary, Fla, native brings two years of college experience from State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. During her sophomore campaign at SCF Manatee-Sarasota, Toole tallied 82 innings pitched with 40 strikeouts and a 1.7 earned run average. Toole garnered All-State honors for the final three years of her prep career at Lake Mary High School.
The Lady Railsplitters are set to kickoff the first season of the Natalie Layden era on Saturday, as they are primed to roll into Milledgeville, Ga., for the Georgia College & State University Classic. LMU opens the classic with a two-game set this Saturday against host GCSU with first pitch set for 11 a.m. The Lady Railsplitters cap the weekend with a double-header against Georgia Southwestern beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday.