Sam Houston Favorite In Southland Conference

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FRISCO, Texas - Sam Houston State has been picked atop the 2008 softball preseason poll by both the coaches and sports information directors, as the Southland Conference announces its preseason team and polls today.

The Bearkats are coming off a 38-26 year in 2007 that saw them win the SLC Tournament and claim a victory in the NCAA Tournament. Sam Houston State received five first place votes in both the coaches and sports information directors poll.

Both the coaches and sports information directors polls were identical throughout. UT Arlington, the 2007 SLC regular-season champion, got four first place votes in both polls to rank second, while Texas State received two votes to stand third. UTSA is fourth in both polls, followed by Nicholls State, McNeese State and Southeastern Louisiana. Northwestern State placed eighth in the preseason polls, while Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Central Arkansas round out the poll.

On the preseason teams, 21 of the 22 players were named All-Southland Conference last year. Sam Houston State placed a league-best six on the preseason squads, two on the first team and four on the second, while Nicholls State had four, with three coming on the first team. Southeastern Louisiana placed three players on the preseason first team, while UT Arlington, McNeese State and UTSA each placed two members on the preseason teams. Texas State, Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State each placed one on the preseason team.

Highlighting the preseason team is UT Arlington outfielder Katie Jones, the 2007 Hitter and Player of the Year. Jones finished second in the SLC last year in batting average (.417) and hits (70). Joining Jones is teammate Kristin Moore, who earns second-team honors after hitting .395 last year.

Sam Houston State placed catcher Casie Everitt and designated player Mandy Huckabee on the first team, while 2007 SLC Tournament MVP Brandi Crnkovic, who was second in the league in ERA (1.83) and third in wins (20) and Morgan Mikulin return in the circle for the Bearkats. Mikulin led the league in saves (five), while ranking No. 5 in wins (17), while Everitt and Collier hit .315 and .313, respectively. Shortstop Tanya Hooser and outfielder Lauren Burns are also on the second team for the Bearkats, hitting .265 and .305 respectively.

Nicholls State’s Kat Harrell returns at shortstop for the Colonels, after leading the league in batting average (.453). Joining Harrell on the first team is first baseman Amy Thibodeaux and outfielder Kodi Butler, while second baseman Danielle Clayton is on the second-team. Thibodeaux hit .340 last year, with Butler and Clayton hitting .307 and 264, respectively.

Heather Sherrill returns at third base for Southeastern La., after leading the SLC in doubles (17) last year, also ranking No. 7 in the league with a .355 batting average. Joining Sherrill is pitcher Rachel Ray and second baseman Arica Rodriguez. Ray finished second in the league in wins (21), third in ERA (2.02) and fifth in strikeouts (154), while Rodriguez hit .297 last season.

McNeese State had two players on the second-team, including 2007 Utility Player of the Year Jenny Clay and designated player Rachel King. Clay hit .313 last year, while King hit .283.

UTSA had one player each on the first and second-team, as outfielder Leanne Risberg earned first-team honors, while Rudi Cantu earned second-team honors. Risberg hit .317 last year , while Cantu posted a .325 batting average in 2007.

Texas State’s Ragan Blake, the 2007 SLC Pitcher and Newcomer of the Year, is the lone Bobcat on the preseason first-team. She led the league in wins (26), ERA (1.62), strikeouts (242), innings pitched (258.2) and opposing batting average (.193) last year.

Northwestern State’s Amanda Jameson is the lone Demon on the preseason team, as she is the first baseman on the second team, after hitting .308 last year.

The final member of the preseason team is Stephen F. Austin’s Briana Bishop, who was voted onto the team by the league coaches. Bishop hit .329 last year and was second in the league in doubles (13).

The league’s softball season gets underway on Feb. 8.

2008 Southland Conference Preseason Coaches Softball Poll

1. Sam Houston State – 93 (5)
2. UT Arlington – 88 (4)
3. Texas State – 83 (2)
4. UTSA – 76
5. Nicholls State – 64
6. McNeese State – 51
7. Southeastern La. – 45
8. Northwestern State – 41
9. Stephen F. Austin – 40
10. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi – 20
11. Central Arkansas – 11
(#) denotes first-place votes

2008 Sports Information Directors Preseason Softball Poll

1. Sam Houston State – 92 (5)
2. UT Arlington – 85 (4)
3. Texas State – 81 (2)
4. UTSA – 76
5. Nicholls State – 70
6. McNeese State – 53
7. Southeastern La. – 45
8. Northwestern State – 41
9. Stephen F. Austin – 37
10. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi – 17
11. Central Arkansas – 13
(#) denotes first-place votes

2008 Preseason Southland Conference Softball First-Team

Name -- Class -- Pos. -- University

Amy Thibodeaux -- Sr. --1B -- Nicholls State
Arica Rodriguez -- Sr. -- 2B -- Southeastern La.
Heather Sherrill -- Jr. -- 3B -- Southeastern La.
Kat Harrell -- Sr. -- SS -- Nicholls State
Casie Everitt -- Sr. -- C -- Sam Houston State
Katie Jones -- Sr. -- OF -- UT Arlington
Kodi Butler -- Jr. -- OF -- Nicholls State
Leanne Risberg -- Jr. -- OF -- UTSA
Mandy Huckabee -- Sr. -- DP -- Sam Houston State
Ragan Blake -- Sr. -- P -- Texas State
Rachel Ray -- Sr. -- P -- Southeastern La.

2008 Preseason Southland Conference Softball Second-Team
Name -- Class -- Pos. -- University
Amanda Jameson -- So. -- 1B -- Northwestern State
Danielle Clayton -- Jr. -- 2B -- Nicholls State
Briana Bishop -- So. -- 3B -- Stephen F. Austin
Tanya Hooser -- Sr. -- SS -- Sam Houston State
Jenny Clay -- Sr. -- C -- McNeese State
Kristin Moore -- Jr. -- OF -- UT Arlington
Lauren Burns -- So. -- OF -- Sam Houston State
Rudi Cantu -- So. -- OF -- UTSA
Rachel King -- Jr. -- DP -- McNeese State
Brandi Crnkovic -- Jr. -- P -- Sam Houston State
Morgan Mikulin -- So. -- P -- Sam Houston State