May 6, 2014
UL Lafayette Takes Softball Player, Pitcher and Coach of the Year Postseason Honors at Family Night
Lafayette, La. - The Sun Belt Conference announced the 2014 Softball All-Conference teams and individual award winners on Tuesday night at Lamson Park as part of its Family Night festivities.
Junior Nina Villanueva was named to the all-conference first team for the second year in a row after earning the honors last season in the Western Athletic Conference.
Villanueva is the only Maverick to hit above .300 (.344) throughout the season and .422 in Sun Belt competition. She also leads the team in hits (53), doubles (11), home runs (8) and RBI (37). Villanueva has started 47 games at shortstop for the Mavericks, but also started four games at first base. She has 119 putouts with 96 assists throughout the season and a .926 fielding percentage in league action. The San Diego native has not dropped below the .300 mark since facing Georgia State on April 5. Villanueva also leads the team in multi-hit games (15) and multi-RBI games (12). She leads with team with a 12-game hitting streak.
"Nina hit great all season in conference once against this year and I am very proud of her," UT Arlington coach Kristie Fox said. "She really thrives against pitchers she can see multiple times. I know she was one that the other teams were avoiding in our lineup and that is a big honor."
Freshman Kacey Everett was named to the all-conference second team with an at-large bid. Everett has started 51 of 52 games as catcher for the Mavericks as a freshman. She is third on the team with a .246 batting average, third with 16 RBI and has picked off five batters. Everett hit the Mavericks' only grand slam of the season, with a shot to left center against New Mexico State on March 7. She has record eight multi-hit games and four multi-RBI games.
"Kacey has been a workhorse for us behind the plate all year. A freshman leading the league in thrown out runners is really impressive. I'm glad she got the recognition she deserved," Fox said.
The UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns grabbed three individual honors as sophomore Lexie Elkins earned Player of the Year, junior Christina Hamilton took Pitcher of the Year and head coach Michael Lotief won Coach of the Year awards.
UL Monroe outfielder Rochelle Roberts earned the Freshman of the Year award to round out the individual honorees. The winners and all-conference honorees were selected by a vote of the league's eight head coaches.
The Sun Belt Conference presented 15 First Team All-Conference awards and 15 Second Team All-Conference awards on Tuesday night in front of the Lamson Park crowd. Each all-conference team had one spot each for catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base and designated player. There were two spots on each team for pitchers, three for outfielders and four at-large spots.
The Player of the Year honor is the first for UL Lafayette sophomore Lexie Elkins, who introduced herself to the Cajuns faithful with a monster 2014 season. She slugged 17 home runs and batted .386 in 48 games, all at catcher. She finished the year tops in the conference in slugging percentage (.784), RBI (64), home runs (17), and total bases (120), and ranks in the top five in batting average (4th/.386), on base percentage (3rd/.500), hits (5th/59), and walks (t-3rd/33).
She hit a season-high seven RBI against Lamar on March 7 in her second multi-homer game of the season, with the first coming in the season opener against Lamar on Feb. 7. A two-time Sun Belt Player of the Week recipient, Elkins ranks sixth in the nation in RBI per game and ninth in home runs per game.
UL Lafayette ace Christina Hamilton earned her first Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year award after compiling a 22-1 record this season with a 1.46 earned run average. The junior struck out 159 batters in 167.2 innings pitched. Hamilton has not lost a start since February 22nd against South Florida and has won 19 consecutive decisions to close the year. Of her 22 wins, five have come against nationally-ranked opponents including both games in a doubleheader sweep of the defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners.
Hamilton has fanned at least 10 batters on three occasions, including a 14 strikeout performance in a complete game effort against UTSA. A two-time Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week selection, Hamilton has tossed three shutouts in 14 complete games. She finished the season 27th in the nation with a 1.46 ERA and tied for 23rd with 22 victories.
UL Monroe outfielder Rochelle Roberts has started all 20 conference games and is hitting .381 in league play, good enough for second on the squad. After a quiet first half on the base paths, she has quickly erupted into a prolific base stealer. She is 18-of-21 this season for the second-best mark on the team. She is also second on the squad in batting average at .349.
She has fanned just six times in Sun Belt play in 63 at-bats and has drawn six free passes. She became the first UL Monroe freshman to win Sun Belt Player of the Week after hitting .786 for the week ending on Apr. 19.
UL Lafayette head coach Michael Lotief has led the Ragin' Cajuns softball team to a 41-7-1 record this season with six wins over nationally-ranked opponents. UL Lafayette began the season ranked just inside the Top 25 and has remained there all year reaching a high of No. 13/14 this past week. The Ragin' Cajuns are second in the nation in home runs per game (1.51), sixth in the nation in win-loss percentage (.847) and 12th in both scoring (6.59 runs/game) and slugging percentage (.524).
Along with individual awards, the conference announced the First and Second Team All-Conference lists. The Ragin' Cajuns led the way with seven total honorees as they placed five student-athletes on the First Team and two more on the Second Team.
The 2014 Sun Belt Conference Softball Championship begins on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. with the No. 6 seed UL Monroe Warhawks taking on the No. 7 seed Troy Trojans at Lamson Park in Lafayette, La. The UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns own the No. 1 seed after claiming the regular-season championship. All games of the tournament will be streamed for free on SunBeltSports.org. Saturday's championship game begins at 3 p.m. CT and will be available for viewing on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
2014 Sun Belt First Team All-Conference
P - Christina Hamilton (UL Lafayette, Junior)
P - Hannah Campbell (South Alabama, Senior)
C - Lexie Elkins (UL Lafayette, Sophomore)
1B - Lauren Coleman (Georgia State, Junior)
2B - Olivia Watkins (WKU, Senior)
SS - Nina Villanueva (UT Arlington, Junior)
3B - Preslie Cruce (WKU, Junior)
OF - Stephanie Pilkington (South Alabama, Sophomore)
OF - Hayley Hayden (UL Lafayette, Freshman)
OF - Rochelle Roberts (UL Monroe, Junior)
DP - Chloe Rathburn (South Alabama, Freshman)
At-Large - Farish Beard (South Alabama, Junior, P)
At-Large - Natalie Fernandez (UL Lafayette, Senior, 2B)
At-Large - Shellie Landry (UL Lafayette, Sophomore, OF)
At-Large - Kelsie Mattox (WKU, Senior, OF)
2014 Sun Belt Second Team All-Conference
P - Kaitlyn Medlam (Georgia State, Senior)
P - Emily Rousseau (WKU, Senior)
C - Callie Alford (Georgia State, Junior, C)
1B - Kelsey Vincent (UL Lafayette, Sophomore)
2B - Miyuki Navarrete (UL Monroe, Junior)
SS - Amanda Thomas (WKU, Senior)
3B - Courtney Harris (Texas State, Junior)
OF - Shelbi Redfearn (UL Lafayette, Senior)
OF - Blair Johnson (South Alabama, Junior)
OF - Ebony Wright (Troy, Senior)
DP - Kortney Koroll (Texas State, Junior)
At-Large - Rayn House (Texas State, Senior, P)
At-Large - Kacey Everett (UT Arlington, Freshman)
At-Large - Ashley Christy (Georgia State, Junior, OF)
At-Large - Timishia North (Texas State, Senior, OF)
2014 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year
Lexie Elkins (UL Lafayette, Sophomore, C)
2014 Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year
Christina Hamilton (UL Lafayette, Junior, P)
2014 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year
Rochelle Roberts (UL Monroe, Freshman, OF)
2014 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year
Michael Lotief, UL Lafayette
2014 Sun Belt Team Academic Award