Jan. 25, 2012
IRVING, Texas – Tulsa, the reigning Conference USA regular season softball champion, has been selected as the 2012 preseason favorite to repeat by a vote of the league’s nine head coaches. Tulsa sophomore right-hander Aimee Creger was selected C-USA Preseason Pitcher of the Year while Houston’s senior slugger Melissa Gregson was named C-USA Preseason Player of the Year.
Last season, a record-tying five C-USA schools – Houston, Tulsa, UAB, Memphis and East Carolina -- participated in the NCAA Tournament and earned 11 combined wins, with Houston claiming a regional championship.
The Golden Hurricane received seven first-place votes and 79 points while Houston (67 points) and UAB (60) each garnered a first-place vote.
Creger, the 2011 C-USA Freshman of the Year and NFCA Third Team All-American, recorded a 24-3 mark with a 1.05 ERA and struck out 256 batters in 193 innings during her freshman campaign. She became the first Tulsa hurler to strike out more than 200 hitters in a single season and was a three-time C-USA Pitcher of the Week selection. She posted a 0.77 ERA in C-USA games and held opponents to a league-low .122 batting average. She ranked second in league games in innings (90.2) and strikeouts (147). At the plate, Creger batted .276 with 22 RBI and three home runs.
Gregson, the reigning C-USA Player of the Year, topped the league-only charts in batting (.418), slugging (.940), runs batted in (26), home runs (10) and total bases (63), was second in on base percentage (.494) and third in runs scored (20) and hits (28). In all games, Gregson paced the league in home runs (16) and total bases (108). The slugger also was a second-team NFCA All-Midwest Region selection.
Preseason top pick Tulsa returns eight players who played in at least 50 games during last season’s 46-15 campaign, including preseason all-conference picks junior shortstop Samantha Cobb (.342, 6 HR, 51 RBI, 32 runs, 16 doubles), sophomore third baseman Jill Barrett (.296, 39 runs, 21 RBI) and center fielder Caitlin Everett, a second-team NFCA All-Midwest Regional performer last season (.407, 37 runs, 23 RBI, 35 SB).
Houston, which tied Tulsa for the regular-season championship and advanced to an NCAA Super Regional last year, placed two players on the Preseason All-C-USA Team in Gregson and third baseman Holly Anderson. Anderson, a first-team All-C-USA performer last season, was the Cougars’ top hitter (.340) and led the conference in runs scored (41).
Memphis (52) was the coaches’ choice for fourth place, followed by tightly bunched group of East Carolina (39), UCF (33) and Southern Miss (32). Marshall and UTEP rounded out the preseason poll.
Memphis pitcher Carly Hummel and first baseman Jessica Phillips both were voted to the preseason team. Hummel returns for her junior season after posting 21 wins and striking out 196 batters while holding opponents to a .140 average – the second-best marking among C-USA pitchers. The senior Phillips had a breakout season in 2011, hitting .336 with 15 home runs and 44 runs batted in.
East Carolina teammates second baseman Kristi Oshiro, left fielder Suzanne Riggs and right fielder Jill Jelnick were tabbed to the preseason team. Oshiro paced the Pirates in hitting (.314), hits (58), walks (40), runs scored (37) and on-base percentage (.436). Riggs was a second-team All-C-USA performer and led ECU in runs batted in (35), doubles (8) and home runs (4). Jelnick also was a second-team all-conference performer last season.
Senior Rebecca Gamby of Marshall was voted to the preseason team after earning second-team NFCA All-Region honors last year. A first-team All-C-USA catcher, Gamby blasted 12 home runs and drove in 31 runs last season.
UCF’s Natalie Land (.346, 31 runs, 25 SB), Southern Miss’ Leslie LeJune (.263, 29 runs, 21 RBI, 13 doubles) and Chelsea Troupe (.404, 14 HR, 37 runs, 31 RBI, .885 slg) of UTEP round out the Preseason All-C-USA team. Land finished last season fourth in batting and on base percentage and led the league in triples and was second in stolen bases. LeJune’s 13 doubles were second among C-USA players while Troupe was second in C-USA in hitting, runs and home runs.
The C-USA softball season begins Thursday, Feb. 9. The C-USA Softball Championship will take place May 10-12 at the UAB Softball Complex in Birmingham, Ala.
Preseason All-C-USA Team
- P Aimee Creger, Tulsa, So.
- P Carly Hummel, Memphis, Jr.
- C Rebecca Gamby, Marshall, Sr.
- IF Samantha Cobb, Tulsa, Jr.
- IF Holly Anderson, Houston, Jr.
- IF Natalie Land, UCF, Sr.
- IF Jessica Phillips, Memphis, Sr.
- IF Jill Barrett, Tulsa, So.
- IF Kristi Oshiro, East Carolina, So.
- OF Caitlin Everett, Tulsa, Jr.
- OF Leslie LeJune, Southern Miss, Sr.
- OF Suzanne Riggs, East Carolina, Sr.
- OF Melissa Gregson, Houston, Sr.
- DP Jill Jelnick, East Carolina, So.
- UT Chelsea Troupe, UTEP, Sr.
Preseason Player of the Year
- Melissa Gregson, Houston, Sr.
Preseason Pitcher of the Year