Lexie Elkins earned repeat honors as Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and was one of eight members of the 10th-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns softball team named to the 2015 All-Sun Belt Conference team, the league announced Tuesday evening.
The awards were presented during the Family Night ceremonies held at Bobcat Softball Stadium on the campus of Texas State University, which kicked off the 2015 Sun Belt Conference Championship.
Elkins, also the 2014 Sun Belt Player of the Year, joins Becky McMurtry (2002-03), Danyele Gomez (2005-06) and Christi Orgeron (2011-12) as Cajuns to win the league’s top honor in back-to-back seasons.
Louisiana’s eight All-Sun Belt selections were a league-high and the program’s highest total since eight were selected in 2012. The eight selections to the 2015 squad increased the total number of All-Sun Belt selections in Michael Lotief’s tenure as head coach (2003-present) to 85 and the program’s All-Sun Belt selections total to 109 (2000-15).
“The primary awards are the team championship trophy and team GPA recognition,” Louisiana softball head coach Michael Lotief said. “We are very proud of all of our girls’ commitment to be the best on and off of the field. These awards validate what we already knew – these kids are champions who know the values of hard work, competition and caring about each other.”
Elkins, the Cajuns starting catcher, headlined the team’s list of a league-high five First Team All-Sun Belt picks that also includes pitcher Jordan Wallace, first baseman Kelsey Vincent, second baseman Haley Hayden and outfielder Shellie Landry. Louisiana is represented on the All-Sun Belt Second Team by pitcher Alex Stewart, third baseman Samantha Walsh and designated player Leandra Maly.
After leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to their 13th regular season title in the 15 years of regular season play, Lotief received co-coach of the year honors sharing the award with Troy’s Beth Mullins.
“The individual awards are also a confirmation that the support structures in place at the University and in this community nurture our student-athletes to chase their potential,” Lotief added. “And to become the best amongst their peers. Thanks to all who care and support us.”
A first team selection for the second straight season, Elkins currently leads the nation in home runs with 27. In addition to home runs, she also tops the Sun Belt charts in slugging percentage (1.068) and RBI (69) and ranks Top 5 in the league in average (.424), on base percentage (.532) and total bases (141). The Victoria, Texas, native hit .541 with 20 home runs and 53 RBI in conference play.
Wallace received first team honors for the third time in her career. She recorded three wins over ranked teams, defeating #4 Alabama, #24 South Alabama and #14 Baylor. The Weatherford, Texas, ranks Top 10 nationally in fewest hits allowed per seven innings and strikeouts per seven innings. She leads Sun Belt pitchers in opposing batting average (.143) and has yielded only 10 extra base hits in 121-1/3 innings.
Vincent ranked second in the Sun Belt, trailing only teammate Lexie Elkins, with 13 home runs in conference play. Hayden, who strung together a 28-game reached-base streak Feb. 21,-April 18, led the Sun Belt in runs scored (58) and ranks No. 4 in the NCAA in runs per game (1.29).
Both Vincent and Hayden picked up their second career All-Sun Belt honor. Hayden repeated as a first team choice, while Vincent, second team a season ago, landed on the first team for the first time.
Landry posted career-highs in home runs (19) and extra base hits (33), registering a hit in 34 of 45 games played. The junior outfielder ranked Top 5 in the Sun Belt in RBI (55), home runs, slugging percentage (.865) and total bases (128). She garnered her third All-Sun Belt honor adding to second team honors as a freshman in 2013 and first team as a sophomore in 2014.
For Stewart, Maly and Walsh the awards represented the first of their career.
Stewart, in her first career Sun Belt starts, registered the two wins that won both series against Texas State and Georgia State allowing just five runs and striking out 34 in 21 innings. She went 5-0 in SBC games and allowed only four earned runs in five starts that covered 24-2/3 innings.
Walsh finished strong in the final three weeks of the regular season, hitting .560 (14-for-25) with seven home runs. Maly took over as starting designated player on Feb. 21 and went on to record her highest hits total as a Cajun, ending the regular season with 39 hits and a .402 average.
The 10th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns begin postseason play this week in San Marcos, Texas, at the Sun Belt Conference Tournament being held Wednesday-Saturday, May 6-9. Louisiana, seeded No. 1, received a bye in the quarterfinal round and opens tournament play on Thursday, May 7 at 2 p.m., against the survivor of Wednesday’s single-elimination games between Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Troy.
All-Sun Belt Conference First Team
P‐ Randi Rupp, Texas State
P‐ Kalen McGill, South Alabama
P‐ Jordan Wallace, Louisiana
P‐ Jaycee Affeldt, Troy
C‐ Lexie Elkins, Louisiana
C‐ Ivie Drake, Georgia State
1B‐ Kelsey Vincent, Louisiana
1B‐ Kendall Wiley, Texas State
2B‐ Haley Hayden, Louisiana
SS‐ Taylor Anderson, Georgia State
3B‐ Callie Alford, Georgia State
OF‐ Shellie Landry, Louisiana
OF‐ Ashley Christy, Georgia State
OF‐ Rochelle Roberts, UL Monroe
DP‐ Chloe Rathburn, South Alabama
All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team
P‐ Farish Beard, South Alabama
P‐ Alex Stewart, Louisiana
C‐ Sarah Warnock, Appalachian State
1B‐ Alexis Cacioppo, UL Monroe
1B‐ Lauren Coleman, Georgia State
2B‐ Miyuki Navarette, UL Monroe
SS‐ Ariel Ortiz, Texas State
SS‐ Kaitlyn Griffith, South Alabama
3B‐ Courtney Harris, Texas State
3B‐ Samantha Walsh, Louisiana
OF‐ Taylor Rogers, Georgia Southern
OF‐ Amanda Minahan, South Alabama
OF‐ Stephanie Pilkington, South Alabama
OF‐ Becca Hartley, Troy
DP‐ Leandra Maly, Louisiana
Player of the Year
Lexie Elkins, UL Lafayette
Pitcher of the Year
Jaycee Affeldt, Troy
Freshman of the Year
Ivie Drake, Georgia State
Co-Coaches of the Year
Beth Mullins, Troy
Michael Lotief, UL Lafayette