BIRMINGHAM (SWAC.org) – The Southwestern Athletic Conference has announced the 2016 All-Conference Softball teams and yearly award winners, as voted on by the league’s coaches and sports information directors.
Jackson State infielder Canessa Swanson was named the conference’s Player and Hitter of the Year. Alabama State pitcher Maddie Phelps claimed the Pitcher of the Year accolade, and fellow Hornet Charlene Castro was selected as Co-Freshman of the Year alongside Prairie View A&M’s Shelby Williams. Alcorn State hurler Paige Breal was tabbed as the SWAC Newcomer of the Year, and Lady Braves coach Josef Rankin was honored as the Coach of the Year.
Swanson was ranked in the top five in nearly every offensive statistical category, batting .436 (2nd in the SWAC) on the season with 51 hits, 11 doubles and a league-leading five triples. She also led the conference in runs scored for the second-straight season (38). She is ranked 14th nationally in triples per game (.11) and 30th in the country in runs scored per game (1.06).
Phelps led the SWAC in victories, posting a 16-12 record while establishing herself as the Lady Hornets’ ace in the absence of 2015 Pitcher of the Year Chelsea King. Phelps’ 3.07 ERA and .269 opponent batting average were both good for second in the conference, and she pitched a SWAC-leading 164 innings while striking out 124 batters.
In Castro’s maiden season with the Hornets, the slugger posted a slash line of .380 BA/.437 OB%/.613 SLG%, raking in 52 hits and a conference-best 39 RBI to go with seven home runs and 11 doubles. Williams hit .351 with 29 runs scored, 34 hits and 21 stolen bases, the latter of which led the conference. Her 0.66 steals per game ranks her No. 26 in the nation, and she committed only two errors in 42 chances (.952 FLD%).
Breal’s first season with the Braves resulted in her leading the league with 154 strikeouts en route to a 12-11 record. In 159.1 innings of work, Breal posted a 3.78 ERA (4th in the SWAC), with 23 complete games in 28 appearances. She averaged 6.68 strikeouts per game.
In his second season as Alcorn State’s skipper – on the heels of a 2-31 record in his first year – Rankin oversaw a significant turnaround for the Lady Braves on the diamond, guiding them to a 15-25 overall record and an 11-6 conference record, netting the No. 2 seed in the East.
Swanson, Phelps and Breal were first-team selections. Joining them was Alabama State University’s Aleesa Yanez and Laura Aguilar, Alcorn State’s Taylor Hughes, Alabama A&M’s Tiana Sanders, Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Tonnay Hawkins and Texas Southern’s Briana Simpson, Krystalani Yockman and Lauren Rodriguez.
Overall, Texas Southern and Alabama State led the way as both teams had six players earn all-conference honors, and Alcorn State saw three players named all-SWAC. Southern and Alabama A&M both landed two all-conference selections apiece, and Prairie View A&M, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff all had one all-conference nod each.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR/HITTER OF THE YEAR
Canessa Swanson (Jackson State)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Maddie Phelps (Alabama State)
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Paige Breal (Alcorn State)
CO-FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Charlene Castro (Alabama State)/Shelby Williams (Prairie View A&M)
COACH OF THE YEAR
Josef Rankin (Alcorn State)
2016 ALL-SWAC SOFTBALL – FIRST TEAM
1B – Taylor Hughes (Alcorn State)
2B – Laura Aguilar (Alabama State)
3B – Canessa Swanson (Jackson State)
SS – Tiana Sanders (Alabama A&M)
OF – Briana Simpson (Texas Southern)
OF – Krystalani Yockman (Texas Southern)
OF – Tonnay Hawkins (Arkansas-Pine Bluff)
C – Aleesa Yanez (Alabama State)
P – Maddie Phelps (Alabama State)
P – Paige Breal (Alcorn State)
P – Lauren Rodriguez (Texas Southern)
2016 ALL-SWAC SOFTBALL – SECOND TEAM
1B – Carly Evans (Alabama State)
2B – Sametria Collins (Alcorn State)/Miranda Rodarte (Texas Southern)
3B – Haley Smith (Texas Southern)
SS – Briana Knowles (Prairie View A&M)
OF – Jenna Mae Thorne (Alabama State)
OF – Sydney Andrews (Southern)
OF – Imani Largin (Alabama A&M)
C – Kiara Suttles (Southern)
P – Jasmine Fulmore (Texas Southern)
P – Rebekah Clinton (Mississippi Valley State)
P – Melissa Christmann (Alabama State)
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