SAU

Southern Arkansas is favored by Great American Conference softball coaches to win the conference title in 2022.

Earlier this week, GAC coaches also tapped SAU to win the baseball title.

Southern Arkansas received seven first-place votes to enter the softball season as the favorite.

The Muleriders claimed the 2021 regular-season title, their third straight, and earned their fifth consecutive bid to the NCAA Championships. While they lose five All-GAC selections, they return Alese Casper, a First-Team outfielder who hit .394, Sarah Evans, who slugged .549, and Jaxynn Dyson, who hit .354.

Arkansas Tech picked up three first-place votes and finished second in the poll. The Golden Suns won their third-straight GAC Championship title and reached the NCAA Championships for the fifth time since 2015. They bring back five All-GAC performers in Makenzie Addis, Shannon Lasey, Tymber Riley, Caitlyn Wells and Maddy Prough. Addis tied for the GAC lead with 11 home runs. Wells hit .408, the second-best mark in the GAC and her 53 hits led the conference. Riley led the league with 37 runs scored and also claimed the 2021 GAC Championship MVP. Lasey ranked in the top 10 in ERA, batting average against, strikeouts and wins while Prough went 9-5 with a 2.87 ERA.

Southeastern Oklahoma State garnered a pair of first-place votes and placed third. Pitchers Cheyenne Mahy and Amberlyn Walsworth won the 2021 Newcomer and Freshman of the Year awards. They combined for a 34-9 record and a 2.01 ERA. Walsworth led the conference with 146 strikeouts. Kyia Monahwee made the First Team after hitting .329 with seven home runs and 14 stolen bases.

Peyton Streetman ranked in the top five in average, on-base percentage and hits.

Harding took fourth, followed by Southern Nazarene. Both the Lady Bisons and Crimson Storm feature first-year coaches following the retirements of Phil Berry and Tere Webber, respectively. Ashley Reeves takes over at Harding. She inherits a pair of 2021 First-Team All-GAC honorees in pitcher Lily Tanski and shortstop Hanna Jones. Tanski, the GAC Pitcher of the Year, led the conference with 22 wins, a 1.58 ERA, a .203 batting average against, 20 complete games and eight shutouts. Jones ranked second in the conference in runs scored and doubles and placed fourth with a .629 slugging percentage.

Brian Madden, a long-time Crimson Storm assistant, moves into the head-coaching role after one season as co-head coach with Webber. While he must replace GAC Player of the Year Mahina Sauer, two 2021

All-GAC selections – Caitlyn Curlee and Sydney Sundbye – return for 2022.

Curlee’s 34 RBI placed fourth in the conference. Sundbye hit .343 with 11 stolen bases.

Oklahoma Baptist finished sixth while Ouachita took seventh. Last season, the Bison qualified for the GAC Championships for the first time in program history. Kayleigh Jones landed on the All-GAC Second Team after she went 13-7 with a 2.64 ERA. She struck out 134 batters in just 116.2 innings of work. Ouachita returns its three All-GAC selections – Hope Waid, Heather Brown and Nikki Schneider. Wade hit .377 and stole eight bases; Brown hit .383 with a .450 on-base percentage. Schneider went 8-7 with a 2.42 ERA and a .224 batting average against.

Arkansas-Monticello claimed the eighth position and East Central placed ninth. Bailey Camp led the Blossoms with a .354 average and a .432 on-base percentage. Megan Lesko paced the Tiger offense with a .364 average and a .603 slugging percentage and Jayna Reid went 19-for-21 on stolen base attempts.

Henderson State, Southwestern Oklahoma State and Northwestern Oklahoma State rounded out the voting. The Rangers have a first-year head coach as Ryan Wondrasek replaced Jill DeVries.

The regular season begins Tuesday, February 1 as East Central takes on Newman in a doubleheader. On Friday the 4th, Arkansas Tech hosts a tournament in Texas featuring Harding, Southeastern Oklahoma State and Southern Nazarene.

Henderson State and Ouachita will co-host the McGhee-Hawkins Memorial Tournament in an event also include Arkansas-Monticello and Oklahoma Baptist. The 2022 Under Armour GAC Championships take place from Thursday, May 5th through the 7th in Bentonville, Arkansas

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