Childers Unanimous A-Sun Preseason All-Conference Selection, Spartans Picked to Finish Second
Spartanburg, S.C. – USC Upstate senior pitcher Morgan Childers has earned plenty of honors throughout her career as a Spartan. On Thursday, she picked up another award as a unanimous selection to the A-Sun Preseason All-Conference team as part of the preseason coaches poll and individual awards released by the conference on Thursday.
Childers, from Kings Mountain, N.C., was one of four players who were unanimous selections on the preseason all-conference team, joining Lipscomb's Whitney Kiihnl, Courtney Billington and Mollie Mitchell. Kiihnl was named the league's preseason pitcher of the year and Kennesaw State's Jessica Cross was named the preseason player of the year. Childers was the only Upstate player named to the preseason all-conference team.
"Morgan has been the catalyst for our team over the last three years and is a big part of the reason for the amount of success we have had," said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. "She is much deserving of this honor."
Upstate garnered two first-place votes and finished second in the poll with 100 points. Lipscomb, which won the regular season and A-Sun Tournament titles a year ago, claimed top honors in the poll. The Lady Bisons picked up eight first-place votes and 118 points. Kennesaw State also earned a first-place vote and finished third in the poll with 94 points, six points back of Upstate. Florida Gulf Coast was fourth with 89 points and was followed by Jacksonville (70), Stetson (68), Campbell (59), Mercer (49), North Florida (39), ETSU (23) and Belmont (17).
"It definitely shows the progress we have made since making the transition to Division I and the amount of respect that we have gotten as a program," said Hawkins. "I hope we can live up to the expectations. I know we are working hard every day to work on things and get better to not only live up to the expectations placed on us by others, but to reach the goals we have set for ourselves."
Lipscomb was also picked to win defend its a-Sun Tournament championship as the preseason favorite to claim the title. The A-Sun Tournament will be hosted by Upstate at Cyrill Stadium May 11-14, the first of two-straight years the event will be played in Spartanburg. Upstate advanced to the championship game of the A-Sun Tournament a year ago before settling for second place. The Spartans ended the 2010 season with a 41-15 record.
Childers battled Kiihnl for supremacy in the circle in both the A-Sun and in the national spotlight a year ago. She led the A-Sun with 34 wins, 428 strikeouts, 107 batters struck out looking, 37 starts and 270.2 innings pitched. She also ranked among the nation's leaders in six statistical categories, finishing in the top five in four categories. She ranked second in the country with a 1.01 ERA, third with 3.23 hits per game, and fourth with 16 shutouts and 428 strikeouts. She also finished seventh with 34 wins.
Childers is Upstate's career leader in wins (84), strikeouts (963), batters struck out looking (240), shutouts (32), opponent batting average (.162), appearances (122) and innings pitched (693.2). She ranks in the top four in six other categories. She also owns 10 single-season school records and the single-game school record with 18 strikeouts.
Upstate had another strong season in 2010, finishing with a Division I school record 41 wins. In just three seasons in the A-Sun, Upstate has claimed one regular season championship (2008, co-champions) and played for the conference tournament title (2010). The Spartans have combined for 104 wins, an average of just under 35 per year. Upstate has also won 38 conference games in three seasons, an average of just under 13 per season.
Upstate not only qualified for the six-team A-Sun Tournament in its first year of eligibility in the event in 2010, but advanced to the championship game. Childers had a tremendous season for the Spartans and was named a first team all-conference selection. Katie Zauner (Canby, ore.) also earned all-conference honors, while Ericka Harris (Piedmont, S.C.) was an all-freshman team selection.
The 2011 Spartans return a veteran squad to the team. Starters return at seven positions, led by seniors Kim Brasil (Mississauga, Ontario), who was an A-Sun All-Tournament selection, in left field, Childers, who was an all-tournament selection, in the circle, Cheyanna Ohlrich (North Bend, Ore.) at shortstop, Lauren Quevedo (Wellington, Fla.), who was an all-tournament selection, at first and Zauner in center. Fellow senior Jenna Torbert (Denver, N.C.) is expected to play an increased role this season.
Other returning starters include Harris behind the plate and Janna Lewis (Huntersville, N.C.) at second. In addition to the veteran group, Hawkins brought depth into the program with six new players who are all expected to push for playing time and, in some spots, battle for starting positions.
Upstate opens the season next weekend at the Palmetto State Showdown hosted by South Carolina in Columbia. Upstate will play Coastal Carolina on Feb. 11 at 5:00 p.m. and will also take on Charleston Southern (Feb. 12), Winthrop (Feb. 13) and South Carolina (Feb. 13) in the tournament.
2011 A-Sun Preseason All-Conference Team
Player of the Year: Jessica Cross, Kennesaw State
Pitcher of the Year: Whitney Kiihnl, Lipscomb
Catcher – Mollie Mitchell, Lipscomb
Infield - Courtney Billington, Lipscomb
Infield - Chelsea Trotto, Stetson
Infield - Ashley Burkett, Kennesaw State
Infield - Katie Kelly, Jacksonville
Outfield – Kayla Ouellet, Jacksonville
Outfield - Sarah Forgacs, Campbell
Outfield - Courtney Platt, Florida Gulf Coast
Designated Player – Jessica Cross, Kennesaw State
Pitcher – Morgan Childers, Upstate
Pitcher - Whitney Kiihnl, Lipscomb
2001 A-Sun Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Lipscomb (8) - 118 points
2. Upstate (2) - 100 points
3. Kennesaw State (1) - 94 points
4. Florida Gulf Coast - 89 points
5. Jacksonville - 70 points
6. Stetson - 68 points
7. Campbell - 59 points
8. Mercer - 49 points
9. North Florida - 39 points
10. ETSU - 23 points
11. Belmont - 17 points
Tournament Champion: Lipscomb (7 votes)