Valdosta State Picked to Finish First in GSC Preseason Poll

| January 21, 2016
source: VStateBlazers.com

source: VStateBlazers.com

Caitlyn Calhoun, Jaime Phillips, and Kiley Rusen were each placed on the 2016 Preseason All-GSC Team

VALDOSTA, Ga. – In a preseason poll of coaches throughout the Gulf South Conference, Caitlyn Calhoun, Jaime Phillips, and Kiley Rusen were all selected to represent the Valdosta State softball team as members of the 2016 Preseason All-GSC Team. In addition, the No. 12 ranked Blazers have been predicted to top the conference standings at the conclusion of the 2016 regular season.

Calhoun secured a spot on the preseason All-GSC Team following a 2015 season in which the Hamilton, Ohio native posted one of the most outstanding pitching efforts in Valdosta State history. During her junior campaign, Calhoun led the nation in shutouts with 19, and her four shutouts set a new GSC single season mark. The righty finished the year with a 28-5 overall record and a sparkling 1.33 ERA.

Phillips, an All-American returner from Shalimar, Fla., joins Calhoun as one of Head Coach Thomas Macera’s five seniors in 2016. Wednesday’s preseason honor marks the first of Phillips’ career and comes on the heels of a junior season in which she closed out the year as the GSC’s top home run hitter. The shortstop belted 17 homers in 2015 and closed out the season tied for fourth place in the league with 49 RBI’s.

The third and final selection for the 2016 preseason All-GSC team was Rusen, who finished her junior season in 2015 among the GSC top ten in batting average (.394, 5th), slugging percentage (.619, 8th), on base percentage (.503, 2nd), hits (61, 8th), RBI’s (47, 7th), and home runs (10, Tied for 6th).

The release from the GSC on Wednesday indicated that the Blazers received four first place votes along with five second place votes and one third place vote in the poll. Macera’s club will be gunning for their seventh GSC Championship in eight years, and will enter the season with their eyes on a return trip to the Division II Softball National Tournament, where the Blazers have made an appearance in three of the last four seasons.

Landing in the second position was Alabama-Huntsville with three first place votes, two second place votes, four third place votes, and one fourth place tally. Shorter, who enters 2016 as the defending GSC Champions, found a steady position in the third spot with three first place votes, one second place vote, five third place votes, and one vote for fourth place. North Alabama was picked to finish fourth, followed by Lee, Delta State, and Union in fourth, fifth, and sixth place, respectively. West Alabama, West Florida, West Georgia, and Christian Brothers rounded out the preseason standings in seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth place, respectively.

The GSC release also highlighted top newcomers in the conference and included Tara McIntyre and Hayley Cruthers. Cruthers, a transfer from Ball State, is one of several newcomers to join the squad in 2016 and is expected to be an impact player in the outfield for the red and black. McIntyre hails from Wheatland, Calif. and joins the Blazer infield contingent.

The Blazers are wrapping up their second week of preseason practice and are prepared to kick off the season on January 30th in a tournament in Columbus, Ga., where VSU is scheduled to face Augusta State at 1:30 p.m.

Also, don’t miss the annual Blazer Blast with both the baseball and softball teams this Sunday, January 24th, at 1:00 p.m. at Billy Grant Field and Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park.

VStateBlazers.com

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