Coming off a 40-win season that included a postseason berth plus a solid nucleus returning, Kennesaw State was picked to finish first in the 2018 ASUN Conference Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll that was released on Wednesday (Jan. 17).
The Owls, who received four first-place votes and totaled 46 points to finish ahead of defending conference champion USC Upstate (43 points, 2 first-place votes), garnered the top spot in the poll for the first time since joining the ASUN Conference for the 2006 season. KSU was ranked second in the preseason coaches’ poll on three different occasions (2007, 2008, 2013).
“It’s nice to be recognized for the direction we’re trying to get this program pointed in but we need to keep our focus on getting better every day,” second-year head coach Pete D’Amour said. “We’re pleased with the work our players put in over break, and we’re ready to get the season rolling and see how it goes.”
Kennesaw State returns 13 letter winners, including six starters from last year’s team that posted a 40-20 record, finished second in the ASUN Conference and advanced to the National Invitational Softball Championship (NISC). The Owls return five players who received ASUN postseason accolades last season, including Alley Cutting, who was named Freshman of the Year.
Cutting was named ASUN Preseason Co-Pitcher of the Year, along with Lipscomb’s Mandy Jordan, and selected to the all-conference team. She was also named the ASUN’s Preseason Pitcher of the Year in a vote by the fans.
“We’re excited about the preseason award for Alley. She has worked extremely hard and really latched on to (pitching coach) Doug’s (Gillis) coaching,” D’Amour said. “We’re looking forward to her continuing to get better and better not only this year but in the years ahead.”
Cutting posted a 20-10 record, 2.19 ERA, 16 complete games and two saves while making 38 appearances, including 31 starts. She worked 201 1/3 innings, allowed 63 earned runs, walked 49 and struck out 186 batters en route to earning first team All-ASUN Conference honors.
Kennesaw State also returns a talented group of outfielders that includes senior Noelle Winkles (.360, 8 HR, 41 RBI) junior Hannah Thomason (.354, 47 R, 33 SB) and sophomore Olivia Tamewitz (.342, 31 RBI, 19 SB). All three players earned second team All-ASUN Conference recognition last season. Sophomore utility player Katey Lynch (.285, 4 HR, 28 RBI) also returns after garnering all-freshman team honors.
Cutting becomes KSU’s second ASUN Preseason Pitcher of the Year, joining Brittany Matthews, who received the recognition in 2008. The Owls have had two preseason Players of the Year, Keri McKee (2007) and Jessica Cross (2011), and one preseason Defensive Player of the Year (Kara Chambers, 2015).
Kennesaw State, which began practice on Monday (Jan. 15), opens its 2018 season Feb. 9 at the Southeastern Louisiana Tournament in Hammond, La. Arkansas, which reached the NCAA Tournament last season, will serve as the Owls’ Opening Day opponent.
KSU makes its home debut Feb. 23 when it hosts Rutgers during the first day of the Bobbie Bailey Memorial Tournament at Bailey Park. The two teams will play a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. Admission to all home games is free.