Clarksville, TN – As Austin Peay State University’s softball team opens up its regular season this week, the Governors look to prove the preseason prognosticators wrong and make a run to return to post-season play.
The Govs were picked to finish 11th out of the 12 teams in the 2017 Ohio Valley Conference preseason poll, after recording a 9-38 overall record in 2016 – including a 5-22 mark in conference play.Defending regular-season and tournament champions, Jacksonville State was picked as the favorite to repeat as OVC champions in the same preseason poll, with the top eight teams in the regular-season standings making the post-season tournament field.
But the Govs enter 2017 returning 86 percent of its total offense and 67 percent of its innings pitched from last year, with 13 total lettermen back for APSU – including six seniors who come into the season with 462 career games played — including 334 of those being starts.
Among the returning seniors for Austin Peay is Clarksville’s own Rikki Arkansas – who prepped at Northeast High – who is a career .291 hitter, as well as just being outside of the school’s Top-10 in career stolen bases heading into her final campaign.
Also returning are true sophomore third baseman Danielle Liermann (Simi Valley, CA) and red-shirt sophomore outfielder Kacy Acree (Riverside, CA), who both earned All-OVC honors last season.
For Liermann, she was selected the conference’s Freshman of the Year – only the second time an Austin Peay player has won the award — while also being picked First-Team All-OVC and to the OVC All-Newcomer Team after batting .361 last year, with seven home runs and 36 RBIs
Acree joined Liermann on the All-Newcomers Team after batting .333, with six home runs, 21 RBI’s and a team-high 30 runs scored.
Other returning starters from last season are: senior outfielder Chandler Groves (.270, 3 HR, 15 RBI), junior second baseman Erica Inagaki (.108, 0 HR, 4 RBI), sophomore catcher Carly Mattson (.244, 4 HR, 13 RBI) and sophomore shortstop Kendall Vedder (.258, 0 HR, 11 RBI).
Juniors Savanna Oliver (outfield) and Alexis Hill (catcher) are also returning position player letterwinners.
In the circle, the Govs return four senior pitchers (Sidney Hooper, Christiana Gable, Allie Blackwood and Autumn Hanners), with Hanners being the team’s returning wins, strikeout and earned run leader from last year; while Hooper has the most returning career strikeouts and Blackwood the team’s returning saves leader.
Joining the softball team from Tennessee are: Kelsey Gray (catcher-outfielder/Dover), Brett Jackson (utility/Charlotte), Hannah Thompson (pitcher/Hendersonville), Drew Dudley (utility/Brentwood), Cassidy Hale (first base/Franklin) and Kelsey Gross (pitcher-first base/Collierville).
Two other utility players: Victoria Eccleston (Gilbert, AZ) and Emily Moore (Parker, CO) round out the incoming freshmen for this year’s squad.
The Govs open play February 11th at the Phyllis Rafter Memorial Tournament, hosted by Kennesaw State, with Austin Peay’s first home game at Cheryl Holt Field coming on February 21st versus Middle Tennessee.