FRISCO, Texas – For the second straight season, McNeese junior catcher Erika Piancastelli leads the Southland Conference softball players named to the preseason all-conference teams. The league announced the teams Friday.
Piancastelli – who has already been named to USA Softball’s Top 50 Player of the Year watch list – returns for her third year with the Cowgirls after a sophomore season that saw her squad hoist the 2016 Southland regular season and tournament championship. The defending back-to-back Southland Player and Hitter of the Year finished last season with a .428 batting average, a McNeese record 22 home runs, along with 62 hits and 49 RBIs.
Including Piancastelli, the 2017 Southland preseason favorite team returns five automatic selections to the preseason all-conference teams. Junior second baseman Hailey Drew and defensive player Morgan Catron round up the Cowgirls on the first team while sophomore outfielder Justyce McClain and senior outfielder Marisa Taunton claim second team honors.
Lamar leads the league in preseason all-conference first team members. Senior catcher Brynn Baca, junior outfielder Brittany Rodriguez and senior pitcher Ciara Luna were automatic selections to the teams. The Southland coaches voted junior third baseman Sable Hankins onto the team. The Cardinals – who the league coaches tabbed to finish third in the conference – also sport a second team selection in sophomore second baseman Kelly Meeuwsen.
Sophomore shortstop Amanda Gianelloni – who was awarded the conference’s Freshman of the Year accolade last season – is the lone Nicholls player on the first team. Sophomore utility player Veronica Villafranco and sophomore defensive player Gretchen Morgan were automatic selections to the second team along with sophomore pitcher Megan Landry.
The Southland preseason poll predicted runner-up Abilene Christian boasts a trio of players on the two teams. Junior pitcher Hannah Null is an automatic selection to the first team alongside senior outfielder Taylor Brown. Junior shortstop Peyton Hedrick is the lone Wildcat on the second team.
Stephen F. Austin garnered a pair of preseason all-conference selections between the two teams in senior first baseman Brittany Lewis and junior catcher Taylor Fraccastoro. 2015 Southland Pitcher of the Year Mikayla Brown of Northwestern State was voted into the second team despite missing the 2016 season due to injury. Lady Demons’ teammate, senior outfielder Kellye Kincannon, is an automatic selection to the first team. Houston Baptist, Central Arkansas and Southeastern Louisiana each had a player make the preseason second team.
Central Arkansas will begin 2017 play for Southland schools Thursday, Feb. 9 at South Alabama with a 5 p.m. CST first pitch. McNeese will also start its season the same day at 6 p.m., hosting Southern Mississippi. Conference play begins March 10.
2017 Preseason All-Southland Teams
|1B||Brittany Lewis*||Stephen F. Austin||Sr.||Allen, Texas|
|2B||Hailey Drew*||McNeese||Jr.||Fallbrook, Calif.|
|3B||Sable Hankins||Lamar||Jr.||Moore, Okla.|
|SS||Amanda Gianelloni*||Nicholls||So.||Napoleonville, La.|
|C||Brynn Baca*||Lamar||Sr.||Round Rock, Texas|
|UT||Erika Piancastelli*||McNeese||Jr.||Carlsbad, Calif.|
|DP||Morgan Catron*||McNeese||Jr.||Mineola, Texas|
|OF||Brittany Rodriguez*||Lamar||Jr.||Spring, Texas|
|OF||Taylor Brown*||Abilene Christian||Sr.||Richland Hills, Texas|
|OF||Kellye Kincannon*||Northwestern State||Sr.||Lake Jackson, Texas|
|P||Ciara Luna*||Lamar||Sr.||Seguin, Texas|
|P||Hannah Null*||Abilene Christian||Jr.||Highland Village, Texas|
|1B||Libby Brown*||Houston Baptist||Jr.||Houston, Texas|
|2B||Kelly Meeuwsen*||Lamar||So.||Hillsboro, Ore.|
|3B||Mychal Truxillo||Southeastern||Sr.||River Ridge, La.|
|SS||Peyton Hedrick*||Abilene Christian||Jr.||Forney, Texas|
|C||Taylor Fraccastoro||Stephen F. Austin||Jr.||Orange, Texas|
|UT||Veronica Villafranco*||Nicholls||So.||Spring, Texas|
|DP||Gretchen Morgan*||Nicholls||So.||Southlake, Texas|
|OF||Justyce McClain*||McNeese||So.||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|OF||Briana Whisenhunt*||Central Arkansas||Sr.||Crandall, Texas|
|OF||Marisa Taunton*||McNeese||Sr.||Beaumont, Texas|
|P||Mikayla Brown||Northwestern State||So.||Deville, La.|
|P||Megan Landry||Nicholls||So.||Pierre Part, La.|
*2016 All-Conference selection