Sanders, Rupp earn top individual softball honors in Sun Belt

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NEW ORLEANS – The Sun Belt Conference announced its softball all-conference honorees and individual awards on Tuesday night with Louisiana junior DJ Sanders and Texas State junior Randi Rupp claiming the top honors as the league’s Player and Pitcher of the Year.

The all-conference teams and individual awards were voted on by the Sun Belt Conference’s 10 softball head coaches.

Louisiana pitcher Alyssa Denham won the Freshman of the Year award and Georgia State junior Kinsley Jennings earned the Newcomer of the Year award. Louisiana head coach Michael Lotief earned the Coach of the Year award for the fourth consecutive year.

Sanders, a finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year award, led the nation in runs per game (1.42), home runs (28), home runs per game (0.58), RBI (73), RBI per game (1.52), total bases (149) and slugging percentage (1.088). Sanders is just one of five student-athletes nationally with 20-plus home runs and the only one to reach 70 RBI by May 1. She tied the NCAA single-season record for grand slams with six and established new career-high totals for runs, hits, extra base hits and RBI. Defensively, the shortstop made just one error in Sun Belt play in more than 65 chances.

Rupp, the Sun Belt Preseason Pitcher of the Year, led the Sun Belt in innings pitched (226.1), ERA (1.08, 14th nationally), strikeouts (297, 5th nationally) and wins (25, 7th nationally). She was a four-time Community Coffee Pitcher of the Week honoree during the season and earned NFCA and ESPNW National Player of the Week recognition on Apr. 11. Rupp set a new single-game career high with 15 strikeouts against Troy on Apr. 30.

Denham ranked in the Top 10 in the Sun Belt in wins (15), opponent’s batting average (.202) and ERA (2.21). She is a Top 25 finalist for the NFCA Freshman of the Year. She owns wins over two Top-5 ranked opponents with a two-hit shutout against No. 4 Alabama and a four inning, two-run effort at No. 4 Texas A&M. She held all Sun Belt teams to three earned runs or less in 11 appearances (8 starts). Denham earned the Community Coffee Pitcher of the Week award on Apr. 18 after she tossed 14 innings and limited Texas State to two runs on six hits in a series win.

Jennings earned the Newcomer of the Year award given to the top non-freshman student-athlete in their first year of competition with their team. She tied for fourth in the league with 17 wins this season and tossed four complete games. She tied for second in the league in saves (3) and 10th in strikeouts (82). Jennings also has one home run and four hits in 11 at bats.

The 2017 Softball Championship begins on Wednesday, May 10, with the championship game on Saturday, May 13. All games of the tournament will be available on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. The tournament format combines single and double-elimination play. Two single elimination first round games on Wednesday precede the start of double elimination play between the remaining six teams. The top (8) teams, based on conference winning percentage will compete for the tournament title.

The tournament begins with single elimination games between No. 5 seed UTA (29-24, 14-13) and No. 8 seed Coastal Carolina (32-22, 10-16) at 10 a.m. CT and No. 6 seed Georgia Southern (24-28, 12-15) and No. 7 seed ULM (29-26, 11-16) at 12:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday.
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First Team All-Sun Belt
Devin Brown (South Alabama, Junior, P, Graphic Design)
Alyssa Denham (Louisiana, Freshman, P, Kinesiology)
Randi Rupp (Texas State, Junior, P, Management)
Alex Stewart (Louisiana, Senior, P, Mathematics/Finance)
Ivie Drake (Georgia State, Junior, C, Early Childhood Education)
Haley Hayden (Louisiana, Senior, 1B, Exercise Science)
Kaleigh Todd (South Alabama, Junior, 2B, Education)
Becca Hartley (Troy, Senior, SS, Accounting)
Ariel Ortiz (Texas State, Junior, SS, Management)
DJ Sanders (Louisiana, Junior, SS, Exercise Science)
Kara Gremillion (Louisiana, Sophomore, 3B, Exercise Science)
Aleah Craighton (Louisiana, Junior, OF, Biology/Pre-Med)
Taty Forbes (Coastal Carolina, Sophomore, OF)
Megan Litumbe (Georgia State, RS Junior, OF, Human Learning and Development)
Emily Snider (Georgia Southern, Senior, OF, Accounting)

Second Team All-Sun Belt
Sam Clakley (UTA, Sophomore, P, Kinesiology)
Kinsley Jennings (Georgia State, Junior, P)
Dixie Raley (Georgia Southern, Sophomore, P, Public Relations)
Destin Vicknair (South Alabama, Senior, P, Interdisciplinary Studies)
Lexie Comeaux (Louisiana, Sophomore, C, General Studies)
Aileen Garcia (UTA, Freshman, 1B, Mechanical Engineering)
Sandra Mendoza (UTA, Junior, 2B, Kinesiology)
Kassidy Zeringue (Louisana, Senior, 2B, Exercise Science)
Kristian Foster (South Alabama, Junior, SS, Exercise Science)
Kensey Caldwell (Georgia State, Senior, 3B, Human Learning and Development)
Morgan Brown (Georgia State, Senior, OF, Marketing)
Mekhia Freeman (Georgia Southern, Freshman, OF, Human Resource Management)
Sydney McKay (ULM, Sophomore, OF, Accounting)
Amanda Minahan (South Alabama, Senior, OF, Exercise Science)
Krista Rude (UTA, Sophomore, OF, Education)

Player of the Year
DJ Sanders (Louisiana, Junior, SS, Exercise Science)
Pitcher of the Year
Randi Rupp (Texas State, Junior, Management)
Freshman of the Year
Alyssa Denham (Louisiana, P, Kinesiology)
Newcomer of the Year
Kinsley Jennings (Georgia State, Junior, P)
Coach of the Year
Michael Lotief, Louisiana

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