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Pioneers selected fifth in SAC preseason poll

Burke, Johnson named second-team All-Conference

ROCK HILL, S.C. --- The Tusculum College softball team was picked to finish fifth in the 2012 South Atlantic Conference preseason coaches poll, as voted upon by the league's 10 head coaches and released Thursday.

The Pioneers placed two players on the preseason All-Conference Team. Senior outfielder Ashley Burke and junior pitcher Elizabeth Johnson were named to the second team after leading Tusculum to a 32-17 overall record and a share of fourth place in the SAC with an 11-7 league mark in 2011.

The Pioneers defeated three nationally-ranked teams during the 2011 season, including wins over NCAA Division II runner-up Alabama-Huntsville and second-ranked North Georgia, a victory which snapped the Saints' 40-game home winning streak.

Six starters return to the lineup for the Pioneers in 2012, led by Burke who batted .292 with two home runs and a team-high 30 runs batted in. In 123 games over three seasons, Burke has a .266 career batting average with two homers, 48 runs batted in and 46 runs scored.

Johnson enjoyed a stellar sophomore season for the Pioneers, going 17-5 with a SAC-leading 1.16 earned run average that was good for 14th in the final NCAA Division II statistics. She threw 19 complete games in 24 starts, including seven shutouts, and tossed the first perfect game in program history with a 3-0 win over Virginia-Wise on March 2.

Defending SAC regular-season and tournament champion Lenoir-Rhyne earned nine of 10 first-place votes in the poll and grabbed the top spot in the rankings with 99 points. Carson-Newman was second with 84 points, followed by Wingate (77), Catawba (71) and Tusculum (57) in the top five. Lincoln Memorial, which took the other first-place vote, was sixth with 48 points and was followed by Anderson (37), Mars Hill (34), Newberry (25) and Brevard (18).

The Pioneers open their 2012 season on Saturday, Feb. 11 at the North Georgia Classic with games against Bellarmine and North Georgia. Tusculum's home opener is set for Wednesday, Feb. 15 against Milligan and their conference opener is Sunday, March 11 at Newberry.

Tusculum will be the site for the annual Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament, which will be held April 19-22 at Red Edmonds Field.

- SAC -

2012 SAC Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll
Team                   Pts (1st)
1. Lenoir-Rhyne        99 (9)
2. Carson-Newman       84
3. Wingate             77
4. Catawba             71
5. Tusculum            57
6. Lincoln Memorial    48 (1)
7. Anderson            37
8. Mars Hill           34
9. Newberry            25
10. Brevard            18

2012 SAC Softball Preseason All-Conference Team
First Team
C – Brianna Shoemake, Carson-Newman
P – Mary Shealy, Carson-Newman
P – Dawon Millwood, Lenoir-Rhyne
1B – Jessica Fellmeth, Lenoir-Rhyne
2B – Carlee Carpenter, Lenoir-Rhyne
SS – Abby Child, Anderson
3B – Natalie Haithcox, Mars Hill
OF – Brianna Mulkey, Lincoln Memorial
OF – Jody Mizelle, Lenoir-Rhyne
OF – Kim Whaley, Carson-Newman
Utility – Kayla Myers, Catawba
DP – Amber Duncan, Anderson

Second Team
C – Brittany Barrineau, Wingate
P – Emily Huneycutt, Catawba
P – Elizabeth Johnson, Tusculum
1B – Allison Justice, Catawba
2B – Ashley Roof, Newberry
SS – Bridget Eicher, Lincoln Memorial
3B – Haily Jarman, Lenoir-Rhyne
OF – Ashley McCurry, Mars Hill
OF – Ashley Burke, Tusculum
OF – Brittany Fowler, Brevard
Utility – Chelsi Mallory, Brevard
DP – Emily Boykin, Brevard

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