SWAC announces All-Conference honors
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Texas Southern senior pitcher Lauren Rodriguez was named the Southwestern Athletic Conference 2018 Softball Player and Pitcher of the Year as the league announced its softball postseason honors Monday morning. The team was chosen via a vote among the conference’s head coaches and sports information directors.
Alcorn State senior infielder Taylor Hughes won Hitter of the Year accolades for the second year in a row, and fellow Lady Brave Paige Taylor received the Newcomer of the Year award. Texas Southern’s Julia Bilbao was honored as freshman of the year – the second year in a row a Lady Tigers player has garnered the award – and Alabama A&M’s Nakeya Hall was voted the SWAC Coach of the Year.
Rodriguez posted a sparkling 11-1 win-loss record for the western division champion Lady Tigers. The senior from Houston, Texas led the league in wins and earned run average (2.14). The only SWAC pitcher to average more than a strikeout per inning, Rodriguez also ranked third in opponent batting average (.225) and notched the second-most strikeouts among conference pitchers with 79.
Hughes bat .350 for the Lady Braves, posting 41 hits, 26 RBI and 21 runs scored. It was a historic season for the senior, as she set Alcorn State career records for hits and doubles. She drew a league-best 24 walks in becoming a back-to-back winner of the league’s top hitter award.
In 16 appearances – 13 starts – Taylor put up a 3-7 record with five complete games, including a no-hitter on March 22. The junior led the Lady Braves in ERA, starts and was the lone Alcorn hurler to not allow a home run this season.
Bilbao hit .324 on the season for the Lady Tigers, with 23 hits and seven doubles. She drove in 15 runs and boasted a .493 slugging percentage while stealing eight bases.
Hall led Alabama A&M to its first 20-win season of the decade. Under Hall’s guidance, the Lady Bulldogs won a share of the Eastern Division title and not only set a new benchmark in wins under her tenure (21), but the team also boasted arguably the top offense in the league. Alabama A&M leads the SWAC in batting average (.299), home runs (30), RBI (214) and team slugging percentage (.454). The Lady Bulldogs also ranked third in fielding percentage at .936 and boasted the third-lowest ERA in the conference (4.32)
Texas Southern led all teams with six All-SWAC selections. Alabama A&M and Alabama State each picked up four all-conference spots, and Alcorn State and Southern saw three players earn all-league consideration. Mississippi Valley, Prairie View, Jackson State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff each had one selection. The full team is listed below.
PLAYER/PITCHER OF THE YEAR - Lauren Rodriguez, Texas Southern
HITTER OF THE YEAR - Taylor Hughes, Alcorn State
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR - Paige Taylor, Alcorn State
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR - Julia Bilbao, Texas Southern
COACH OF THE YEAR – Nakeya Hall, Alabama A&M
ALL-SWAC SOFTBALL FIRST TEAM
1B – Taylor Hughes, Alcorn State
2B – Jocilynn Ellis, Texas Southern
3B – Kristin Gunter, Alabama State
SS – Tiana Sanders, Alabama A&M
C – Kiara Suttles, Southern
OF – Tonnay Hawkins, UAPB
OF – Sydney Andrews, Southern
OF – Mariah Ortiz, Alcorn State
DP – Charlene Castro, Alabama State
P – Lauren Rodriguez, Texas Southern
P – Jasmin Fulmore, Texas Southern
P – Crystal Castillo, Prairie View A&M
ALL-SWAC SOFTBALL SECOND TEAM
1B – Sierra Valdez, Texas Southern
2B – Tamia-Lee Barbadillo, Alabama A&M
3B – Ariel Smith, Alabama A&M
SS – Dominique Tello, Texas Southern
C – Marissa Padron, Texas Southern
OF – Kelsey Smith, Jackson State
OF – Kailyn Dunn, Mississippi Valley State
OF – Amira James, Alabama State
DP – Jazmine Dukes, Southern
P – Justine Jean, Alabama State
P – Winter Ridgeway, Alcorn State
P – Lauren Hayden, Alabama A&M