2018 Softball Preview: Alcorn State
2017 Result: 16-31 (13-5 SWAC), Won Eastern Division, Lost in opening round of SWAC Softball Tournament
Key Returners: INF Taylor Hughes, P Robin Harrison, OF Mariah Ortiz, INF Victoria Tyler
Key Losses: C Jessica Crum, INF Sametria Collins
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After running away with the SWAC Eastern Division in 2017, Alcorn State fell victim to a late-season slump that culminated in a surprising exit during the first round of the SWAC softball tournament.
With plenty of key returners and motivation from last season’s sour ending, the Lady Braves eye a successful defense of their division crown and ultimately, a conference title.
Coach Josef Rankin, who has transformed the Alcorn softball program over the past three seasons, has the luxury of returning 2017 SWAC Player and Hitter of the Year Taylor Hughes.
The senior infielder hit at a stellar .404 with 59 hits, 38 runs scored and 37 RBI while leading the conference in on-base percentage (.491) and doubles (17). The 2018 Preseason Player of the Year as well, Hughes should be one of the premier offensive players in the conference again this season.
Helping to flesh things out at the plate will be senior Mariah Ortiz and junior Victoria Tyler. Ortiz flirted with a .300 batting line, turning in a solid season of a .299 hitting average to go with 44 hits and 37 runs scored. Ortiz also drove in 12 runs, hitting five doubles and four triples. Tyler drove in 22 runs with 37 hits, batting .276 on the 2017 campaign with seven doubles and two home runs.
It’s expected that Ortiz and Tyler will have an uptick in their production as well, and it will be needed as the Lady Braves must replace the production of Sametria Collins, who was one of the team’s best run scorers.
A potential area to watch is the emergence of a big bat to tie together what otherwise stands as a solid hitting order, as Alcorn State will not return its leading home-run hitter and run-producer. A newcomer is likely to fill that role, with Taja Landry as a potential name to watch.
In the circle, there isn’t expected to be much change. 2017 second-team All-SWAC hurler Robin Harrison (6-9, 4.77 ERA, 55 K) returns to anchor the staff, and Ambria Dorsey’s extensive work in her freshman season (3-9, 26 K) may help her develop into a reliable second option for Rankin’s pitching corps.
Alcorn State opens the season on Feb. 13 in doubleheader action at Southern Miss.