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Courtesy: Sidney Jackson / Alabama A&M

2018 Softball Preview: Mississippi Valley State

Courtesy: SWAC.org
Release: 02/07/2018
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2017 Result: 13-33 (8-10 SWAC), lost in opening round of SWAC Softball Tournament
Key Returners: UTL Dejanae Gage, UTL Lexany Terrones, OF Kailyn Dunn 
Key Losses: IF Deja Talton, OF Holly Brown, P Rebekah Clinton

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Usually a contender year in and year out, the Mississippi Valley State Devilettes enter 2018 looking to remain in championship conversation.

However, the Devilettes have the unenviable task of withstanding the graduations of two of its best hitters in Deja Talton and Holly Brown. Given that Mississippi Valley struggled at the plate – its .249 batting average was lowest in the league among team ranks – it behooves longtime coach Lee Smith to shore up the hitting order if the Devilettes want to make some noise in the Eastern divisional race and beyond.

Not all is lost for Mississippi Valley, however. With the projected return of junior Dejanae Gage and sophomore Lexany Terrones, the Devilettes have two bats around which a solid lineup can be constructed. Gage hit .319 with 36 hits, 22 runs scored and 17 RBI, flashing as a bonafide big bat with six doubles, two triples and three home runs and announcing herself as the most likely candidate to anchor the heart of the order.

Terrones had a standout freshman campaign, hitting .298 with 39 hits, 17 runs scored and 17 RBI. Like Gage, she showed some pop with four doubles, three home runs and two triples. The key will be for teammates to raise their production to supplement the offense and ensure that teams cannot pitch around the aformentioned tandem.

To that end, the Devilettes look for improvement from the likes of redshirt senior infielder Ikeyia Alexander, who slumped considerably from her sophomore campaign where she showed capabilities as a power hitter, and senior outfielder Jordan Brown. Brown collected 27 hits last season, with more than a third of them being of the extra base variety (10).

Additionally, the Devilettes hope that junior outfielder Kailyn Dunn -- who posted a .383 batting average while collecting 54 hits, scoring 31 runs, driving in 23 RBI and raking 11 extra-base hits during a fabulous freshman year -- can recapture her 2016 form after a significant sophomore slump last season. In all, the Devilettes have the potential to field an explosive lineup, but there has to be more consistency to avoid a “boom or bust” mentality at the plate.

In the circle, Mississippi Valley must replace second-team All-SWAC hurler Rebekah Clinton, who led the team in wins, ERA, innings worked and strikeouts. Monica Rivera and Chandler Ellis must step up as serviceable options to lead the pitching staff. Newcomer Alejandra Salazar is a name to watch as well, as she comes in from Jarvis Christian College where she went 7-12 with a 5.30 ERA. Salazar has experience going against SWAC opponents so the transition shouldn't be too difficult.

Mississippi Valley State opens the season versus Missouri State on Feb. 9 at Mississippi State’s Bulldog Kickoff Classic in Starkville, Miss.