Official ASUN Release Conference newcomer Liberty was voted the favorite to win the ASUN Conference title in the ASUN Preseason Softball Poll, released Wednesday by the league office. The poll was voted on by all eight of the conference's head coaches. Additionally, Liberty junior Autumn Bishop was tabbed as ASUN Preseason Player of the Year and senior Julia DiMartino was named ASUN Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
DiMartino, Autumn Bishop and Amber Bishop all represent Liberty on the ASUN Preseason All-Conference team. Liberty and FGCU lead the ASUN with three preseason all-conference selections each.
Defending Big South champion and NCAA Regional finalist Liberty earned the top spot in the 2019 ASUN Preseason Coaches Poll with 61 points, receiving five first-place votes. This is the first time in program history that Liberty softball has been voted first in a preseason poll, as the Lady Flames were picked second in the Big South in 2000, 2001, 2011, 2012, 2017 and 2018.
After Liberty, 2018 ASUN regular-season runner-up FGCU was voted second with 56 points, and two first-place votes. Last year's ASUN champion Kennesaw State was selected third in preseason voting with 47 points and one first-place mention. Lipscomb followed in fourth with 44 points.
North Florida was picked fifth after receiving 24 points, followed in sixth through eighth, respectively, by Jacksonville (22), North Alabama (20) and Stetson (14).
It is also the second year in a row that Liberty has had players selected the conference's preseason pitcher of the year and preseason player of the year, as DiMartino and Amber Bishop were honored by the Big South coaches last year.
Autumn Bishop had a standout sophomore campaign, being named to the NFCA All-Mid-Atlantic Region team for the second year while also earning her second Big South All-Conference first team selection. She batted .365, with a program-record 25 doubles which ranked second in the nation. Bishop also tied for the national lead with a school-record seven sacrifice flies. The first baseman dominated at the Big South Softball Championship, being voted the Big South Tournament MVP.
DiMartino, a two-time Big South Pitcher of the Year and 2018 ECAC and VaSID All-State Pitcher of the Year, dominated in the circle as a junior. A 2018 NFCA All-Mid-Atlantic Region first team pitcher, DiMartino went 29-8 with a 1.72 ERA, 10 shutouts, six saves, 230 strikeouts and a .198 opponents batting average last year. She set program single-season records for wins, shutouts, saves and strikeouts in 2018, and is already the program career record holder in victories (68), shutouts (24) and strikeouts (592).
Amber Bishop was named to the NFCA All-Region first team in 2018, also receiving her second straight Big South All-Conference first team award. She tied for the team lead with a .365 batting average, and led the Lady Flames in homers (11), RBI (42) and slugging percentage (.644). The second baseman finished the season tied for eighth in the nation with 21 doubles and 20th nationally with 76 hits.
The Lady Flames return eight all-conference players from last year's team which went 49-14, setting numerous program records including most victories in a season. Liberty swept through the Big South Softball Championship and won its first two games at the NCAA Columbia Regional.
Liberty begins its 2019 schedule at the Puerto Vallarta Challenge, Feb. 8-10. The Lady Flames' first conference series will be March 15-16, when they play at defending ASUN champion Kennesaw State. Liberty hosts Lipscomb on March 23-24 for its first-ever ASUN home series.
The top six teams in the conference standings at the end of the regular season will compete in the 2019 ASUN Softball Championship, hosted by FGCU, from May 8-11 in Fort Myers, Fla. The ASUN champion will earn the conference's automatic bid to the 2019 NCAA Division I Softball Championship, which will begin the weekend of May 19.
2019 ASUN Conference Preseason Softball Poll Team (First-place votes) – Points 1. Liberty (5) 61 2. FGCU (2) 56 3. Kennesaw State (1) 47 4. Lipscomb 44 5. North Florida 24 6. Jacksonville 22 7. North Alabama 20 8. Stetson 14
2019 Preseason All-ASUN Team Julia DiMartino, Liberty, Sr., P* Riley Randolph, FGCU, Sr., P* Lexi Solorzano, Kennesaw State, So., C* Raquel Fournet, FGCU, Sr., INF Amber Bishop, Liberty, Jr., INF Autumn Bishop, Liberty, Jr., INF Navia Penrod, North Florida, Sr., INF Kira Czyrklis, Kennesaw State, Sr., OF Caitlin Turner, Lipscomb, So., OF Dominica Cocuzza, North Florida, Sr., OF Maddie Roth, Kennesaw State, Sr., UT * Denotes unanimous selection to preseason team
Preseason Player of the Year: Autumn Bishop, Liberty Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Hannah DeVault, Lipscomb Unanimous Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Julia DiMartino, Liberty
Fan-Voted Preseason Player of the Year: Hannah Shollenberger, North Alabama Fan-Voted Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Alex Brown, North Alabama Fan-Voted Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Alyssa Bilodeau, Jacksonville
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