Liberty was predicted first in the 2020 ASUN Softball Coaches Poll.
ASUN Release For the second year in a row, Liberty was voted as the favorite to win the ASUN Conference championship 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.
Liberty seniors Amber Bishop and Autumn Bishop, along with junior Madison Via, were all named to the ASUN Preseason All-Conference team. The Lady Flames lead all ASUN schools with three preseason all-conference honorees.
Liberty, which led the ASUN standings for a majority of its first season in the conference, finished second last year with a 16-5 record in conference play. The Lady Flames earned the top spot in the 2020 ASUN Preseason Coaches Poll with 57 points, receiving three first place votes. This is the second time in program history in which Liberty has been voted first in the preseason poll.
Last year's ASUN regular-season and tournament champion Lipscomb is listed second on the poll with 54 points, including two first-place votes. FGCU (one first-place vote) edged out North Alabama (two first-place votes) for third, as the Eagles recorded 46 points compared to 45 for the Lions.
Kennesaw State (29 points) sits fifth, followed by North Florida (27) in sixth, while Jacksonville and Stetson share seventh place with 15 points each.
Hailing from Murrieta, Calif., Amber Bishop is one of two players in program history to be named NFCA All-Region three times, including first-team mention last year. In 2019, she led the Lady Flames in batting average (.355) while pacing the conference in slugging percentage (.626), homers (13) and hits (72). A three-time first team all-conference player, she led the team with 23 multiple-hit games last season.
Autumn Bishop was named first team all-conference for the third year in a row last season. She batted .352 with eight doubles, two homers, 32 RBI and 35 runs scored in 2019, leading the team with 29 walks and a conference-best .459 on-base percentage. At her best down the stretch, she joined her sister on the NISC All-Tournament Team for both the Regional and National rounds.
A native of Roanoke, Va., Via was named an all-conference performer as both a freshman and sophomore. Last season, she batted a career-best .323 with seven doubles, five triples, four homers, 22 RBI, 42 runs (tied for team high), a .502 slugging percentage and a team-best 10 stolen bases. Via hit .500 during the NISC Lynchburg Regional, earning a place on the NISC Regional All-Tournament Team.
The Lady Flames went 40-22 last year, earning the program's second NISC Regional title while sweeping the Lynchburg Regional. Liberty qualified for the postseason for the third straight year and posted its third straight postseason appearance. Returning all-conference players include Amber Bishop, Autumn Bishop and Madison Via, while a strong incoming class looks to aid Liberty's continued success.
A challenging schedule awaits, beginning with the NFCA Leadoff Classic from Feb. 7-9 in Clearwater, Fla. Liberty's first ASUN series will take place at home against Kennesaw State, March 21-22.
The top six teams in the conference standings at the end of the regular season will compete in the 2020 ASUN Softball Championship, hosted for the first time by Liberty, from May 5-9 at Liberty Softball Stadium. The ASUN tournament champion will earn the conference's automatic bid to the 2020 NCAA Division I Softball Championship.
2020 ASUN Conference Preseason Softball Poll Team (First-place votes) – Points 1. Liberty (3) 57 2. Lipscomb (2) 54 3. FGCU (1) 46 4. North Alabama (2) 45 5. Kennesaw State 29 6. North Florida 27 7. Jacksonville 15 7. Stetson 15
2020 Preseason All-ASUN Team Megan Garst, North Alabama, Sr., P Marissa Mesiemore, FGCU, Jr., P Blake Crews, Stetson, Sr., C Hannah DeVault, Lipscomb, Sr., INF Amber Bishop, Liberty, Sr., INF Autumn Bishop, Liberty, Sr., INF Reedy Davenport, FGCU, So., INF Kassidy Cross, Jacksonville, Sr., OF Madison Via, Liberty, Jr., OF Elizabeth Jackson, Stetson, Sr., OF Jade Lee, Kennesaw State, Sr., UT/DP
Preseason Player of the Year: Hannah DeVault, Lipscomb Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Hannah DeVault, Lipscomb Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Megan Garst, North Alabama
Fan-Voted Preseason Player of the Year: Kassidy Cross, Jacksonville Fan-Voted Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Kayla McGory, North Florida Fan-Voted Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Marissa Mesiemore, FGCU
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