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Softball: Sanders and Craighton Named First Team All-Americans

Junior shortstop DJ Sanders and junior outfielder Aleah Craighton represent the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns on the 2017 NFCA Division I All-America First Team


LAFAYETTE – Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball shortstop DJ Sanders and outfielder Aleah Craighton were both named to the 2017 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I All-America First Team, the Association announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Sanders picked up her first career All-American honor on the strength of leading the nation in home runs and every major statistical category along with her finest season defensively.
Craighton, a second-team honoree in 2016, was an All-American choice for the second straight season after delivering a third straight season of double digit home runs and 40-plus RBI.
"What a great honor, not only for DJ and Aleah, but for ‘Us’," Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball head coach Michael Lotief stated. "We are extremely proud of how they earned it: by dealing with and overcoming adversity, daring greatly and striving valiantly, being a soldier day-by-day, and always pushing harder to improve each and every day.
"We also recognize what they both represent besides being great athletes or hitting home runs: their compassion for others, the humility and grace with which they compete, never arrogant or seeking the spotlight and the excellence they pursue in the classroom and their faith and resolve to our Cajun values," Lotief added. "They are truly All-Americans and we’re so grateful to this community and our University family for nurturing, loving and supporting ‘Us’ as we continue to chase our dreams."
The Ragin’ Cajuns had multiple All-American selections for the seventh consecutive season (2011-17) and joined Arizona, Florida, Florida State, LSU and Minnesota as the only schools with multiple first team recipients.
It’s the 16th time overall that Louisiana has produced multiple All-Americans in a single season.
The last time the Ragin’ Cajuns had two first team All-Americans in the same season was in 1995 when Cheryl Longeway and Kathy Morton received the distinction.
The selection of Sanders and Craighton to the 2017 NFCA Division I All-America team increases the total number of All-American selections in Ragin’ Cajuns Softball history to 53.
Adding Sanders to the list with her first career All-American selection, there are now 32 different individuals that have been bestowed All-American honors in Ragin’ Cajuns Softball history. The program has had at least one individual named to the All-America team in 26 of the past 29 seasons (since 1989).
Sanders becomes the first shortstop in program history to earn first team All-American status. Craighton adds her name to a prestigious list of Ragin’ Cajuns outfielders to earn first team recognition: Dorsey Steamer (1992), Kathy Morton (1994, 1995), Tiffany Clark (2000), Danyele Gomez (2006), Holly Tankersley (2008) and Christi Orgeron (2012).
Sanders and Craighton were both named to the NFCA All-Central Region First Team back on May 18 which made them eligible for All-American honors.
A Top 10 finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year and Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Sanders led the nation in runs per game, home runs, home runs per game, RBI, RBI per game, total bases and slugging percentage at the completion of regular season play. Defensively, she committed only one error in Sun Belt play over 72 chances and just seven the entire season through 154 total chances.
The Columbus, Miss., product finished her junior campaign hitting a team-and career-best .388 with career-high totals in home runs (29) and RBI (82). Nearly half of her 62 hits produced were home runs, she recorded seven games of multiple home runs and tied the NCAA single-season record for grand slams with six.
Sanders led the Ragin’ Cajuns with 20 multiple-RBI games, tallying three or more 14 times. Her 82 RBI are the fourth-most recorded in program history and most since former three-time All-American Lexie Elkins totaled 83 in 2015.
Craighton continued to be a reliable source of power and run production for Louisiana, reaching double digit home runs (18) and generating 40-plus RBI (53) for a third straight season. She concluded the 2017 season with a .345 average and collected 50 hits, reaching the mark for a third time.
The Prairieville, La., native ranked Top 50 nationally in nearly every major offensive statistic including runs, on base percentage, walks, home runs, slugging and RBI. Half of her hits (25-of-50) went for extra bases as she upped her career extra base hits total to 83 – posted 20-plus extra base hits for the third consecutive season.
The Sun Belt Conference’s Female Student-Athlete of the Year for the 2016-17 academic year, Craighton was once again among the leaders in SBC play ranking Top 5 in in average (.410), slugging percentage (1.049), on base percentage (.593), runs (32), RBI (31) and home runs (12), and Top 10 in total bases (64).
The Ragin’ Cajuns finished the 2017 campaign with a 47-8 overall record and a 23-1 mark in Sun Belt Conference play which set a record for conference victories. Louisiana claimed its fourth straight Sun Belt Conference championship, and 15th overall in the 17 years of league competition since 2001, and repeated as the league’s postseason tournament champion.
The 2017 squad secured the program’s 19th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, extended the string of 40-win seasons to 19 straight and had the program competing for an NCAA Regional championship for the 10th consecutive year.
For more information on Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball, as well as all of Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics, visit RaginCajuns.com. Fans can also follow along with the team on Facebook (/RaginCajunSoftball),Twitter (@RaginCajunsSB) and Instagram (@RaginCajunsSoftball).
1989: Stefni Whitton
1990: Stefni Whitton (1st)
1991: Dorsey Steamer
1992: Dorsey Steamer (1st), Cathy Sconzo, Kyla Hall
1993: Kyla Hall (1st), Lynn Britton
1994: Kyla Hall (1st), Kathy Morton (1st), Stephanie DeFeo (1st), Lynn Britton, Alyson Habetz, Lana Jimenez
1995: Cheryl Longeway (1st), Kathy Morton (1st), Lynn Britton, Stephanie DeFeo, Lana Jimenez, Tiffany Whittall
1996: Cheryl Longeway (1st), Lynn Britton
1997: Stephanie DeFeo, Tiffany Clark
1999: Tiffany Clark, Kelli Bruce
2000: Tiffany Clark (1st), Jana Mower
2001: Alana Addison
2002: Becky McMurtry
2003: Danyele Gomez, Becky McMurtry
2004: Brooke Mitchell (1st)
2005: Danyele Gomez
2006: Danyele Gomez (1st)
2008: Holly Tankersley (1st)
2009: Karli Hubbard
2011: Gabriele Bridges, Christi Orgeron
2012: Christi Orgeron (1st), Nerissa Myers, Katie Smith
2013: Brianna Cherry, Sarah Draheim
2014: Lexie Elkins, Christina Hamilton
2015: Lexie Elkins (1st), Shellie Landry
2016: Lexie Elkins (1st), Aleah Craighton, Alex Stewart 
2017: DJ Sanders (1st), Aleah Craighton (1st)
2017 NFCA Division I All-American Teams                                            
First Team                                                  
Pos.                                             Player                                    School
Pitcher                                         Kelly Barnhill                          University of Florida
Pitcher                                         Sarah Groenewegen              University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Pitcher                                         Danielle O’Toole                     University of Arizona
Catcher                                        Kendyl Lindaman                   University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
First Base                                    Jessie Harper                         University of Arizona
Second Base                               Hannah Flippen                      University of Utah
Third Base                                   Jessie Warren                         Florida State University
Shortstop                                    DJ Sanders                           University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Outfield                                        Bailey Landry                          Louisiana State University
Outfield                                       Aleah Craighton                    University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Outfield                                        Amanda Lorenz                      University of Florida
Utility/Pitcher                                Megan Good                          James Madison University
DP or Utility/Non-Pitcher              Sahvanna Jaquish                  Louisiana State University
At Large/Shortstop                       Meghan Gregg                       University of Tennessee, Knoxville
At Large/Pitcher                           Jessica Burroughs                  Florida State University
At Large/Pitcher                           Alexis Osorio                          University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
At Large                                       Delanie Gourley                      University of Florida
At Large                                       Nikki Udria                              University of Oregon
Second Team                                                                            
Pitcher                                          Megan Betsa                          University of Michigan
Pitcher                                          Megan Kleist                           University of Oregon
Pitcher                                          Randi Rupp                             Texas State University
Catcher                                        Jenavee Peres                         San Diego State University
First Base                                     Shay Knighten                         University of Oklahoma
Second Base                                Caleigh Clifton                         University of Oklahoma
Third Base                                    Katiyana Mauga                      University of Arizona
Shortstop                                      Morgan Zerkle                         Marshall University
Outfield                                         Lea Foerster                            Michigan State University
Outfield                                         Morgan Klaevemann               Florida State University
Outfield                                         Kelly Christner                         University of Michigan
Utility/Pitcher                                 Sierra Hyland                          California Polytechnic State University
DP or Utility/Non-Pitcher               Kendra Lynch                          University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
At Large/Utility/Pitcher                  Rachel Garica                          University of California, Los Angeles
At Large/Pitcher                            Paige Parker                           University of Oklahoma
At Large/Shortstop                        Mo Mercado                            University of Arizona
At Large/Third Base                      Lindsey Cargill                         Baylor University
At Large/Pitcher                             Emily Watson                          University of Tulsa
Third Team                                                                              
Pitcher                                          Allie Walljasper                        Louisiana State University
Pitcher                                          Kaylee Carlson                         Auburn University
Pitcher                                          McKenna Bull                           Brigham Young University
Pitcher                                          Jordan Dixon                            Marshall University
Catcher                                         Chloe Miller                             University of Wisconsin, Madison
First Base                                     Alex Powers                             Florida State University
Second Base                                Faith Canfield                           University of Michigan
Third Base                                    Riley Sartain                            Texas A&M University, College Station
Shortstop                                      Lilli Piper                                  Ohio State University, The
Outfield                                         Cortni Emanuel                        University of Georgia
Outfield                                         Nicole Evans                            University of Illinois, Champaign
Outfield                                         Danica Mercado                       University of Oregon
Utility/Pitcher                                 Sydney O’Hara                         Syracuse University
DP or Utility/Non-Pitcher               Vanessa Shippy                       Oklahoma State University
At Large/Shortstop                        Emily Lochten                           Florida Atlantic University
At Large/First Base                        Kayli Kvistad                           University of Florida
At Large/Shortstop                        Katie Reed                               University of Kentucky
At Large/First Base                       Jessica Twaddle                       Murray State University
At Large/Shortstop                        Ali Aguilar                                 University of Washington