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Softball: Sanders Chosen Top Hitter, Eight Named All-Louisiana

DJ Sanders named Louisiana’s collegiate softball Hitter of the Year and the Ragin’ Cajuns led the state with six first team All-Louisiana Softball honorees


LAFAYETTE – Eight members from the 14th-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball team were selected to the 2017 All-Louisiana Collegiate Softball Team, with six of them landing on the first team, the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA) announced Saturday evening.
The Ragin’ Cajuns six first team All-Louisiana honorees led all state schools, the total representing the most for the program since seven first teamers in 2012. It’s the 10th straight year that the Ragin’ Cajuns topped the charts in first team All-Louisiana selections.
First team NFCA All-American and Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year DJ Sanders was rewarded for her career-best output on offense as she was voted the state’s Hitter of the Year. The junior shortstop hit a team-and career-best .388 with career-high totals in home runs (29) and RBI (82) and led the nation in every major hitting category.
Sanders’ selection gives the Ragin’ Cajuns the Hitter of the Year award for the second straight season (Lexie Elkins in 2016), six times in the last seven seasons and 10 in the last 15. Her plus-10 advantage in Hitter of the Year votes — 12 for her, two apiece for LSU-Alexandria’s Danelle Billings and LSU outfielder Bailey Landry — was the largest margin in four years.
Alyssa Denham was the other major award winner for Michael Lotief‘s squad. A Top 25 finalist for NFCA National Freshman of the Year and the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, Denham was chosen as the Freshman of the Year by the LSWA’s voting panel. She defeated SEC Top 5 teams Alabama (two-hit shutout) and Texas A&M as part of a 15-2 collegiate debut campaign in 2017.
Denham is the first Ragin’ Cajun to claim the top freshman honor since Jordan Wallace in 2012 and the 15th overall selection for the award in program history.
Sanders, who picked up her second career All-Louisiana award (second team in 2016), headlined the Cajuns’ first team contingent. Other first team selections were Alex Stewart at pitcher, Kassidy Zeringue at second base, Kara Gremillion at third base and Aleah Craighton and Haley Hayden in the outfield.
Gremillion and Sanders were the only unanimous selections on the first team. Gremillion, a sophomore, was the lone individual who was not an upperclassman. Hayden received first team All-Louisiana honors for the fourth time and second time in the outfield (also 2014) – she played second base her other two seasons. Craighton is a repeat first team selection and, like Sanders, first team NFCA All-American.
Lexie Comeaux was chosen at catcher on the All-Louisiana second team, giving her recognition at the state, conference (All-SBC second team) and regional (NFCA All-Central Region second team) level in her first year as a collegiate starter. Denham was one of 15 players statewide to receive honorable mention.
A Louisiana Sports Writers Association panel of media and sports publicists selected the All-Louisiana team, based on statistics and performances through the teams’ conference tournaments. This is the 32nd year of All-Louisiana softball selections.
LSU’s Allie Walljasper, who was 16-4 with a 1.21 ERA and posted 11 shutouts prior to NCAA postseason play, took home Pitcher of the Year honors. Billings, who transferred to LSU-A from Evangel University, hit .480 with 18 home runs (school record) and 76 RBI in collecting the Newcomer of the Year award. Louisiana Tech’s Mark Montgomery was recognized as Coach of the Year for leading the Lady Techsters to their first NCAA Tournament berth and conference tournament championship since 2008 and a 38-24 record – their most victories since 1995.
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, the 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).
DJ Sanders (Jr., SS, Columbus, Miss.)
Major Award: Hitter of the Year
All-Louisiana Selection: First Team
Second career All-Louisiana selection (second team in 2016)…first-time Hitter of the Year recipient…top 10 finalist for USA Softball National Player of the Year and Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year…first shortstop in Ragin’ Cajuns history to earn first team All-American accolades…nation’s leader in runs per game, home runs, home runs per game, RBI, RBI per game and slugging percentage…tallied 42 extra base hits (13 doubles, 29 home runs) which represented 68 percent of her season hits total (62)…posted seven games of multiple home runs and finished season with 29 – third-most in program history…tied NCAA season record for grand slams with six…posted 20 multiple-RBI games, reaching three RBI 14 times…enjoyed finest season defensively: only one error in SBC play and just seven total over 154 chances.
Alyssa Denham (Fr., P, Alvin, Texas)
Major Award: Freshman of the Year
All-Louisiana Selection: Honorable Mention
First career All-Louisiana honor…NFCA Freshman of the Year Top 25 finalist, Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year and first team All-Sun Belt choice…recorded two wins over Top 5 teams: No. 4 Alabama (two-hit shutout in series clincher) and No. 4 Texas A&M…pitched 12 innings and held No. 4 Alabama to two runs and five hits in February weekend series…worked 38 innings in first month as collegian (February) and held foes to 10 runs, 21 hits and .159 average led all Sun Belt freshmen pitchers in victories (7) in conference play…tossed 14 innings vs. NCAA participant Texas State during SBC series and held Bobcats to two runs and six hits as Cajuns created distance in league standings.
Alex Stewart (Sr., P, Zionsville, Ind.)
All-Louisiana Selection: First Team
Second straight season on All-Louisiana first team…selected to All-Sun Belt first team and All-NFCA Central Region third team…placed on CoSIDA Academic All-America first team…reached 20 wins for the second straight season (27-5, 1.81 ERA)…pitched shutout softball in six of her last seven starts prior to NCAA postseason play…ranked Top 10 nationally in victories – tops amongst all pitchers in Louisiana…undefeated in Sun Belt play (15-0)…held opposition to two earned runs or less in 25 of 29 starts…Top 40 nationally in fewest hits per seven innings, allowing five or fewer in all but six starts…yielded just two runs, seven hits and struck out 23 over 18 innings in leading Cajuns to Sun Belt Tournament title, earning her Most Outstanding Player honors…tossed the third NCAA postseason no-hitter in Ragin’ Cajuns history in Baton Rouge Regional opener vs. McNeese.
Lexie Comeaux (So., C, Tomball, Texas)
All-Louisiana Selection: Second Team
First career All-Louisiana honor…second team selection on All-Sun Belt and All-NFCA Central Region teams…moved to catcher in January after spot opened up due to injury and excelled in first season as a collegiate starter…carried .300-plus average from March 3 through season’s end…controlled opponent’s running game – only 29 stolen base attempts – and caught 10 stealing…Top 10 Sun Belt and Top 100 nationally in RBI (48)…tallied 16 RBI over the final two SBC series in April as Cajuns wrapped up the championship…produced 12 multiple-hit games and nine multiple-RBI games…generated at least three RBI eight times.
Kassidy Zeringue (Sr., 2B, Lutcher, La).
All-Louisiana Selection: First Team
First career All-Louisiana honor…earned repeat CoSDIA Academic All-America recognition and was a second team All-Sun Belt pick…first season at second base after playing exclusively in outfield…turned in several highlight-reel plays (SportsCenter Top 10 at Texas State) and committed only nine errors over 187 total chances…slap-hit specialist delivered 12 multiple-hit games hitting from the No. 8 spot and produced career-high totals in hits (50), runs (37), RBI (11) and stolen bases (13)…was one of only three Sun Belt players batting above .400 entering May…maintained a .370-plus batting average from March 1 to season’s end…generated at least three base hits in six of eight Sun Belt Conference series.
Kara Gremillion (So, 3B, Gonzales, La.)
All-Louisiana Selection: First Team
Second career All-Louisiana selection (second team in 2016)…member of All-Sun Belt first team… provided strong presence in leadoff position, striking out only 12 times in 221 plate appearances…closed the season reaching base 47 consecutive games and was aboard the base path in 52 of 55 games overall…strong again defensively: just nine errors over 184 chances…scored career-best 60 runs and ranked Top 10 nationally in runs per game…17 multiple-hit games were second-most on team…delivered three hits or more in seven of eight Sun Belt series…hit safely in 38 of 55 games overall.
Haley Hayden (Sr., OF, West Monroe, La.)
All-Louisiana Selection: First Team
Fourth consecutive first team All-Louisiana selection…also collected fourth career All-Sun Belt and All-NFCA Central Region accolade…placed on CoSIDA Academic All-America first team…reached 40 runs, hits and RBI for fourth straight season…pushed career totals for hits (277), runs (251) and RBI (214) past the 200 threshold…served as defensive anchor at first base (first half) and right field (second half)…became the Ragin’ Cajuns all-time runs scored leader and scored 60 for fourth straight year…produced 21 multiple-hit games, upping career total to 76…In April, hit a team-best .469 with seven home runs and 28 RBI…ranked Top 5 nationally in runs per game and Top 25 nationally in RBI per game…along with DJ Sanders, hit a league-leading .431 in Sun Belt play…Hit safely in 43 of 55 games.
Aleah Craighton (Jr., OF, Prairieville, La.)
All-Louisiana Selection: First Team
Third career All-Louisiana selection, second straight season on first team (2016, 2017)…first team choice on NFCA All-America, NFCA All-Central Region and All-Sun Belt squads…2016-17 Sun Belt Conference Female Student-Athlete of the Year…reached double digit home runs (18) and 40-plus RBI (53) a third straight season… 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…upped her career extra base hits total to 83 and posted 20-plus for the third consecutive season…once again among the leaders in Sun Belt 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)…Of her 15 multiple-RBI games, over half (9) produced at least three RBI…after being worked around by pitchers in February and receiving 23 walks in the month alone, hit .369 with 16 homers and 41 RBI after March 1.
First Team
Pitcher: Alex Stewart (Louisiana)
Pitcher: Allie Walljasper (LSU)
Catcher: Sahvanna Jaquish (LSU)
First Base: Mattie Stine (Louisiana College)
Second Base:  Kassidy Zeringue (Louisiana)
Third Base: Kara Gremillion (Louisiana)
Shortstop: DJ Sanders (Louisiana)
Outfield: Aleah Craighton (Louisiana) 
Outfield: Haley Hayden (Louisiana)
Outfield: Bailey Landry (LSU)
Designated Player: Danelle Billings (LSU-Alexandria)
Utility: Erika Piancastelli (McNeese State)
Hitter of the Year: DJ Sanders, Louisiana
Pitcher of the Year: Allie Walljasper, LSU
Newcomer of the Year: Danelle Billings, LSU-Alexandria
Freshman of the Year: Alyssa Denham, Louisiana
Coach of the Year: Mark Montgomery, Louisiana Tech
Second Team
Pitcher: Krystal De La Cruz (Louisiana Tech)
Pitcher: Carley Hoover (LSU)
Pitcher: Rachel Smith (McNeese State)
Catcher: Lexie Comeaux (Louisiana)
First Base: Mahalia Gibson (Southeastern Louisiana)
Second Base: Carleigh Chaumont (McNeese State)
Third Base: Jordan Rains (Northwestern State)
Shortstop: Julinn Torres (LSU-Alexandria)
Outfield: Justyce McClain (McNeese State)
Outfield: Samantha Mracich (Nicholls State)
Outfield: Morgan Turkoly (Louisiana Tech)
Designated Player: Alexandria Saldivar (McNeese State)
Utility: Jazlyn Crowder (Louisiana Tech)
Honorable Mention
Pitcher:  Alyssa Denham, Louisiana; Marci West, LSU-Alexandria
First Base:  Kasey Frederick, Nicholls State; Pauline Tufi, Louisiana Tech
Second Base:  Brooke Morris, Nicholls State
Shortstop:  Tia Coleman, Grambling; Amanda Gianelloni, Nicholls State
Outfield:  Aliyah Andrews, LSU; Ali Galaz, Louisiana Tech; Emily Griggs, LSU; Kellye Kincannon, Northwestern State; Kinsey Nichols, Southeastern Louisiana; Jacy Ummel, LSU-Alexandria
Designated Player:  Taria Page, Louisiana Tech
Utility:  Sydney Bourg, Nicholls State