LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - McNeese utility player Erika Piancastelli is the 2018 Southland Conference Player of the Year, the league announced Monday with its all-conference teams. All yearly awards are presented by Ready Nutrition.
Piancastelli, one of the most prolific softball players in Southland history, becomes the first softball player to win Player of the Year all four years and is just the third to do so in any Southland sport. She joins ULM's women's basketball player Eun Jun Lee (1983-86) and Lamar's men's golfer Chris Stroud (2001-04).
The senior from Carlsbad, Calif., broke five Southland career records this year: home runs, hits, RBIs, runs scored and total bases. The four-time Player of the Year led the Southland in batting average (.493), slugging percentage (1.188), on base percentage (.650), home runs (12), RBIs (28), doubles (10), runs scored (29) and walks (32). She also earned her fourth consecutive Hitter of the Year award.
Nicholls claimed the other four individual superlatives. Junior Megan Landry is the Pitcher of the Year while teammates Jewel Lara and Kali Clement are the Freshman and Newcomer of the Year, respectively. Head coach Angel Santiago led the Colonels to their first regular season championship since 1996 to be named Coach of the Year.
Landry, a three-time Southland Pitcher of the Week this season and now two-time All-Conference member, produced a 1.86 ERA to go along with a .200 opposing batting average. She had 12 wins in the Southland season. Lara, one of three freshmen on the all-conference first team, batted .404 in conference play for second in the league. She tied for first in the league for hits with 36. Clement spent time at catcher, designated player and third base in her first season with the Colonels. She ended league action with a .333 batting average and crossed the plate 20 times to rank in the top eight.
Piancastelli and Abilene Christian's Peyton Hedrick each picked up their fourth all-conference selection. Nicholls' Amanda Gianelloni, McNeese's Justyce McClain, Lamar's Kelly Meeuwsen and Southeastern Louisiana's Kinsey Nichols are each three-time selections to the All-Conference teams.
The 2018 Southland Conference Softball Tournament starts Tuesday at 11 a.m. CT at Joe Miller Field in Lake Charles, La. The tournament features the league's top eight teams for the first time in 30 years, switching from a six-team format, and begins with a four-team first round Tuesday between the bottom four seeds. The winners of the first two games will join the top four Southland teams in a traditional six-team, double-elimination bracket for the remainder of the tourney.
Games 1-11 will be streamed live on the Southland Digital Network with Richard Dow, Bruce Merchant and Tony Taglavore sharing play-by-play duties. The games will be available via southland.org/live and Southland Conference apps.
Coverage shifts to the ESPN family of networks for the championship round. Game 12 will be televised nationwide on ESPNEWS with Lincoln Rose and former Southeastern Louisiana pitcher Kati Morse on the call. If Game 13 is necessary, action will move to ESPN3. In both cases, streaming coverage is available from WatchESPN.com and ESPN apps.
2018 All-Southland Conference Softball Teams
Player of the Year: Erika Piancastelli, McNeese
Hitter of the Year: Erika Piancastelli, McNeese
Pitcher of the Year: Megan Landry, Nicholls
Freshman of the Year: Jewel Lara, Nicholls
Newcomer of the Year: Kali Clement, Nicholls
Coach of the Year: Angel Santiago, Nicholls
2 Two-time all-conference selection
3 Three-time all-conference selection
4 Four-time all-conference selection
Honorable Mention – Catcher: Heidi Jacquez, Houston Baptist. First Base: Codi Carpenter, Sam Houston State; Margarita Corona, Stephen F. Austin. Second Base: Bryana Novegil, Stephen F. Austin; Alli Daigle, Southeastern Louisiana Third Base: Kassie James, Houston Baptist. Shortstop: Kate Myers, Central Arkansas; Jaquelyn Ramon, Southeastern Louisiana. Outfield: Lauren Brown, McNeese; Julie Rawls, Northwestern State; Kayla Crutchmer, Central Arkansas; Kayla Sheridan, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi; Megan McDonald, Sam Houston State. Pitcher: Micaela Bouvier, Northwestern State; Alexsandra Flores, McNeese.