Eyes on the Prize: 2015 Georgia State softball preview


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After finishing third in the conference last season, Georgia State softball expects to be better prepared for its conference rivals as they look to win the Sun Belt. SUBMITTED PHOTO | GEORGIA STATE ATHLETICS


After a 2014 campaign that saw Georgia State softball finish third in the Sun Belt’s regular season standings, the Panthers look to build on what it accomplished last season to win the conference this year.

Last year, Georgia State’s season concluded with a first round, extra-inning, 2-1 defeat to the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks in the first round of the conference tournament. The loss occurred despite the Panthers being seeded third and UL-Monroe finishing sixth in the regular season standings.

Now, there is a new season with increased expectations for head coach Roger Kincaid and his team.

“We’re extremely excited to get started and to start playing games,” Kincaid said. “There’s a lot of preparation. We’ve been preparing for a long time and have had a lot of practice.”

The Panthers saw the departures of three seniors from last year’s team in all-time winning pitcher Kaitlyn Medlam along with infielder MeQuilla Franklin and infielder Jessica Clifton.


Georgia State still is returning a bevy of players from last year’s team, including junior infielder Taylor Anderson, who hit 14 home runs in 2014 and was named to this year’s Preseason All-Sun Belt Team.

“I’m honored to be named to the Preseason All-Conference team,” Anderson said.

The Panthers are also represented on the Preseason Sun Belt team by Lauren Coleman, a senior infielder. As a junior last season, Coleman had a .389 batting average and a .643 slugging percentage — both of which put her in third in those categories for the conference.

As a team, Georgia State presented one of the most proficient offenses in the Sun Belt last season. The Panthers hit .288 as a team — second in the conference. Along with Anderson and Coleman, senior outfielder Ashley Christy and senior third baseman Callie Alford also notched averages of over .300. Sophomore infielder Kensey Caldwell also hit near .300 with a .292 average in 2014.

Kincaid says Alford will likely move to third base as freshman Ivie Drake will likely see playing time at the catcher position this year.


Filling the shoes of Medlam, the pitcher with the most wins in school history is a tall task but one Kincaid feels can be done. There are six pitchers on Georgia State’s pitching staff this season, including sophomore Taylor Thorpe, junior Katie Worley and seniors Emily Clay and Eron Milton.

“We all get along and pick each other up,” Milton said.

Milton was second on the team in 2014 in ERA behind Medlam with a 4.95 mark along with a 7-7 record. She, as well as Worley, are both recovering from injuries. Thorpe appeared in 21 games as a freshman and had a record of 3-4 last season.

Along with the four freshmen also come two newcomers. One is Randee Bettis, who comes to Georgia State from Madison County High School where she received First-Team All-State honors as a senior. Another is Chelsea Stanfield, a junior who is transferring from North Carolina State.

“She’s left-handed, has two years under her belt coming from the ACC. Stanfield will give us a lot of experience in the circle for us this season,” Kincaid said.

Kincaid says the Panthers will use the full staff of six pitchers to take the burden off one person to carry the load for the team’s arms.

“With our six pitchers, it will give us a good look against other teams,” Anderson said. “Eron [Milton] is the fastest one we have while Katie and Chelsea are more finesse.”


The Panthers finished fourth in the Sun Belt last season in field percentage with a mark of .963 behind Texas State, South Alabama and Western Kentucky which has since departed the conference and are now a member of Conference USA.

Among position players, sophomore catcher Mandy Blackwell had a 1.000 fielding percentage. Coleman and Alford were second and third on the team in fielding with percentages of .987 and .978 respectively. Both only committed five errors last season.

Milton says one of the keys for a successful 2015 season will be to cut down on errors.

“Commit to the standard”

Kincaid has a motto that he and his players adhere to. The saying is called “Commit to the Standard” and it is something that he says is an important attribute to living up to both on and off the field.

“We define our program by for core values. Those are effort, attitude, energy and performance,” Kincaid said.

Kincaid makes mention of the fact that in addition to a coach that he is also a husband, a father and a life coach, all the more reasons to live up to that saying.

“It’s all about what we hold dear. If we want to be the best-looking team by standing in a single-file line when we go someplace. That’s ‘Commit to the Standard.’ Everyone standing in a line with their hands over their hearts during the National Anthem — that’s ‘Commit to the Standard.’ Being on time for every meeting and practice — that’s ‘Commit to the Standard.’ Overall, we stress doing the right thing. That’s not just in softball but in life.”

More exposure

The team’s media footprint will also expand substantially in 2015. Recently, it was announced that 18 Georgia State softball games will be broadcast for free via GeorgiaStateSports.com this season. John Morgo, who also can be heard during women’s basketball broadcasts, will return for his second season at the mic for Panthers softball.

“Being on a network in addition to having people watch us play will be huge in terms of giving us more exposure,” Anderson said.

Kincaid feels the increased media coverage will also help with the team’s recruiting efforts.

“It’s awesome since it gives more people the chance to learn about Georgia State softball,” Kincaid said. “The exposure will help in terms of recruiting and also expanding our efforts in the community. It will also allow fans to be more interactive and get more people out to the [Heck Softball] stadium to watch us play.”

Outlook for the Sun Belt

The Panthers are picked to finish third in the Sun Belt this season behind Louisiana-Lafayette, last year’s conference champions, and South Alabama, who made the NCAA Regionals along with UL-Lafayette last season. Both the Cajuns and Jaguars are ranked in the top 25 this season, presenting robust tests for Georgia State.

Two new teams will also enter the Sun Belt this year in Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. The Panthers did not face the Mountaineers last season but did play vs. the Eagles last April, resulting in a 5-2 loss.

The team feels that with this being its second season in the Sun Belt that they are better prepared to face the rest of the conference, including UL-Lafayette and South Alabama at the top.

“Last year, it was a challenge being new to the conference, but this year we have a sense of what to expect and what we’re up against,” Milton said.

Two new teams will also enter the Sun Belt this year in Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. The Panthers did not face the Mountaineers last season but did

Kincaid has set a goal for the team of either sweeping or winning every series. He says maintaining focus on its competition will be critical in earning a top spot in the tournament in May and winning the conference crown.

“We can’t just focus on those two [Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama], but we have to take care of business in the Sun Belt this year again, including taking care of business vs. UL-Lafayette and South Alabama,” Kincaid said.

The ultimate goal for Georgia State in 2015 is clear — win the Sun Belt.

“We want to win the tournament and hopefully advance to the Women’s College World Series,” Milton said.

The Panthers’ season begins with a series of games against a variety of teams in Auburn, Alabama from Feb. 12-18 before their home opener on Feb. 20 vs. Savannah State at 5 p.m.

Sun Belt Preview

Appalachian State (19-32, 7-13 SoCon)

(Panthers did not play Mountaineers in 2014)

The Mountaineers enter the new season as newcomers into the Sun Belt conference. App State comes into the new season with a new head coach in Janice Savage, who led Delaware State to a 35-17 record in 2014.

Among those returning for the Mountaineers include senior infielder Cynthia Gomez, who led the team in hitting last season with a batting average of .341.

Georgia Southern (36-20, 15-6 SoCon)

(Panthers: 0-1 vs. Eagles in 2014)

After reaching the semifinals of the SoCon tournament the previous season, the Eagles are another newcomer into the Sun Belt conference. Annie Smith has been the team’s head coach for three seasons in which Georgia Southern has compiled an 110-71 record along with two SoCon titles.

The Eagles will need a replacement for Kourtny Thomas, who was tied for third in SoCon with 14 home runs in 2014. Among those returning is sophomore infielder Taylor Rogers, who hit .381 and stole 25 bases last year.

Louisiana-Lafayette (49-10-1, 19-1-0 Sun Belt)

(Panthers: 0-3 vs. Cajuns in 2014)

After winning the conference last season and making their sixth Women’s College World Series in its history, the Ragin’ Cajuns are once again the team to beat in the Sun Belt. Michael Lotief begins his 13th season at the helm for UL-Lafayette and has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in all of those years.

When facing the Cajuns, teams will have to contend with Preseason Player of the Year, junior catcher Lexie Elkins, who hit .388 last year with 24 homers and 74 RBIs. Also returning is redshirt senior pitcher Christina Hamilton, who finished third in the conference with a 1.56 ERA.

Louisiana-Monroe (25-27, 6-14 Sun Belt)

(Panthers: 2-2 vs. Warhawks in 2014)

The Warhawks was the team that upset Georgia State from last year’s Sun Belt tournament. UL-Monroe enters the new season with a new coach in Corey Lyon who had a record of 37-26 in 2014 in his last year at Southern Arkansas.

Among the premier players for the Warhawks include redshirt senior second baseman Miyuki Navarrete who hit .348 last season and stole 42 bases. Also returning is sophomore outfielder Christina Roberts, last year’s Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year.

South Alabama (42-14, 15-6 Sun Belt)

(Panthers: 1-2 vs. South Alabama in 2014)

The Jaguars finished second in the conference last season behind UL-Lafayette and are nationally ranked No. 23. In eight official seasons at South Alabama, head coach Becky Clark has put together a 274-163-1 record along with winning at least 40 games the last three years.

Senior pitcher Farish Beard was one of the two Jaguars selected to the Preseason All-Sun Belt Team. In 2014, Beard had a record of 22-7 along with an ERA of 1.22. Junior outfielder Stephanie Pilkington led the team in hits last year with 54 along with a batting average of .292.

UT-Arlington (21-33, 5-13 Sun Belt)

(Panthers: 3-0 vs. Mavericks in 2014)

Despite a season that saw the Mavericks win only five games in conference last year, UT-Arlington advanced to the semifinals of the Sun Belt tournament last year. This will be the fourth season for head coach Kristie Fox, who has led the Mavericks to postseason appearance the last two years.

After losing only one senior from last year’s team in pitcher Callie Collins, UT-Arlington returns the majority of their team. Among the returnees is senior infielder Nina Villanueva, who hit eight home runs along with a batting average of .348 last year.

Texas State (26-30, 9-12 Sun Belt)

(Panthers: 3-0 vs. Bobcats in 2014)

Texas State is picked to finish fourth in the conference this season. Ricci Woodard is entering her fifteenth year with the Bobcats in which she has been to five NCAA Regional Tournament appearances along with a record of 484-319-1.

Senior third baseman Courtney Harris, who played all 56 games for Texas State last year and batted .313, is returning from last year’s team. Senior designated player Kortney Koroll was the team leader in home runs last year with nine.

Troy (22-30-2, 5-13 Sun Belt)

(Panthers: 3-0 vs. Trojans in 2014)

The Trojans suffered an early round exit from last year’s Sun Belt tournament after a loss in the first round to South Alabama. Troy also has a new coach in Betsy Mullins, who is only the second coach in the softball program’s Division I history.

Pitcher Jaycee Affeldt, who led the Trojans’ pitching staff with a 2.77 ERA, is returning for her senior season. The Trojans will need someone to fill the void left by Ebony Wright, who was the only player on last year’s team with a batting average above .300.