New season, new conference for Georgia State softball

Georgia State Softball makes its season debut in the Sun Belt Conference this weekend.

The Panthers previously competed in the New South Women’s Athletic Conference (NSWAC), the Trans American Athletic Conference (TAAC) and Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), but now have a new home.

Last season, Georgia State finished with a winning overall record of 36-19 and CAA record of 13-8.

Unfortunately, the Panthers weren’t eligible to compete in the postseason tournament due to CAA bylaws preventing them from doing so since the university was making the move from the CAA to the Sun Belt.

This season, Georgia State was picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll as voted on by the head coaches from around the conference.

Catcher and third baseman Callie Alford and outfielder Jessica Clifton were given preseason recognition as they were selected to the preseason All-Sun Belt team.

“We are also very pleased to have two players receive preseason all-conference recognition ahead of our first season in the conference,” head coach Roger Kincaid said to Georgia State Athletics.

Georgia State also brings back a wealth of experience since the team only graduated five seniors last season, including former third baseman Paige Nowacki who tied the school’s career home run record with 32.

Senior third baseman MeQuilla Franklin is expected to replace the hole Nowacki left.

Outfielder Jessica Clifton and pitcher Kaitlyn Medlam are the other seniors on the team with majority of the roster consisting of freshman and juniors.

Georgia State returns six starters and 13 letterwinners from last season as they move on to compete in the Panther Invitational this weekend.

Their first opponent will be Indiana at home on Friday at 4 p.m.

Georgia State hasn’t played Indiana since the 2001 season. Georgia State defeated them 9-3.

Meanwhile, the Sun Belt is one of the tougher conferences in the country, having two schools, Louisiana-Lafayette and Western Kentucky, represent the conference in the Regionals of the Women’s College World Series last season. Louisiana-Lafayette advanced to the Super Regionals round.

The Ragin’ Cajuns will be the Panthers’ first conference opponent on March 22 and 23 at home.

Georgia State will also play Southeastern Conference powerhouses Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama, all of whom competed in the Women’s College World Series last season.

The Panthers upset the eventual national champions, Alabama, 5-1 on the road during the 2012 season.

However, the Crimson Tide split the series by defeating the Panthers 9-1, last season.

“We want to peak at tournament time and playing this type of schedule allows us to play highly competitive teams to raise our level of play,” Kincaid said to Georgia State Athletics. “We will get better every time we go out on the field and try to hit our peak in time for the post season.”