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West, Hester earn All-Conference honors

West, Hester earn All-Conference honors

ROCK HILL, S.C. --- The Tusculum softball team had two players named to the All-South Atlantic Conference team, as voted on by the league's head coaches and released Tuesday.

Freshman outfielder Sammie West was a second-team selection, while sophomore first baseman Emily Hester was recognized as honorable mention after leading the Pioneers to a 27-23 overall record and seventh place in the conference with a 10-10 record.

West made 38 of her 48 starts in the outfield and hit .378 with three home runs and 27 runs batted in for the Pioneers, becoming the first Tusculum freshman to earn All-Conference honors since Miranda Beeler in 2013. West, a native of Maiden, North Carolina, led the Pioneers and ranked fourth in the conference with 18 doubles, while also leading the Pioneers with 41 runs, 18 doubles and 12 stolen bases. West had 17 multi-hit games, including a 5-for-5 performance against Lenoir-Rhyne on March 18.

In 18 conference games, West batted .429 with nine doubles, three triples, eight runs batted in and 12 runs scored. She hit safely in 14 of 18 league games, including an eight-game hitting streak from April 8 through 22. She finished the season by reaching base safely in 13 consecutive games, after opening her season and career by reaching safely in 14 straight games from Feb. 4 through Feb. 17.

Hester started all 50 games for the Pioneers and hit .383 while leading the team with 10 home runs and 47 runs batted in. Hester finished tied for fifth in the conference in home runs and 10th in runs batted in, and was second in the league with a team-high 31 walks. The Kings Mountain, North Carolina native also led the Pioneers in on-base percentage (.489) and slugging percentage (.645), ranking in the top 10 in the conference in both categories.

Hester had 15 multi-hit games and a team-high 14 multiple-RBI games, and reached base safely in 43 of her 50 games, including three streaks of 10 consecutive games or more. In conference games, Hester hit .382 with six home runs and 19 runs batted in, along with 15 walks in 20 games. Her 10 home runs this season are the most for Tusculum in the Division II era (since 1999) and one shy of the overall program single-season record of 11 set in 1991 by Carla Loyd.

For her career, Hester is a .317 hitter with 11 home runs and 75 runs batted in, along with 45 walks and 30 runs scored in 102 games for the Pioneers.

Sarah Kenley of Lenoir-Rhyne was named Player of the Year, while league co-champion Carson-Newman captured the remaining honors as Lacie Rinus was voted Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year, and Vickee Kazee-Hollifield was named Coach of the Year.

Tusculum will face Lenoir-Rhyne in the opening round of the SAC Championship tournament on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at Byerly Park in Hartsville, South Carolina. The Bears, who shared the conference championship with Carson-Newman, are the number-two seed in the field and swept the Pioneers in their regular-season doubleheader on March 18.

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