When talking about this class you can throw the idea of a sophomore slump out the window.  The players on this list came out swinging (or hurling) following a successful freshman year.  This list is headlined by a player  who was named a top 25 NFCA finalist for DII Player of the Year.  Kelsey Vining from Montevallo put up some of the best numbers in the Southeast and the nation, as a sophomore she chalked up some crazy stats and a few more pieces of hardware for her trophy case.

Madison Carter from Lenoir-Rhyne came in second making it the second week in a row that a Lenoir-Rhyne player makes our list in the top 3. Returning Sophomore Erin Boone was #3 in our Sophomores to watch list.  The Down South staff is looking forward to this first time upper class, who looks to deliver in their Junior campaigns, with many of them starting to emerge as leaders on their team.

softball_vining_large1.  Kelsey Vining – Outfielder, Montevallo

Awards:  Finalist for NFCA NCAA DII Player of the Year
NFCA First Team All-American
NFCA First Team All-Region
D2CCA First Team All-Region
First Team Peach Belt Conference

Logging a successful freshman campaign Vining was named a finalist for the NFCA DII Freshman of the Year in 2015.  What does she do to follow that up, Vining starts posting better numbers while leading the entire Southeast in batting average (.483) which was also good enough to make her third in the nation for NCAA DII Softball.  Vining was second overall in the Southeast in stolen bases (41) and eighth in NCAA DII with 0.87 stolen bases per game.

Vining led Montevallo in seven offensive categories with batting average, on base percentage (.575), slugging percentage (.712), runs (49), homeruns (4), walks (23) and stolen bases.  Vining was second on the team with 57 hits and 84 total bases despite having 62 fewer at bats then the team leader who had 59 hits and 90 total bases. In the sophomore class Vining was the most productive batter having the best batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.  Vining also led the Southeast sophomores in scored runs, and stolen bases.  If Vining can continue her trend the numbers for her Junior season could be out of this world, Montevallo’s offense will hinge on the success of Vining this season . . . again.

madisoncartermugshot2.  Madison Carter – Shortstop/Third Base, Lenoir-Rhyne

Awards: NFCA First Team All-Region
D2CCA First Team All-Region
NCCSIA First Team All-State (NC)
First Team South Atlantic Conference

Second only to Vinning, Carter marked a productive sophomore season by leading all Southeast sophomores in four statistical categories.  Logging the most at bats (198), hits (75), total bases (106) and RBI (47).  Carter was one of 2 sophomores to have over 100 total bases while sitting at second on the list with 17 doubles, which was a team high for Lenoir-Rhyne.  Carter came with with some power, muscling 4 homeruns while posting a .379 batting average, a .404 on base percentage and a .535 slugging percentage.  Carter was second in the SAC for RBI and third in batting average.

niles-caliah23.  Cailah Niles – Catcher, Anderson

Awards: NFCA Second Team All-Region
D2CCA Second Team All-Region
Honorable Mention South Atlantic Conference

Niles started every game for Anderson behind the dish, this follows a freshman year with the same 55 game streak including being named one of the 3 best freshman in DII NCAA in 2015 by the NFCA.  Niles continued her offensive onslaught posting a South Atlantic Conference best in batting average (.403) on base percentage (.503), slugging percentage (.719), and RBI per game (0.98).  Niles was tied with Carter in the junior class with 47 total RBI for first, while she was second and 1 of only 2 in the Southeast sophomore class with a slugging percentage above .700 and an on base percentage above .500.  Niles also paced the Anderson offense with team highs in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, walks (30), hits (56), doubles (9), and homeruns (11).  While all the offensive stats are amazing the cherry on top is her defense.  As a catcher with 369 total chances Niles only posted 1 error for a stupid .997 fielding percentage.  Niles also caught 8 would be base stealers on 25 attempts for the season.  Starting all 105 games at catcher in the past two seasons for Anderson, I would say the foundation is set with Niles for the next two years for Anderson.

sb_lc_josie_weber_ad_hoc4.  Josie Weber – Pitcher, Limestone

Awards: Conference Carolinas Pitcher of the Year
First Team Conference Carolinas

Named the Conference Carolinas Pitcher of the Year, Weber tied up a nice season for the regular season conference champs, Limestone.  Throwing a team high 143.2 innings for the Saints, Weber led the team in seven categories with wins (17), games started (22), complete games (16), shutouts (4), innings pitched, strikeouts (111), and lowest opponents’ batting average (.228).

In the Southeast, Weber toped the sophomores with a 0.74 winning percentage and was second with a 2.05 ERA.  Weber was also fourth in strikeouts per 7 innings with 5.41 and fifth with 2.09 strikeouts to each walk.  Weber looks to again be the primary arm for Limestone, however they will continue to have a deep staff returning fellow junior Caroline Smith, while adding Spartanburg Methodist transfer Bailey Pearson.

johnson_jamie5.  Jamie Johnson – Third Base, UNC Pembroke

Awards: NCCSIA Second Team All-State (NC) 
First Team Peach Belt Conference

Johnson crossed home plate more than anyone else on her team and second in the Southeast sophomore class scoring 46 runs on the season.  Using a .420 on base percentage and a .363 batting average, she made the most of reaching base while finishing second in the sophomore class and sixth in the entire southeast with 26 stolen bases. Continuing the trend Johnson was second in Southeast sophomores with multi-base hits (22) and total bases (102), one of only two sophomores to have above 100 total bases.  Using the multi base hits Johnson had a .560 slugging percentage and posted 15 doubles, 2 triples and 5 homeruns.  Johnson was ranked in the top 10 in eight of PBC offensive categories, including the fifth in hits and stolen bases while being seventh in most total bases. Johnson reached base, in a UNC Pembroke high, 24 consecutive games while compiling a 14 game hitting streak in the season.  Johnson will be part of the three headed attack Pembroke welcomes back with fellow junior, #10 player to watch Taylor Gerhart and Senior Abby Walters.

14653l6.  Christina Linton – Outfielder, Newberry

Awards: Second Team South Atlantic Conference

Linton used some patience for a Southeast sophomore and conference best 32 walks.  Thirty two walks was also good enough for third most in all the Southeast, helping to give her a .487 on base percentage.  Posting the seventh best batting average in the conference and fifth best amonst southeast sophomores, Linton logged 90 total bases including 6 homeruns and 11 doubles while scoring 36 runs.  Her .581 slugging percentage was good enough to place her third in the Southeast sophomore class.

Linton was Newberry‘s primary offensive weapon leading the team in ten offensive categories including, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage (.581), at bats (155), runs, doubles, homeruns, RBI (31), total bases, and walks.

christinawalkermugshot7.  Christina Walker – Shortstop/Third Base, Lenoir-Rhyne

Awards: NCCSIA First Team All-State (NC)
First Team South Atlantic Conference

When playing with our #3 in our sophomores to watch and #2 on our juniors to watch it would be easy to disappear, however Walker kept up the pace finishing second on Lenoir-Rhyne in batting average (.400), runs (44) and stolen bases (10).  Walker was 1 of only 3 sophomores to post a batting average above .400 while posting a .422 on base percentage and a .488 slugging percentage.  Walker was also fourth amongst the sophomore class and her team with 64 base hits.

sb17_samantha_wroblewski_1098.  Samantha Wroblewski – Pitcher, Francis Marion

Awards: Francis Marion MVP

With senior Shelby Kelly graduating, Wroblewski will look to carry the load for Francis Marion this season, however this may not be a bad thing.  Wroblewski quietly posted a sophomore best 0.74 winning percentage.  What really made Wroblewski jump off the page was a 5.11 strikeout to walk ratio with 92 strikeouts while only giving up 18 walks.  Wrobleweski had a team best and third best ERA (2.12) in the southeast sophomore class.  Though she did not pitch the majority of innings, Worblewski led Francis Marion in games started (28), shutouts (8), and lowest opponents’ batting average (.225).  Wroblewski will be the only returning pitcher for Francis Marion who will be bringing in three freshman arms to complete the staff.

hannah_harrison_sa9.  Hannah Harrison – Utility, Young Harris

Awards: Second Team Peach Belt Conference

Finishing a Southeast sophomore best with 24 multi-base hits, Harrison was fifth in the class with a .561 slugging percentage while hitting 15 doubles, 3 triples and 6 homeruns.  Harrison was fourth amongst sophomores with 96 total bases while being fifth in runs (43), doubles, and homeruns.  For Young Harris, Harrison was first in doubles, triples, and total bases while sitting second in homeruns, hits, at bats, runs, walks, on base percentage and slugging percentage.  Harrison will be the big bat returning for Young Harris looking to replace team home run leader Sarah Magill.

gerhart_taylor10.  Taylor Gerhart – Infielder, UNC Pembroke

Awards: Second Team Peach Belt Conference

With fellow teammate and #5 on our list Gerhart looks to power the UNC Pembroke Braves into another successful season.  Finishing first on the Braves with a .422 on base percentage and 19 walks Gerhart was second in homeruns (7) and slugging percentage (.560).  Gerhart was third on the team with 16 stolen bases and a .348 batting average.  Being ranked in the top 15 in the PBC in RBI, walks, sacrifice hits, and stolen bases only adds to the heart of the Pembroke team of Gerhart, Johnson and Walters who all return and were top 3 in all offensive categories for the Braves.

Next 10: (Arranged in Alphabetical Order)

Previous in Down South Season Preview: Top Southeast Sophomores

Next up in Down South Season Preview: Top Southeast Seniors


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