Experienced Wildcats ready for shot at Southland tourney

ACU Softball Ready for 2018.jpg

For the first time in program history the ACU softball team will have a shot at making the Southland Conference Tournament, and you better believe it is on the Wildcats' minds.

"There's a little of that extra 'we-want-to-go,'" senior shortstop Peyton Hedrick said. "Last year, having a taste of almost winning conference, this year it's like we've got that taste, but it's a little bitter so we really want to take it and win."

The Wildcats begin the path to the tournament with their season opening tournament this weekend in San Antonio.

ACU finished second in the Southland in 2017, but their Division I reclassifying period made them ineligible for the conference tournament.

That four-year period ended last season and now the Wildcats feel the stars aligned with several key players back for another ride.

Pitcher Hannah Null, second baseman Holly Neese and the shortstop Hedrick, all seniors, were named to the pre-season all-conference first team.

"It's kind of perfect that this is our senior year and we have all the experience we'll ever have going into this year," Null said. "It's such a big deal that we get to go to the tournament."

Sophomore third baseman Tori Poullard and senior outfield Braegan Hamilton were named to the second team.

Null and Hedrick both said their first goal is to win the Southland regular season championship, which would mean dethroning two-time defending champ McNeese.

The Cowgirls were unanimously picked to win the conference again this season by the leagues' head coaches and sports information directors.

ACU was slotted second and received the same amount of votes as Nicholls.

"I think our strength is our defense, plus we can swing it swing it a little, and we've got good pitching," said head coach Bobby Reeves, who led the Wildcats to a 30-22 record in 2017.

"There are three phases to the game, and as long as two of the three are working then we've got a chance to beat a lot of people."

Reeves said the team's experience will help with 12 players returning from last year, but if there is a weakness it is that softball involves so much failure.

"All the great players understand they're not going to be successful 100% of the time, and they can handle that well."

ACU will start the year against Seton Hall Friday morning at UTSA, then play Southern Illinois later that afternoon and on Saturday.

The Wildcats will face the host Roadrunners on Saturday, and finish the tournament against Southland Conference bunkmate Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Sunday.

The team's first home game isn't until Tuesday, March 6 with a doubleheader against Bowling Green.

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