Brenau outfielder Mackenzie Oliver Mullis, a senior from Carnesville, Ga., swings at a pitch during a game against Bethel in the SSAC conference softball tournament. Brenau won 7-1.(AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Brenau senior Mackenzie Oliver Mullis added to her All-Conference record in the first game of the SSAC tournament April 28. In the second inning she scored her 46th run of the season, giving her team the lead that they would keep throughout the 7-1 romp over Bethel. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Coach of the Year, Player of the Year … You Name It, and Golden Tigers Softball Probably Won It

Apr. 28, 2017
David Morrison

DECATUR, Ala. – On the eve of the opening Southern States Athletic Conference postseason softball tournament with their 48th win, the 2017 regular-season champion Brenau Golden Tigers cleaned up at the conference’s annual awards banquet on Wednesday night, April 26, winning four of the five top awards and placing five on all-conference teams.

The SSAC coaches named Brenau’s Devon Thomas the 2017 SSAC Coach of the Year for leading his squad in his 15th season to an unprecedented 26-0 regular season conference record and a No. 2 national ranking. The Tigers went 48-5 overall in the regular season.  

Pitcher Kathleen Elizabeth Daniel, known as Eli, won Freshman of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year honors after a 38-2 regular season in which she led the nation with 501 strikeouts and a 0.50 ERA. The Locust Grove, Georgia, native’s win-loss record also is the best in the nation along with her record for opponents’ batting average (.122) and innings pitched.

Gold Glove winner Autumn Conaway also juiced her freshman year statistics with her bat. She knocked in two runs in the SSAC tournament opener April 27.

Gold Glove winner Autumn Conaway also juiced her freshman year statistics with her bat. She knocked in two runs in the SSAC tournament opener April 27.

Fellow freshman Autumn Conaway of Guyton, Georgia, was also rewarded for her standout year with first-team All-Conference and All-Freshman honors. Conaway was second in the SSAC in batting average (.423), third in slugging percentage (.590), hits (66), and total bases (92) and tied for third in doubles – all tops among SSAC freshmen. She also posted a .960 fielding percentage to earn a Gold Glove. The SSAC also recognized Conaway as the Brenau recipient of the Champions of Character Award. Champions of Character winners must best represent the NAIA’s Five Core Values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.

Two other Golden Tigers joined Daniel and Conaway on the all-conference first-team roster for their outstanding play all season:  

Senior right fielder Mackenzie Oliver Mullis from Carnesville, Georgia, led the SSAC in stolen bases (38) and runs scored (45) and was third in batting average (.415).

Junior outfielder Kelsey Payne from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was third in the SSAC in RBIs (35), tied for third in home runs (5), fourth in total bases (89) and fifth in slugging percentage (.574). She also earned a Gold Glove designation for her play in the outfield.

Freshman Shelton Kendrix, an infielder from Jefferson, Georgia, was on the second-team All-Conference roster and the All-Freshman team along with Daniel and Conaway. Kendrix tied for sixth in home runs (4), tied for eighth in doubles (12) and was eighth in slugging (.514) in the SSAC.

Junior catcher Savannah Moore from Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, was among SSAC Gold Glove honorees for outstanding defensive play along with Conaway and Payne. Moore led the conference with a 1.000 fielding percentage and in chances and putouts.

Mullis joined her fellow Georgians juniors Mason Garland from Hoschton, Sarah Peery from Auburn, and Lauren Sanders from Maysville as well as sophomores Brooke Kimbrell of Flowery Branch and Kirstin Ray from Mabelton on the SSAC All-Academic team. Honorees must maintain a minimum 3.25 grade-point average and have four semesters in college.

Tournament Play

Brenau v. Bethel

Brenau, the first team to go undefeated in SSAC regular-season play, posted a  7-1  victory over No. 9 seed Bethel (Tennessee) University in the Golden Tigers’ opening game of the 2017 SSAC postseason conference tournament in Decatur, Alabama, Thursday, April 27.

The Golden Tigers 'All-Everything' Freshman pitcher Eli Daniel struck out five in the SSAC opener April 27 to raise her season total to 506, which leads the nation.

The Golden Tigers ‘All-Everything’ freshman pitcher Eli Daniel struck out five in the SSAC opener April 27 to raise her season total to 506, which leads the nation.

Brenau jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Autumn Conaway doubled to deep left to score Lexi Cash and Mackenzie Oliver Mullis.

The Lady Wildcats cut the Golden Tigers’ lead to 2-1 with their lone run on a sacrifice fly by Iesha Kizer in the top of the fourth inning.

Then the Golden Tigers went to work, extending their lead in the bottom of the inning when Courtney Kenney walked with the bases loaded to score Cash. Shelton Kendrix followed with a single to deep left, scoring Mullis and Kelsey Payne for a 5-1 advantage. Brenau added two more runs on a wild throw by Bethel’s Kizer.

Golden Tigers freshman ace Kathleen Elizabeth “Eli” Daniel, who was named the SSAC player, pitcher and freshman of the year Wednesday, struck out five batters and allowed four hits and no earned runs in the complete-game victory. Daniel leads the nation in wins (39), strikeouts (506), ERA (0.49) and opponents’ batting average (.123).

Mullis continued her dominance on the basepaths, swiping two bases and scoring twice. The senior outfielder from Carnesville, Georgia, leads the SSAC this season in runs scored (47) and stolen bases (40) and is third in batting average (.417).

Conaway finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs. The freshman infielder from Guyton, Georgia, is second in the SSAC with a .421 batting average and third in hits (67) and total bases (94).

Brenau v. Coastal Georgia

In Brenau’s second game of the tournament on Friday, April 28, the Golden Tigers knocked off No. 4 seed College of Coastal Georgia 5-2.  Brenau took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when sophomore infielder Cash singled to center to score junior catcher Moore. After senior right fielder Mullis reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases, freshman infielder Conaway put the Golden Tigers up 3-0 with a single to left that scored Cash and freshman outfielder Tabitha Morrison.

Coastal Georgia cut Brenau’s lead to 3-1 in the top of the third on an RBI double by Paige Alt, but the
Golden Tigers added to their lead in the bottom of the fourth when Mullis plated Cash on a double down the left-field line. Two batters later, Mullis added to her SSAC-leading runs-scored total on a grounder by junior catcher Courtney Kenney, giving Brenau a 5-1 advantage.

The Mariners added a run in the top of the seventh when Katie McGinnis reached on the fielder’s choice, before Ceejay Ham popped out to end the game.

Golden Tigers Eli Daniel struck out seven batters and allowed one run on eight hits in the complete-game victory. Daniel leads the nation in wins (40), strikeouts (513) and earned-run average ERA (0.50) and opponents’ batting average (.127).

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