Hannah Grant, Chanticleer Sports Writer
If you do not already know the six-time Ohio Valley Conference Softball champions, you may want to learn.
As predicted, the 2018 OVC Preseason polls have Jacksonville State returning to the number one spot yet again with 15 first-place votes. The polls are voted on by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.
But before the OVC favorites take on the season, the Gamecocks will host their annual Fan Day Sunday, February 4 at 2 p.m. at University Field.
Softball fans from all over are welcome to join the team with opportunities to win free prizes while enjoying complimentary popcorn and drinks. Attendees will be able to meet the 2018 team and take home signed posters.
The Jax State squad is ready to begin hopefully another historic season after their back-to-back OVC titles and NCAA Regional appearances in the previous two.
The seven departed Gamecock seniors definitely left their mark on the team with a combined 3 OVC Championships, 161 wins and only 59 losses.
Whitney Gillespie was dominant in the pitching circle yet again in 2017, as she earned All-Region honors by the NFCA for the second straight year. She added the achievement to her extensive collection of All-OVC honors and her OVC Tournament MVP nod.
Catcher Jamie McGuire joined Gillespie by also earning All-Region honors by the NFCA for the first time, adding to her second-straight First Team All-OVC mention and OVC All-Tournament Team. To top off her senior season, McGuire was selected to join Alabama Stars to play in exhibition games against the USA Women’s National Team in both Tuscaloosa and Auburn.
In the outfield was the unstoppable Stephanie Lewis, who not only dominated in the field, but also in the batter’s box. Lewis appeared in every game as a starter along with fellow senior Taylor Sloan, who showed her dominance as a utility player and catcher.
Emily Church, Jordan Sims, Taylor West and Cadi Oliver are the remaining seniors that left their legacy at University Field.
Coach Jana McGinnis and her team have lost some powerhouse players, but the retooled squad is just as motivated to return to another historic season.
Familiar faces around the diamond are returning this year along with some new ones, but the team still has the same goal—win an OVC Championship.
JSU has added six new Gamecocks to the 2018 roster.
Lex Hull, a junior Louisville, Kentucky native, comes to JSU as a junior previously from the University of South Carolina.
Accompanying Hull is another pair of transfers. Anika Barbosa, the junior native of El Paso, Texas from Navarro (Texas) College and Taylor Beshears, a junior from Trussville who played previously at Wallace State Community College.
Hannahstaysia Weaver from Pisgah, Alabama, Jada Terry from Trinity, Alabama and Nicole Rodriguez from Fort Myers, Florida are the three freshman additions this year.
After Fan Day, six-time OVC Coach of the Year Jana McGinnis and her new squad will open up the season on Feb. 9 in Jacksonville, Florida as part of the River City Leadoff.
The Gamecocks will make their home debut on Feb. 14 at 5 p.m. against Samford at University Field.