SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Southern Conference announced its March athletes of the month for baseball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, softball and men’s and women’s tennis Thursday, highlighting excellence among student-athletes during the month.
Kel Johnson, Mercer, Gr., OF
Mercer outfielder Kel Johnson had a standout month of March, hitting .325 and racking up 25 hits, including 10 home runs, and 27 RBIs and 17 runs scored. Johnson, a graduate student, reached base safely in all 20 contests, extending his streak to 27 consecutive games. He tallied three multi-home run performances over a six-game span from March 10-19 and finished with an on-base percentage of .418 and a slugging percentage of .740. The native of Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, had three games with at least five RBIs, including a 3-for-4 performance at Georgia Tech in which he hit two home runs and drove in five. He was named the SoCon Player of the Week on March 18 after batting .350 (7-for-20) with four home runs and 10 runs batted in against Savannah State and Binghamton.
Others nominated: Ben Peden (The Citadel), Sonny DiChiara (Samford), Callen Nuccio (VMI), Justice Bigbie (Western Carolina) and Lawson Hill (Wofford).
Hayes Heinecke, Wofford, Fr., LHP
Wofford freshman Hayes Heinecke had a standout month as he went undefeated in five starts in March. The lefthander pitched 33 innings, throwing at least six in each appearance, and finished the month with a 1.36 ERA. Against Harvard on March 2, Heinecke threw a complete-game seven-inning shutout and allowed just two hits in the 8-0 win. A week later against Gardner-Webb, the native of Fayetteville, Georgia, had 10 strikeouts and didn’t allow a run in seven innings pitched. He threw six innings against Lafayette on March 16, allowing just one run, and again threw six innings at Florida A&M on March 23, tallying six strikeouts and in six innings pitched as the Terriers won 14-11. Heinecke went seven innings against Mercer on March 30, striking out four and allowing just five hits and one run in the 11-2 victory.
Others nominated: Dylan Spence (The Citadel), Beau Bealy (Mercer), Samuel Strickland (Samford), Chase Walter (Western Carolina) and Zak Kent (VMI).
Keller Harper, Furman, Jr.
Furman’s Keller Harper turned in a 69.2 stroke average and claimed a pair of top-10 finishes in March, including a win the Paladins’ own Furman Intercollegiate. The junior from Atlanta, Georgia, opened his month with a ninth-place finish at the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate, shooting an even-par 210, highlighted by a 3-under 67 in round two. The field included two top-50 teams and two top-50 players. Harper capped his month with a win in the Paladins’ home tournament, birdieing No. 18 on the last day to complete an 8-under 205 for the one-stroke victory. Harper opened with a 1-under 70 in round one before tying the tournament’s low-round record with an 8-under 63 in round two and the tournament’s two-round record at 133. Harper notched 13 birdies over the course of the three rounds, helping Furman to a third-place finish in the 21-team field.
Others nominated: Austin Carter (ETSU), Stanton Schorr (Mercer), Nick Lyerly (UNCG) and Lake Johnson (Chattanooga).
Natalie Srinivasan, Furman, Jr.
Furman’s Natalie Srinivasan paced the 20th-ranked Paladins with a 72.4 stroke average over nine rounds in March. She led the Paladins with a 16th-place finish at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, recording six birdies over the three rounds in shooting a 5-over-par 218 in a field that included 12 of the top 25 teams in the country. The junior then led the Paladins with a fourth-place finish at the Briar’s Creek Invitational, finishing with a 3-under 213 by recording nine birdies over the three rounds, including six in putting together a 4-under 68 in round two. To conclude the month, she turned in a 32nd-place finish in another tough field at the PING/ASU Invitational, scoring four birdies and an eagle in a 5-over 221 against a field that included eight top-25 teams. The Spartanburg, South Carolina, native is ranked 36th nationally.
Others nominated: Mary Janiga (Mercer), Tara Bettle (UNCG) and Emily Uhland (Samford).
Jack Dolan, Jacksonville, So., M
Jacksonville’s Jack Dolan was a three-time SoCon Offensive Player of the Week in March, totaling 17 goals, 13 assists and 30 points in the month. The sophomore from Columbus, Ohio, had at least five points in four of his six contests, opening the month with eight points on four goals and four assists in a 19-12 win over Drexel, notching career highs in all three categories. He followed that up with three goals and four assists in a 15-13 loss to No. 1 Towson on March 8, adding three goals and two assists two days later against No. 6 Penn State. He had a goal and an assist in an 11-8 win at Bellarmine to open SoCon play before notching four goals and an assist in the Dolphins’ 12-10 win over No. 10 High Point on March 23, JU’s first victory over a ranked opponent in program history. He closed his month with two goals and an assist at Air Force.
Others nominated: Trey Lervick (Air Force), Riley Seay (Bellarmine), Asher Nolting (High Point), Michael Quinn (Mercer), Teddy Hatfield (Richmond) and Ryan Perouty (VMI).
Braden Host, Air Force, So., GK
Air Force goalkeeper Braden Host recorded an 8.10 goals against average and 52 total saves (8.67 per game) in March to lead the Falcons to a 5-1 month. The sophomore from Aurora, Colorado, helped Air Force keep five of its six March opponents in single digits in scoring, with the lone exception being No. 2 Yale in its 13-6 win in which Host made a career-high 19 saves and faced 52 shots. Host had eight saves and went the distance in Air Force’s 13-7 win over Canisius on March 2 and allowed just 17 goals in three SoCon games, all wins, totaling 24 saves against Mercer, Furman and Jacksonville. Host’s save percentage was .500 or better in five of his six games on the month, including a high-water mark of .549 against Yale. Host is second in NCAA Division I with a 7.95 GAA this season.
Others nominated: Jordan Dondoyano (Bellarmine), Tim Troutner Jr. (High Point), Jordan Young (Jacksonville), Josh Tarver (Mercer), Sean Menges (Richmond) and Kyle Walsh (VMI).
Hailey Rhatigan, Mercer, Fr., A
Mercer’s Hailey Rhatigan had a career month for the Bears, helping to lead them to a 5-3 overall record and a 2-0 conference record by scoring 33 goals and adding eight assists for 41 points, averaging 4.125 goals and 5.125 points per game. The freshman attack recorded at least three points in each game in the month, highlighted by a seven-goal, nine-point day in a 21-11 SoCon win over Detroit Mercy on March 29. The Holbrook, New York, native followed that up with a season-high three caused turnovers and seven draw controls against Central Michigan on March 31. Rhatigan, who scored at least two goals in each game, opened her month with five in a loss to Campbell on March 3 and had six in a 20-9 win over Kennesaw State on March 19. Against Davidson on March 7, she recorded a season-high four ground balls. Rhatigan leads NCAA Division I in shots per game (9.36) and shots on goal per game (6.64).
Others nominated: Jocelyn Lemay (Central Michigan), Lexie Kinmond (Detroit Mercy), Grace Pollak (Furman) and Hannah Mutch (Wofford).
Audrey Robertson, Mercer, Sr., D
Mercer defender Audrey Robertson had a standout month of March, leading the Bears with 32 ground balls (4.00 per game) and 33 caused turnovers (4.125 per game). The senior from Stuart, Florida, had at least three ground balls in six of her eight contests and at least four caused turnovers in five games. Against Davidson on March 7, she had five ground balls and six caused turnovers. Robertson had six ground balls and six caused turnovers in a 20-9 win over Kennesaw State on March 19 and added seven ground balls and seven caused turnovers in a 21-11 win over Detroit Mercy on March 29. She opened her month with two ground balls and two caused turnovers against Campbell, adding her first assist of the season. Robertson had four caused turnovers apiece in wins over St. Bonaventure and Central Michigan. She is third in NCAA Division I with 3.45 caused turnovers per game this season.
Others nominated: Courtney Baker (Furman) and Kelsey Thompson (Wofford).
MEN’S OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Aaron Templeton, Furman, Sr.
Furman’s Aaron Templeton earned his first career monthly honor thanks to his performance at the Raleigh Relays in Raleigh, North Carolina, on March 30, dropping 48 seconds from the school record in the 10,000-meter invitational run to claim the win in 28:27.85. The senior from Knoxville, Tennessee, owns the best time in the SoCon this season by more than 20 seconds and ranks third in the NCAA East Region and eighth on the NCAA Division I performance list.
Ben Johnson, ETSU, R-Sr.
ETSU’s Ben Johnson was a two-time SoCon Field Athlete of the Week in March. Johnson opened his outdoor season at the Charlotte 49er Classic in Charlotte, North Carolina, taking second place in the javelin with a throw of 64.19 meters and finishing eighth in the shot put with a throw of 15.20 meters, both of which were SoCon-leading marks. The following week, the redshirt senior from Nashville, Tennessee, earned a pair of top-five finishes at the VertKlasse Meeting in High Point, North Carolina, taking third in the hammer with a league-best throw of 56.76 meters and taking fifth in the shot put with a throw of 16.20 meters, extending his SoCon lead. At the Raleigh Relays to finish the month, Johnson turned in a season-best throw in the discus of 39.57 meters in addition to taking seventh in the hammer with a throw of 57.07 meters and claiming third in the javelin with a throw of 64.62, both SoCon bests.
WOMEN’S OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Gabbi Jennings, Furman, Jr.
Furman’s Gabbi Jennings won the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Raleigh Relays in her outdoor season debut on March 30, turning in her collegiate-best time of 9:59.54 to take more than five seconds off the meet and facility record. The senior from Slidell, Louisiana, is third on the NCAA Division I performance list and second in the East Region with her effort. This year marks the fourth straight that a Furman runner has won the March women’s track award.
Amber Lust, Wofford, Sr.
Wofford’s Amber Lust competed in three meets in March, opening her outdoor season at the Charlotte 49er Classic, where she helped the Terriers to a fifth-place finish in the 4x100-meter relay in 47.49 seconds. She also competed in the javelin, throwing it 25.22 meters. At the Winthrop/Adidas Invitational in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a week later, the senior from Felton, Delaware, won the heptathlon with 4,645 points, winning the 100-meter hurdles and 200-meter dash, claiming second in the long jump, finishing third in the 800-meter run and tying for third in the high jump. She capped her month with a pair of wins at Wofford’s Terrier Relays, claiming the 100-meter hurdles in 14.28 seconds and running a leg on the victorious 4x200-meter relay, which won in 1:39.12. Lust ranks first in the SoCon in the heptathlon (4,645) and second in the 100-meter hurdles (14.22) on the season, with her heptathlon score good for 41st on the NCAA Division I performance list. She becomes Wofford’s first-ever track and field athlete of the month, men’s or women’s, indoor or outdoor. Lust became the Terriers’ first-ever female winner of a weekly outdoor field award after her heptathlon win.
Marisa Sholtes, UNCG, R-Sr., 1B
UNCG first baseman Marisa Sholtes hit .429 on the month and had a .943 slugging percentage and a .524 on-base percentage as the Spartans went 12-6 and 4-2 in conference play in March. The redshirt senior reached base in every game she played and had hits in all but two contests as she tallied 15 hits, 11 RBIs and 10 runs scored in 12 games played. Sholtes hit five home runs and three doubles and also drew six walks. In the sweep of Elon on March 16 and 17, Sholtes went 5-for-9 from the plate with three home runs, five RBIs and five runs scored. Against Samford to open conference play, the native of Albany, New York, was 5-for-9 at the dish with two home runs, four RBIs and three runs scored. In the Spartans’ sweep at Chattanooga, she reached base six times with four walks, a double and a single.
Others nominated: Nikki Grupp (ETSU), Marissa Guimbarda (Furman), Danielle Castleberry (Mercer), Whitney Hinton (Samford), Halie Williamson (Chattanooga) and Hunter Gibbons (Western Carolina).
Stephanie Bryden, UNCG, Sr.
UNCG senior Stephanie Bryden went 8-3 in March, finishing with a 2.15 ERA and a 0.907 WHIP. She tallied eight complete games and recorded three shutouts, holding batters to a .175 batting average. The native of Orlando, Florida, who was honored as pitcher of the week twice in the month, tallied 10-plus strikeouts in five of her nine appearances and averaged 9.24 strikeouts per seven innings. She began the month with a complete-game win against Fairfield on March 2, tallying 11 strikeouts and allowing just one run and one hit. She made a relief appearance against Saint Peter’s on March 8 and retired all nine batters faced, striking out eight. On March 10, she struck out 10 in a complete-game win over Delaware. In a sweep of Elon on March 16 and 17, Bryden threw two complete games, allowing just one earned run, four hits and three walks and tallying 19 strikeouts in the combined effort. She earned her second one-hit shutout of the month in five innings against Samford on March 23 and added another pair of complete-game wins last weekend at Chattanooga, including a three-hit shutout in the series opener and 11 strikeouts in the series finale.
Others nominated: Taylor Boling (ETSU), Emily DeMonte (Furman), Bailey Pattison (Mercer), Taylor DeCelles (Samford), Mariah Ramirez (Chattanooga) and Shaina Reed (Western Carolina).
Frazier Rengifo, ETSU, So.
ETSU sophomore Frazier Rengifo went a perfect 8-0 in singles play and 5-3 in doubles play as ETSU went 8-1 in the month. During the month, the native of Cali, Colombia, became the first four-time men’s tennis player of the week in league history, and he since added a fifth weekly honor. Against Elon on March 17, Rengifo handed Felipe Sarrasgue just his second singles loss of the season, winning 7-5, 6-2. In conference play, he won all three conference matches, including two in straight sets, all at the top spot in the lineup. He defeated Furman’s Ivan Mitric, ranked No. 120 nationally, 6-4, 6-1 on March 22 and defeated Samford’s Roussouw Norval 6-2, 6-4 before beating Chattanooga’s Niklas Gerdes 6-3, 4-6, 1-0 (11-9) on the final day of the month. In nonconference action, he added a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 win over Charlotte’s Luca Kent, ranked No. 22, and added a 6-1 doubles win against Charlotte’s duo, also ranked 22nd. In total, Rengifo finished the month 3-0 against ranked opponents, including 2-0 in singles action.
Others nominated: Phillip Quinn (The Citadel) and Drew Singerman (Furman).
Jenna Vroman, Wofford, So.
Wofford sophomore Jenna Vroman won five of her six singles matches on the month, all in the top position, and went 6-0 in doubles matches at the top spot, including a 6-3 win over Furman’s Katarina Kozarov and Julia Adams, ranked No. 40 nationally. Vroman and partner Cassidy Hicks began the month with a 6-0 win against Rhode Island before Vroman rallied back for a 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 singles win. At Gardner-Webb on March 13, the doubles duo won 6-4 and Vroman added a 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-0 singles win to improve to 9-1 on the year. In the conference opener at UNCG, a 4-3 win for the Terriers, Vroman and Hicks won 6-1 before Vroman defeated UNCG’s top player, Nancy Bridges, 6-3, 6-1. En route to going 4-0 in the month in conference play, Vroman, a Daniel Island, South Carolina, native, and Hicks added a 6-2 win against ETSU, a 6-3 win against Chattanooga and a 6-3 win over Furman’s Kozarov and Adams. In singles play, Vroman added a 6-4, 7-5 win against ETSU’s Laylo Bakhodirova, and a 7-5, 6-4 win over Chattanooga’s Polina Goloputova before falling to Furman’s Kozarov, ranked No. 88 nationally, 4-6, 0-6 in her lone setback of the month.
Others nominated: Raquel Amaro (ETSU), Madison Dillon (Furman) and Jacy Smith (Western Carolina).
Southern Conference March Athletes of the Month
Baseball – player Kel Johnson, Mercer
Baseball – pitcher Hayes Heinecke, Wofford
Men’s golf Keller Harper, Furman
Women’s golf Natalie Srinivasan, Furman
Men’s lacrosse – offense Jack Dolan, Jacksonville
Men’s lacrosse – defense Braden Host, Air Force
Women’s lacrosse – offense Hailey Rhatigan, Mercer
Women’s lacrosse – defense Audrey Robertson, Mercer
Men’s outdoor track and field – track Aaron Templeton, Furman
Men’s outdoor track and field – field Ben Johnson, ETSU
Women’s outdoor track and field – track Gabbi Jennings, Furman
Women’s outdoor track and field – field Amber Lust, Wofford
Softball – player Marisa Sholtes, UNCG
Softball – pitcher Stephanie Bryden, UNCG
Men’s tennis Frazier Rengifo, ETSU
Women’s tennis Jenna Vroman, Wofford