Tyler Griffin, The Citadel, Jr., RF
Citadel right fielder Tyler Griffin hit .429 with a SoCon-best four home runs and 12 RBI in February to help the Bulldogs to a 4-4 start to the season. The Gainesville, Fla., junior accumulated a league-best 30 total bases in the month on the strength of six extra-base hits. Griffin had five multi-hit performances, including a monster series against North Florida in which he went career-best 4-for-5 with two runs driven in in the opener and 3-for-5 with three home runs and five RBI in the second game. He had two more RBI in the third game of the series and earned one of three national hitter-of-the-week honors from Collegiate Baseball after that weekend. Griffin opened the season with three straight multi-hit games, recording two each against George Mason and High Point and three against Kansas State, falling a double short of the cycle. His 15 hits in February were second-most in the league, while his 12 RBI tied him for third.
Other nominees: Alex Leach (Appalachian State), Brandon Murray (College of Charleston), Andrew Barna (Davidson), Ryan Kinsella (Elon), Paul Nitto (Furman), T.D. Davis (Georgia Southern), Christian Wolfe (UNCG), Tommy Corbin (Samford), Tyler White (Western Carolina) and Josh Hyman (Wofford).
Austin Pritcher, The Citadel, Sr., RHP
Citadel right-hander Austin Pritcher went 1-0 with a perfect 0.00 ERA in two starts in February. The James Island, S.C., native earned the opening-day nod for the Bulldogs and delivered a win over George Mason, limiting the Patriots to just four hits and no runs in six innings of work. Pritcher struck out six and walked just two. The senior turned in another quality start a week later against North Florida, taking a no-decision after departing with a 3-0 lead and seeing The Citadel win 6-3 in 11 innings. Pritcher struck out four, walked three and allowed six hits in seven scoreless innings. He has given up just one extra-base hit in his two starts. Dating back to last season, he has allowed just 12 earned runs in his past nine starts.
Other nominees: Jamie Nunn (Appalachian State), Matt Pegler (College of Charleston), Ryan Lowe (Davidson), Nate Young (Elon), Sam Howard (Georgia Southern), Dylan Hathcock (UNCG), Alex Milazzo (Samford), Jeremy Null (Western Carolina) and Jesse Morris (Wofford).
Jake Cohen, Davidson, Sr., F
Davidson forward Jake Cohen averaged 18.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game to lead the Wildcats to an 8-0 month, with seven of those games in conference play. The Berwyn, Pa., senior scored in double figures in each contest, hitting the 20-point plateau three times, including a career-high 32 in a win over College of Charleston. He had 28 points, 25 of which came in the first half, in the Wildcats’ 93-87, overtime win over Montana in a BracketBusters game on Feb. 23. Cohen also had 24 points and 12 rebounds against Western Carolina on Feb. 7 for his first double-double of the season. His second came on Feb. 20 against Furman, when he had 12 points and 11 boards. Cohen shot 53.5 percent (53-for-99) from the floor in the month and was 35-for-42 (83.3 percent) from the free throw line. He blocked 1.6 shots per game in February, swatting at least one in six of his eight contests. Cohen also had 18 assists to just nine turnovers in the month and was named the league’s player of the week for the third time this season on Feb. 26.
Other nominees: Nathan Healy (Appalachian State), Mike Groselle (The Citadel), Ryley Beaumont (Elon), Raijon Kelly (Samford), Gee McGhee (Chattanooga), Trey Sumler (Western Carolina) and Karl Cochran (Wofford).
Sophia Aleksandravicius, Davidson, Sr., F
Davidson forward Sophia Aleksandravicius repeated as player of the month after averaging 18.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots per game in February. The Pound Ridge, N.Y., native scored in double figures in all eight of her contests, including a high of 26 points against Wofford on Feb. 18, when she shot an astounding 84.6 percent (11-for-13) from the floor. Aleksandravicius recorded what is unofficially the first triple-double in school history two days earlier against Furman, scoring 20 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking 10 shots, breaking her own school record in the last category by one. The senior had four other double-doubles in the month, helping the Wildcats to a 6-2 mark. For the month, Aleksandravicius shot just a shade under 50 percent from the floor (50-for-101) and shot 81.1 percent from the free throw line (43-for-53). She was the league’s player of the week on Feb. 19 and has taken that award three times this season.
Other nominees: Anna Freeman (Appalachian State), Afreyea Tolbert (College of Charleston), Kelsey Evans (Elon), Jazmine Martin (Samford) and Ashlen Dewart (Chattanooga).
MEN’S INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Brandon Hairston, Western Carolina, Sr.
Western Carolina sprinter Brandon Hairston was named the SoCon Indoor Track & Field Championships’ Most Outstanding Athlete and Most Outstanding Track Performer after winning a pair of events at the meet, held Feb. 23-24 in Winston-Salem, N.C. Hairston won the 200-meter dash and anchored the Catamounts’ winning 4x400-meter relay unit. The Walkertown, N.C., senior also finished second in the 60 meters and third in the 400 meters in helping Western Carolina to a third-place team showing. At the Tiger Paw Invitational earlier in the month, Hairston helped the 4x400m relay team to a second-place finish behind Clemson. He was named the SoCon Track Athlete of the Week following his SoCon championship performance.
Steven Bastien, Samford, Fr.
Samford’s Steven Bastien won two titles at the SoCon Indoor Track & Field Championships, turning in a dominating victory in the heptathlon and claiming the long jump to help the Bulldogs to a runner-up finish. The Saline, Mich., native supplanted his own school record in the long jump, covering a distance of 7.19 meters, and totaled 4,916 points in the heptathlon, winning the event by more than 250 points. Bastien also scored points in the pole vault and 1,600-meter relay and finished the weekend with 38 points total. He was named the championship’s Outstanding Field Performer and Men’s Freshman of the Year. He was also named the SoCon Field Athlete of the Week after his championship performances.
WOMEN’S INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Lauren D’Alessio, Samford, Jr.
Samford junior Lauren D’Alessio swept the distance events at the SoCon Indoor Track & Field Championships last weekend, winning the 3,000 meters, the mile and the 5,000 meters to earn Most Outstanding Athlete and Most Outstanding Track Performer honors. It marked the first time since joining the league in 2008-09 that Samford had claimed either award. D’Alessio’s time of 17:05.48 in the 5,000m was a facility record, while the Pelham, Ala., native also anchored the Bulldogs’ third-place distance medley relay team. All told, D’Alessio accounted for three of Samford’s 12 championships and 36 of Samford’s 139 points as the team finished third at the meet. D’Alessio was the SoCon Track Athlete of the Week on Feb. 6 after turning in a SoCon-best time of 9:35.80 to take seventh in the invitational section of the 3,000m at the prestigious Meyo Invitational. She also took the final weekly award of the indoor season after her performance at the SoCon championships.
Alisha Bradshaw, Western Carolina, So.
Western Carolina sophomore Alisha Bradshaw won a pair of titles at the SoCon Indoor Track & Field Championships, taking first in the weight throw and shot put en route to being named the Most Outstanding Field Performer. Her throw of 17.56 meters in the weight throw surpassed her own school record, set earlier in the month at the Hilton Invitational at the same JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, N.C. Bradshaw’s personal-best throw of 14.28 meters in the shot put was also good for a title and helped the Catamounts to the team crown, their seventh. She was named the SoCon Field Athlete of the Week after that showing.
Tomeka Watson, Elon, Sr., LF
Elon left fielder Tomeka Watson led the SoCon in several offensive categories in February, including batting average (.514), runs scored (16), RBI (14), home runs (seven), total bases (43) and stolen bases (6-for-6). The senior from Jackson, Ga., hit home runs in six consecutive contests in the month, becoming the Phoenix’s career leader with her latest one, the 27th of her career, against Hampton on Feb. 24. Watson had seven multi-hit games – including six straight – and hit safely in nine of Elon’s 11 contests. She was 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI in Elon’s 5-2 upset at No. 8 Georgia on Feb. 8 and had another three RBI in the win over Hampton. She had two RBI each in games against Temple and St. Peter’s. Watson added four doubles in the month for 11 extra-base hits and was flawless in the field. She ended the month on an eight-game hitting streak.
Other nominees: Lindsay Loudermilk (Appalachian State), Chandler Frisbie (College of Charleston), Shelby Morrill (Georgia Southern), Lindsay Thomas (UNCG), Madison Dickey (Samford) and Kasey Tydingco (Chattanooga).
Raeanne Hanks, UNCG, R-Jr.
UNCG right-hander Raeanne Hanks is off to the best start in the league with a 6-1 record in February. After missing all of last season with an injury, Hanks has posted a career-best 1.19 ERA thus far this year, the best mark in the league amongst pitchers with more than 15 innings. She has two saves and opposing batters are hitting just .190 against her, good the fourth-best mark in the league. The Rainier, Ore., native struck out 60 batters – already surpassing her career high less than a month into the season – against just 25 walks in February and had a career-best 13 Ks against Belmont on Feb. 15. She had a stretch of 26 1/3 innings over five appearances without giving up an earned run, tossing shutouts against Alabama State and Belmont in that span. In 53 innings over 10 appearances on the young season, Hanks has allowed just four extra-base hits, all doubles.
Other nominees: Shivaun Landeros (Appalachian State), Hope Klicker (College of Charleston), Kayla Caruso (Elon), Sarah Purvis (Georgia Southern), Mollie Hanson (Samford), Taylor Deason (Chattanooga) and Jordan Garrett (Western Carolina).
Cameron Silverman, Elon, Jr.
Elon junior Cameron Silverman went 3-1 in both singles and doubles in February, all at No. 1. Against No. 34 NC State on Feb. 8, Silverman won a three-set match against the Wolfpack’s Robbie Mudge in singles play. He teamed with Stefan Fortmann for an 8-2 win over Mudge and Sean Weber in doubles action as the Phoenix won the doubles point before succumbing 4-3. Silverman cruised to straight-sets singles wins over opponents from Washington & Lee and Winthrop and earned doubles wins against both opponents, as well. The Mount Kisco, N.Y., native’s only losses in the month came against No. 36 Wake Forest, when he lost a super tiebreaker in singles play and fell 8-5 in doubles. Silverman is ranked 26th nationally in singles play and 26th with Fortmann in doubles.
Other nominees: Sebastian Lopez (College of Charleston), David Orces (The Citadel), Joe Schafer (Davidson), Rayane Djouad (Georgia Southern), Fares Kilani (Samford), Manuel Barroetavena (Chattanooga) and Rob Galloway (Wofford).
Jenna Nurik, Chattanooga, Sr.
Chattanooga senior Jenna Nurik went 6-0 in singles play and 4-1 in doubles action to lead the Lady Mocs to a 6-0 record in February. The Roswell, Ga., native played entirely at No. 1 in singles and at Nos. 1 and 2 in doubles. Nurik won each of her singles matches in straight sets, starting with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Middle Tennessee State’s Yuri Nomoto on Feb. 1 that helped Chattanooga snap a 13-match losing streak to the Blue Raiders. The following day, she rolled to a 6-2, 6-0 win over Lipscomb’s Deahna Welcher. Nurik also picked up singles wins over opponents from Austin Peay, UT-Martin, UAB and Jacksonville State. In doubles play, Nurik teamed with Kaylene Chadwell. The duo lost to MTSU to open the month before rattling off four straight wins, including an 8-0 blowout of Austin Peay’s Alison Carre and Vanessa Tavares at No. 2 on Feb. 8. Nurik and Chadwell played one match at No. 1, topping Jacksonville State’s top duo 8-4 on Feb. 23. At 8-0 on the season, UTC is off to its best start since 1991. Nurik was the SoCon Player of the Week on Feb. 12.
Other nominees: Nisha Crouser (Davidson), Frida Jansaker (Elon), Kelly Sullivan (Furman), Stephanie Woods (Georgia Southern) and Kristin Lewis (Samford).
Odie Delaney, The Citadel, R-Sr., 285 pounds
The Citadel’s Odie Delaney took his second straight monthly award after going 7-0 overall and 2-0 in SoCon action in February. A three-time SoCon Wrestler of the Week in the month, Delaney earned four pins, a major decision and two decisions in February to run his winning streak to 14 consecutive matches. The redshirt senior from Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., cruised to the heavyweight title at the All-Academy Championships in West Point, N.Y., on Feb. 2, pinning Merchant Marines’ Mason Reed in just 18 seconds and Coast Guard’s Mark Howard in just 38 before knocking off 28th-ranked Dan Miller of Navy, 10-6 in the final. Delaney also pinned Gardner-Webb’s 33rd-ranked Travis Porter and VMI’s Mike LaPrade in league dual wins before earning a major decision over Duke’s Brian Self and an 11-4 over No. 24 North Carolina’s Jake Barnhart. Delaney finished his dual career 20-3 in SoCon duals with three undefeated campaigns. With 117 career wins, he is second in school history. He earned a SoCon-record eight wrestler of the week citations throughout his career, including four this season.
Other nominees: Brett Boston (Appalachian State), Anthony Elias (Davidson), David Devine (SIUE) and Niko Brown (Chattanooga).
Southern Conference February Athletes of the Month
Baseball – Player Tyler Griffin, The Citadel
Baseball – Pitcher Austin Pritcher, The Citadel
Men’s Basketball Jake Cohen, Davidson
Women’s Basketball Sophia Aleksandravicius, Davidson
Men’s Indoor Track and Field – Track Brandon Hairston, Western Carolina
Men’s Indoor Track and Field – Field Steven Bastien, Samford
Women’s Indoor Track and Field – Track Lauren D’Alessio, Samford
Women’s Indoor Track and Field – Field Alisha Bradshaw, Western Carolina
Softball – Player Tomeka Watson, Elon
Softball – Pitcher Raeanne Hanks, UNCG
Men’s Tennis Cameron Silverman, Elon
Women’s Tennis Jenna Nurik, Chattanooga
Wrestling Odie Delaney, The Citadel