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 outdoor track and field, men’s lacrosse, softball and men’s and women’s tennis Thursday, highlighting excellence among student-athletes during the month.
Caleb Webster, UNCG, Fr., 3B
UNCG third baseman Caleb Webster hit a league-best .478 in March, reaching base in all 18 Spartan contests, collecting hits in 15 of them, and finishing the month on a 10-game hitting streak to help UNCG to a 14-4 record. The freshman from Randleman, North Carolina, scored 16 runs and drove in 20 more, counting seven doubles and two triples among his 32 total hits for a .642 slugging percentage. He also drew eight walks and amassed an on-base percentage of .506. Webster went 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles and four RBIs against Maryland Eastern Shore on March 5 and added 10 more multi-hit games in the month. Later in the month, he drove in four runs and scored three in a 3-for-4 performance against Lafayette in which he fell a home run short of the cycle. The rookie also played flawless defense at the hot corner, cleanly fielding 44 total chances without an error. Webster, who ranks second nationally with a .455 seasonal batting average, has struck out just two times in his brief collegiate career and leads with nation with 38.5 at bats per strikeout.
Others nominated: Jonathan Sabo (The Citadel), Aaron Maher (ETSU), Charlie Madden (Mercer), Austin Edens (Samford), Bryson Bowman (Western Carolina) and Brett Hash (Wofford).
JP Sears, The Citadel, Jr., LHP
Citadel left-hander JP Sears went 3-0 with a 1.43 ERA in March, striking out 55 batters and walking just nine. The junior southpaw went at least 6 2/3 innings in each of his five starts. Sears opened his month with seven innings of scoreless, four-hit ball against College of Charleston, striking out 15 and departing in line for the win before the Cougars rallied against the Bulldog bullpen. Sears earned his first win of the month a week later, allowing just one run in eight innings against Stetson, striking out seven. The next Friday saw him pick up a win over Dartmouth, as he allowed two runs in seven innings of work. Sears turned in the best outing of his career on March 24, striking out 20 batters in a two-hit complete-game shutout of VMI. The 20 Ks matched The Citadel’s school record and tied for second-most in SoCon history. Sears earned league and national player of the week honors for that performance. He closed his March with a no-decision against Western Carolina in which he allowed three runs and struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings. Sears posted a 6.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 13.14 strikeouts per 9 innings in March. He leads the SoCon and is second nationally with 72 strikeouts on the season.
Others nominated: Blake Smith (ETSU), Robert Broom (Mercer), Bryce Hensley (UNCG), Wyatt Burns (Samford), Bryan Sammons (Western Carolina) and Adam Scott (Wofford).
Andrew Novak, Wofford, Sr.
Wofford senior Andrew Novak turned in a pair of top-10 finishes in March, tying for ninth at the Palmetto Intercollegiate and tying for second at the Furman Intercollegiate. He claimed SoCon Player of the Week honors after both tournaments. Novak shot a 1-over-par 211 Palmetto Intercollegiate, highlighted by a 2-under 68 in the second round. The field featured four ranked teams and nine ranked individuals. At the Furman Intercollegiate, Novak tied with Chattanooga’s Wes Gosselin for runner-up honors, firing a 10-under 206. The Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, native opened with a 5-under 67 and backed that up with a season-best 6-under 66 in round two to take the individual lead. He finished with a 1-over 73 and one stroke out of medalist honors in a 128-player field that included three ranked golfers other than himself. Novak’s top-five finish was the 11th of his career, tying him for the school record. Novak turned in a stroke average of 69.50 in March, 1.50 strokes below par. He leads the league with a 70.25 stroke average this season.
Others nominated: Mateusz Gradecki (ETSU), Bryce Howell (Furman), Kiko Rosete (Mercer), Bryce Hendrix (UNCG), Garrett Moores (Samford), Wes Gosselin (Chattanooga) and Jackson Bishop (Western Carolina).
Loy Hee Ying, ETSU, So.
ETSU sophomore Loy Hee Ying was a two-time SoCon Golfer of the Week in March, taking the honor after both tournaments in which the Bucs competed in the month. The Kulaijaya, Malaysia, native won her first collegiate tournament on March 9-10, shooting a 3-under-par 213 to cruise to a five-stroke victory over the 74-golfer field. Loy opened with a 7-under 65, ETSU’s best round since 2010, and followed that up with rounds of 73 and 75 to finish with the only sub-par total in the tournament. She led the Bucs to a second-place finish in the 11-team field, two strokes ahead of 49th-ranked East Carolina. Loy tied for 13th in her second tournament of the month, shooting a 7-over 223 at the 3M Augusta Invitational, which featured three top-50 teams and four ranked individuals. In the second round, Loy turned in her seventh score in the 60s this academic year, firing a 5-under 67. She has now finished in the top 20 in 10 straight tournaments, dating back to last season, and leads the SoCon with a 72.30 stroke average. Loy had a stroke average of 72.67 in March, just 0.67 strokes above par.
Others nominated: Cameron Little (The Citadel), Alice Chen (Furman), Lauren Lightfritz (Mercer), Emily Uhland (Samford), Monica San Juan (Chattanooga) and Natalia Villavicencio (Western Carolina).
Teddy Hatfield, Richmond, So., A
Richmond’s Teddy Hatfield guided the Spiders to a 4-1 record for the month of March, including three conference wins and an upset over the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels, who were ranked No. 9 at the time. For the month, Hatfield tallied 11 goals and 10 assists. He led the league with 4.20 points per game in March, while his 2.00 assists per game tied for first in the conference. In the Spiders’ first loss of the season, in which they fell 9-8 against then-No. 20 Duke, Hatfield tallied three points on two goals and one assist. Hatfield tallied his second hat trick of the season in the Spiders’ 13-8 win over VMI on March 11 and added one assist. In the Spiders’ 6-5 upset over No. 9 North Carolina, Hatfield assisted teammate Dan Ginestro on the first play of the fourth quarter, cutting the UNC lead to 5-4 and sparking a 3-0 Spider run to propel Richmond over the Tar Heels. Against Jacksonville on March 18, Hatfield scored two goals and dished out three assists in the Spiders’ second conference win of the season. Hatfield’s peak performance came in the Spiders’ last game of the month, as the Summit, New Jersey, native racked up eight points on four goals and four assists in Richmond’s 12-4 rout over High Point. Hatfield’s eight points against the Panthers tied his own SoCon season high, which he set in the Spiders’ first game of the season, in which they downed Fairfield, 15-3. His eight-point performances are tied for third-most in a single game in SoCon history. The sophomore attackman currently leads the SoCon in assists (1.70 apg) and points (4.10 ppg).
Others nominated: Nick Hruby (Air Force), David Williamson (Furman) and Lucas Wittenberg (Mercer).
Benny Pugh, Richmond, Sr., GK
Richmond’s Benny Pugh garners his second consecutive SoCon Defensive Player of the Month distinction after achieving a league-best 66.3 save percentage in March. In addition to being the only goalkeeper to achieve a save percentage above 60 percent, Pugh led all SoCon goalies last month in goals against average with a 5.97 mark. The senior was sensational in net in a win over then-No. 9 North Carolina on March 13, holding the defending champions to just five goals, while tallying 11 saves, two of which came late in the fourth quarter when the Spiders were clinging to their 6-5 lead. In Richmond’s 13-6 win over Jacksonville, Pugh recorded 13 saves – his single-game high for the month of March – in 55 minutes of action. In the Spiders’ final contest, against High Point, the Powhatan, Virginia, native reached double-digit saves for his fourth straight game with 10 and allowed just two Panther goals in 51 minutes in the net. Pugh currently leads the nation in goals against average (5.47) and save percentage (69.7) and ranks eighth in saves per game (12.20) on the season.
Others nominated: Trent Harper (Air Force), Alec Van de Bovenkamp (Furman), Tim Troutner Jr. (High Point) and Bradley Hodoval (Mercer).
MEN’S OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Matt Moore, ETSU, Sr.
ETSU’s Matt Moore posted the SoCon’s top time in the men’s 100-meter dash at the Weems Baskin Invitational in Columbia, South Carolina, on March 25. Moore ran a personal-best time of 10.46 seconds to place fifth overall at the meet among a strong field of competitors. The Oak Ridge, Tennessee, native’s time currently ranks No. 21 on the East Regional qualifying list. Moore, a senior, also ranks fifth in the 200-meter dash on the SoCon outdoor performance list after running the event in 21.89 seconds at the Charlotte 49er Classic. Moore was named the SoCon’s Men Outdoor Track Athlete of the Week on March 22 for his performance at the meet, as he also placed fourth overall in the men’s 100-meter dash at the meet with a time of 10.67 seconds.
Others nominated: Brandon Hazouri (Samford).
Tray Oates, Samford, Jr.
Samford’s Tray Oates, who garnered All-America status at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in the men’s pole vault, earned the current top mark this season among SoCon outdoor pole vaulters at Samford’s Alabama Track Challenge in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 24. The junior from Acworth, Georgia, achieved a height of 17 feet, 7 inches (5.36 meters) to place first overall in the event. Oates’ mark is more than six inches higher than the next-best competitor on the SoCon outdoor performance list. Oates earned SoCon Outdoor Field Athlete of the Week honors on March 29.
Others nominated: Scott Peretin (Western Carolina).
WOMEN’S OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Allie Buchalski, Furman, Jr.
Furman’s Allie Buchalski, a junior in outdoor competition, ran and still holds the top 5,000-meter time in the nation at the Raleigh Relays, which took place on March 24. Buchalski, who claimed All-American honors for her performance in the 3,000-meter run at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, ran in 15:35.55 to claim the title at the Raleigh Relays meet, besting the second-place finisher by more than 15 seconds. The Johns Creek, Georgia, native surpassed her previous outdoor personal best by 33 seconds. For her performance, Buchalski was selected as the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Athlete of the Week on March 28.
Others nominated: Kyra Atkins (ETSU), Karisa Nelson (Samford) and Dasha Arnuat (Western Carolina).
Hailey Cook, Western Carolina, Sr.
Western Carolina’s Hailey Cook won the shot put among a strong competitive field at the VertKlasse Meeting in High Point, North Carolina, on March 31 with a best throw of 48 feet, 10 3/4 inches (14.90 meters). Her throw is the top mark in the SoCon thus far this outdoor season. Cook, a senior, also placed third in the shot put two weeks prior to the VertKlasse Meeting at the Bill Webb & Bob Davidson Spring Kick-Off, also in High Point, North Carolina, with a best throw of 46 feet, 1/2 inch (14.03m). The Hendersonville, North Carolina, native is also tied for second among SoCon competitors in the discus throw with a distance of 141 feet, 6 inches (43.13m), which she also accomplished Bill Webb & Bob Davidson Spring Kick-Off to earn a seventh-place finish in the event.
Others nominated: Maggie Johnston (Samford).
Danielle Knoetze, ETSU, Sr., OF
Danielle Knoetze led ETSU with five multi-hit games and four multi-RBI contests, while hitting safe in 13 of the Bucs’ 15 games in March. The senior outfielder slugged .811, which was the best among all SoCon hitters in March, hit .415, achieved an on-base percentage of .436 and tallied six doubles. Knoetze also led the conference in total bases (43) and was second in home runs (five) last month. After the Bucs lost seven straight games to start the month, Knoetze helped ETSU win six of its last eight games to close out the month. She hit .476 (10-for-21) with four doubles, two home runs, seven runs and seven RBIs during a six-game home win streak. The San Diego, California, native posted four three-hit games in March, against St. John’s, Michigan State and back-to-back games against Radford in a series sweep over the Highlanders. She currently ranks third in program history with 25 home runs in her four-year career, while she ranks second in the SoCon with eight home runs this season. Knoetze currently leads the SoCon in slugging percentage (.766) and total bases (72) and is tied for second in doubles (11), fourth in batting average (.394), tied for fourth in RBIs (24), fifth in hits (37) and tied for eighth in on-base percentage (.436).
Others nominated: Taylor Miller (Mercer), Jasmine Palmer (UNCG), Shelby Maze (Samford) and Hunter Gibbons (Western Carolina).
Lindsey Bert, Furman, Jr., LHP
Furman’s Lindsey Bert posted a 4-4 record and led the SoCon with a 2.35 ERA in 11 appearances during the month of March. The junior held opposing batters to a .221 batting average – also a SoCon best for the month of March – in earning her second straight monthly award. Bert tossed complete-game shutouts against Florida A&M and Samford and hurled a one-hitter with a career-best 11 strikeouts in the Paladins’ 3-1 victory over Albany during the Puerto Rico Classico. The left-hander fanned a SoCon-best 50 batters and walked just nine in 53 2/3 innings of work last month. The Tallahassee, Florida, native garnered her third SoCon Pitcher of the Week distinction on March 13 for competition held March 6-12. For the season, Bert leads the SoCon in ERA (2.41), opposing batting average (.212) and strikeouts (105) and is one of just two pitchers in the SoCon with double-digit wins (10).
Others nominated: Tiffany Laughren (ETSU), Megan Bilgri (Mercer) and Jessica Stone (Samford).
Adam Steryous, Furman, Sr.
Furman’s Adam Steryous went 13-1 during March to repeat as the men’s tennis player of the month. The senior from Taylors, South Carolina, went 7-0 at No. 1 singles and was 6-1 at No. 1 doubles with Jake Munns as the Paladins were 6-1 (4-0 SoCon) during the month. Steryous was 4-0 in conference singles matches in March, winning all four in straight sets. After dropping their first match in March against Vuk Velickovic and Luiz Faria of Coastal Carolina, Steryous and Munns won their final six matches of the month, including a 6-4 decision over Samford’s Jake Faundez and Eduardo Lourido Sanchez.
Others nominated: David Biosca (ETSU), Sam Philp (Mercer), Connor Thompson (UNCG), Jake Faundez (Samford), Niklas Gerdes (Chattanooga) and Lucas Cerbelli (Wofford).
Ansley Speaks, Furman, Sr.
Furman senior Ansley Speaks was a perfect 17-0 in all competition during March. The Simpsonville, South Carolina, native went 9-0 at No. 1 singles last month and was a perfect 8-0 at No. 1 singles with Aryn Greene. Seven of Speaks’ nine singles wins came in straight sets and she won all four of her conference matches in straight sets as the Paladins were a perfect 9-0 during March. After pulling out a 7-5 win over North Florida’s Luise Intert and Quetzali Vazquez to start the month, Speaks and Greene cruised during March and only were tested with two 6-3 decisions, over UCF and Samford.
Others nominated: Marina Guinart (ETSU), Katia Stavroulaki (Mercer), Sophia Adams (UNCG), Annika Hepp (Samford), Samantha Caswell (Chattanooga) and Kalli Karas (Wofford).
Southern Conference March Athletes of the Month
Baseball – player Caleb Webster, UNCG
Baseball – pitcher JP Sears, The Citadel
Men’s golf Andrew Novak, Wofford
Women’s golf Loy Hee Ying, ETSU
Men’s outdoor track & field – track Matt Moore, ETSU
Men’s outdoor track & field – field Tray Oates, Samford
Women’s outdoor track & field – track Allie Buchalski, Furman
Women’s outdoor track & field – field Hailey Cook, Western Carolina
Men’s lacrosse – offense Teddy Hatfield, Richmond
Men’s lacrosse – defense Benny Pugh, Richmond
Softball – player Danielle Knoetze, ETSU
Softball – pitcher Lindsey Bert, Furman
Men’s tennis Adam Steryous, Furman
Women’s tennis Ansley Speaks, Furman