Jags softball players Brown & Nichols named SBC players of Week
NEW ORLEANS, La. – University of South Alabama softball student-athletes Devin Brown (Pitcher) and MC Nichols (Co-Player) were named Community Coffee Players of the Week Tuesday afternoon as announced by the Sun Belt Conference office.
The honor is the second of the season and ninth of Brown's career, while it marks the first for Nichols – who earned co-player of the week honors with Louisiana-Lafayette's DJ Sanders. Brown's selection marks the 19th time in program history that USA has had a pitcher earn the weekly accolade, while Nichols is the 14th position player to earn the selection.
Both Brown and Nichols played significant roles in helping the Jaguars sweep through the past weekend at the South Alabama Invitational and extend their win streak to eight games.
Brown continued her dominance over the weekend as she recorded a pair of complete-game shutout.. In her two outings, Brown allowed just five hits and walked one, while striking out 24 in her 14 innings of work en route to being selected to the all-tournament team.
In her first outing, Brown recorded the fourth no-hitter of her career and the 16th in program history in a 2-0 win over Tennessee Tech. Brown set a season high with 15 strikeouts – two strikeouts shy of matching her career high – in her seven innings of work and of her 15 strikeouts, 13 were swinging. Of her 80 pitches thrown, 63 were for strikes for a percentage of 79 percent. The Mobile, Ala., native set the tone straight out of the gate in the top of the first. After throwing a ball to begin the frame, Brown tossed 11-straight strikes and struck out the side. Brown took a perfect game into the top of the fifth, but TTU broke up the bid with one out as Kelly Kennedy reached on a dropped ball in right. Brown wasn't shaken though as she struck out the final two batters of the inning and went on to retire the final eight batters of the contest.
On Saturday against Middle Tennessee, Brown recorded her seventh complete game of the season and struck out nine, while scattering five Blue Raider hits. Brown also walked just one in the win. Brown now has six to South Alabama's nine shutouts – which leads the NCAA. Brown holds an ERA of 0.41 on the year.
Nichols continued to set the table for the Jaguars at the top of the lineup. In her four games this past weekend, Nichols led the club with a .636 batting average (7-for-11) with three runs scored, two RBI, a .909 slugging percentage. She also had a double and a triple and didn't strike out in any of her 12 plate appearances. Nichols recorded three 2-for-3 performances at the plate in each of South's first three games of the South Alabama Invitational – giving her seven multi-hit efforts this season.
After scoring two runs in the Jags' 7-0 win over Texas A&M – Corpus Christi on Saturday, Nichols came up huge in USA's sweep on Saturday. In the first game of the day against Middle Tennessee, Nichols scored the winning run in the bottom of the sixth as the red-shirt freshman came home on a mishandled throw at second. When the ball was bobbled at second, Nichols broke from third and beat the throw home to score the eventual game-winner.
In the nightcap against Stephen F. Austin, Nichols made a huge play both in the field and at the plate. In the top of the third with Jag starter Destin Vicknair facing a two-out jam with two Ladyjacks on base, Nichols tracked down a liner in the left-center gap to end the threat. In the bottom half of the inning, Nichols came through at the plate as she delivered a two-out, two-run triple that dropped just inside the left field line to break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the third. The two runs Nichols drove in, would prove to be the eventual game winners as Vicknair recorded a 3-0 shutout of SFA.
Nichols was also earned all-tournament honors for her play. She is batting a team-best .514 this season, which leads the Sun Belt, while she leads the team with 18 hits.
South Alabama (13-2) will compete at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic II at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. USA will take on No. 12/13 James Madison (2:30 p.m.) and Boston College (4:45 p.m.) on Friday, Bryant (11:30 a.m.) and Kansas (1:45 p.m.) on Saturday and Purdue (9 a.m.) on Sunday.
The Jaguars also continued to climb in the national rankings on Tuesday. USA moved up one spot to No. 23 in the Fastpitch News Top 25, while also receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA (24 votes) and ESPN.com/USA Softball (15 votes) national polls.