Eagles land three on All-SAC teams

VIDEO: Kristen Toppel Interview  

VIDEO: Lacie Rinus Interview  

ROCK HILL, S.C. – Carson-Newman softball saw three players named to the preseason South Atlantic Conference all-league teams. 

Kristen Toppel (Roanoke, Va.) and Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) made the first team at short stop and pitcher, respectively. 

KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) landed on the second team as a catcher. 

As a junior, Toppel earned All-SAC and All-SAC tournament honors.  She hit .310 with 48 hits in 155 at bats.  Toppel dropped down a team-best 15 sacrifice hits, she was second in the league in that regard. Toppel also swiped 24 bases in 26 attempts and ranked third in the conference in pilfers.  

The Roanoke, Va.-product produced 13 multi-hit and five multi-RBI efforts.  Included in that is Toppel's first career four-hit game, which she did at King on Feb. 11.  Carson-Newman went 27-7 when she scored a run.

Toppel was a black hole defensively, especially in conference play.  She only made one error at short.  Toppel is one of the most dogged players at the plate to deal with. She faced off against a 22-pitch at-bat and a 19-pitch at-bat against Young Harris in game one in back-to-back appearances at the plate.  She fouled off 17 and 15 pitches respectively.

Rinus logged a litany of honors in her freshman season.  She was named SAC and TSWA Pitcher of the Week on three occasions.

Rinus became the fourth Eagle pitcher to be recognized as an All-American with second team accolades from the NFCA and third team honors from the D2CCA.  She joins Heather Randolph (1995), Zoe Heim (2008) and Carol Zachary (1989-1991). Rinus is the first Eagle to ever earn All-America honors as a utility/pitcher.  

Rinus adds the All-America accolade to all-region and region Pitcher of the Year plaudits in a prolific year where she has already stuffed her trophy case with placards for SAC Freshman of the Year, SAC Pitcher of the Year and SAC Tournament MVP.  She is the first player in league history to win all three of those awards in the same season.

Rinus is the just the second player in the league's history to take both Freshman and Pitcher of the Year honors in the same season.  She joins Catawba's Carly Tysinger (2013) as the only other player to receive that distinction.  She becomes the second Carson-Newman pitcher to earn the league's top honor for hurlers, joining Megan Elliot, who did it in 2005.  

Rinus is the fifth Carson-Newman player recognized as the league's freshman of the year and the most recent since Elliot was lauded in 2003.  She joins Elliot and SAC Hall of Famer Marci Mitchell as the only two C-N pitchers to receive the accolade.

The Murfreesboro, Tenn.-native led the conference in strikeouts (232), batting average against (.205), earned run average (1.56) and wins (26). She also led the league in shutouts, overtaking first place with back-to-back scoreless outings to clinch C-N the SAC tournament title. 

Levi was also an All-SAC pick a year ago and a member of the SAC's All-Tournament Team. 

Levi instantly transformed herself into one of the best defensive catchers in the conference.  Levi threw out 15 runners who tried to steal on her, the most of any catcher in the Southeast Region.  She caught 46 percent of runners who have tried to steal on her, also the top mark among catchers in the Southeast.  

She and pitcher Lacie Rinus combined to throw out an absurd 73 percent of runners who have attempted to steal on that battery in particular. Levi has only made one error behind the plate.  Her .997 fielding percentage is the highest among players in the conference with more than 100 total chances.  

At the plate, Levi hit .318 with 12 doubles, a triple and two dingers.  The 12 doubles are the second most on the team.  She has had 12 multi-hit performance and seven multi-RBI efforts. She had a four-hit day against King and drove in a career-best three runs against Georgia College.

The Eagles kick off their season on Saturday, Feb. 3 against Lees-McRae.  First pitch against the Bobcats is set for 1 p.m. with coverage available on the Eagle Sports Network at cneagles.com/live. 

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