UCA Bears have five on All-Southland team

The Southland Conference recently released its softball All-Conference Teams, and for the second straight season, the Central Arkansas Bears had five players honored.

Third baseman Sam Forrest and catcher Jessie Taylor were each named to the All-SLC Second Team, while second baseman Sarah Bigej, outfielder Briana Whisenhunt and pitcher Shivaun Landeros were each placed on the All-SLC Third Team. The five players honored ties for the third-most in the league this season.

“It’s a great compliment to our players and program,” said UCA skipper David Kuhn. “It’s a great honor to have so many players recognized by our peers. I’m happy for these young ladies.”

For Forrest, this is the third straight year to be placed on the All-Conference Team. The senior from Broken Arrow, Okla., continued her assault on the UCA record book this season, setting records for career hits (259), career runs scored (152), and career doubles (63), while hitting .286 with 15 doubles, six home runs and a triple. She drove in 29 runs on the season, slugging .486 and reaching base at a .380 clip. In Southland Conference play, Forrest hit .250 with five doubles, two home runs and a triple. On the year, she ranked in the top-10 in the Southland in doubles and at-bats.

“Sam has had another outstanding season,” said Kuhn. “She is an outstanding third baseman, and has been an outstanding hitter all four years she’s been at UCA. This year, she continued to shatter our record book.”

This marks the second year that Taylor has been honored, following a placement on the third team last season. The senior from Bryant wrote her name in the UCA record books twice this season, setting career marks for home runs (36) and runs batted in (170). On the year, the UCA backstop hit .295, blasting 12 home runs and adding 11 doubles and a triple for a slugging percentage of .595. In conference play, Taylor hit .271 with seven homers, three doubles and a triple. For the season, Taylor ranked in the top-10 in the league in home runs, RBI, total bases and slugging percentage, while leading the conference in runners caught stealing.

“Jessie is a great catcher,” said Kuhn. “She has thrown out 21 runners this year, which leads the Southland, and she broke the career records for home runs and RBI. She’s been a great player the past three seasons as our catcher.”

For Bigej, this marks the fourth straight year that she has been named to the All-Conference team. The senior from Happy Valley, Ore., missed some time this season due to injury, but still managed to tie for fourth in the Southland Conference with 30 walks on the year. She hit .262 on the season, tallying six doubles and a triple while driving in 19 runs and reaching base at a .464 clip, a number good for eighth in the conference. In league play, Bigej hit .250 with three doubles and seven RBI, while drawing 21 walks.

“Sarah has had her best year on defense this season,” said Kuhn. “She has had to battle back from two concussions, but she has still done a great job of getting on base and moving the base runners.”

This is the third straight season on the All-Conference teams for Whisenhunt, who led the team with a .309 average and 24 stolen bases this season. Against conference opponents, the Crandall, Texas, native hit .318, collecting four doubles and eight walks while reaching base at a .380 clip and stealing 16 bases. On the year, she ranked in the Top 10 in the league in at-bats, run scored and stolen bases.

“Briana has picked up right where she left off last season,” said Kuhn of the Bears’ leadoff hitter. “She is a great base-stealer and an outstanding hitter, and she continues to get better every year.”

Landeros, who has been a workhorse for the Bears this season, is making her first appearance on the All-Conference teams. The senior righty tallied a 21-11 record on the season, striking out 111 batters in 200.2 innings thrown while compiling an ERA of 2.72. In league play, she was arguably even better, going 10-7 win an ERA of 1.92 while striking out 54 batters in 105.2 innings. She led the league in innings pitched and tied for the league lead in complete games, while also ranking in the top-10 in shutouts and strikeouts.

“Shivaun has done a tremendous job of pitching all year for us,” said Kuhn. “She has been a great teammate and a tireless worker. She has worked so hard during her time at UCA and I am so happy for her!”