2017 Longwood Softball Preview: The Lineup Big South Preseason Favorite Looks to Win Third Straight Big South Title in 2017

Longwood enters the 2017 season as the Big South preseason favorite, coming off back-to-back Big South regular season and tournament championships and their third title in a four-year span. The Lancers return six of their nine starters from the 2016 squad which advanced to the program's first-ever NCAA Regional championship game against national power James Madison.

A key part of Longwood's success at the plate in 2016 was a deep lineup that blended youth with experience. As a team, Longwood ranked third in the Big South with a .294 batting average. That included eight players with at least a .250 batting average that played in at least 40 games.
Returning Starters

Longwood returns three Big South All-Conference representatives in its batting order from last season's squad, including Karleigh Donovan, Glenn Walters and Krista Kelly. In addition, Kelsey Sweeney and Justina Augustine earned all-conference accolades after the 2015 season, giving the Lancers five players in their batting order that have earned all-conference accolades at some point throughout their career.

A 2016 honorable mention Big South selection and named to the Big South All-Tournament team, Glenn Walters returns and looks to be a potential middle-of-the order bat during her junior season. Walters is coming off a sophomore campaign in which she batted .273 with 31 RBI and was second on the squad with nine home runs.

Coming off a breakout redshirt-freshman season, Karleigh Donovan returns after being named second-team All-Big South. Longwood's top returning bat from a season ago, Donovan hit .333 and tied for third on the team with seven home runs. In addition, her .333 average ranked among the top 10 in the Big South.

On the heels of a breakout sophomore season in which she earned honorable mention Big South accolades, Krista Kelly looks to replicate her success in 2017. A product of Rockville, Md., Kelly ended the 2016 season on an 11-game reached base streak. Kelly is one of five returning Lancers that played in at least 40 games to hit above the .250 mark.

Nobody enjoyed a better 2016 postseason than rising junior Kelsey Sweeney. A 2016 Big South All-Tournament Team selection, Sweeney had hits in nine of Longwood's 10 games throughout the Big South and NCAA Tournaments, including three multi-hit games. A 2015 All-Big South selection, Sweeney joins Donovan as one of two returning Lancers to bat above the .300 mark a season ago, as she holds a career .303 average.

After excelling behind the plate and in the cleanup spot in her rookie campaign, Bug Batten looks to take the next step for the Lancers as a sophomore in 2017. Batten played 60 games for the Lancers, batting .292 with nine doubles and two home runs. She ended the 2016 campaign with a 16-game reached base streak.

A 2015 first-team All-Big South selection, Justina Augustine looks to close out her career with a third straight NCAA Tournament berth. Augustine was a staple in right field, helping the Lancers field arguably the top outfield defense in the Big South.

Longwood looks to replace its all-time winningest class in Carly Adams, Jamie Barbour and Emily Murphy. As seniors, Adams, Barbour and Murphy each landed on the first-team All-Big South, while leading the Lancers in batting average. Those three helped the Lancers to 155 wins which make the Lancers the eighth winningest mid-major program in the NCAA.

The Freshmen

Kasey Carr, Destiny Martinez and Leanna Toler are set to join the Lancers for the 2017 season. All three freshmen hail from the Commonwealth of Virginia and will push for playing time in the first season of their careers.

Longwood returns a number of depth pieces for the 2017 season that will challenge for a starting role and substantial playing time.

After a breakout Big South and NCAA Tournament, Jessica Smith looks to lock down a starting job at third base entering 2017. A defensive specialist, Smith struck out on just five occasions in 44 at-bats as a rookie, while hitting her first career home run in the Big South Tournament.

Speedster Jordan Clark returns to the Longwood lineup in 2017 after suffering a season-ending injury during the 2016 campaign. One of Longwood's fastest players, Clark batted .286 in a limited number of at-bats while swiping five bases.

Taylor Hedrick looks for a breakout senior campaign in 2017, as she's one of Longwood's top power threats. Hedrick has five career home runs in her three seasons in limited playing time.

A career .208 hitter, Haleigh Kilby has played 63 games for the Lancers with 33 starts all at third base. Kilby looks to breakout for the Lancers this spring after scoring seven runs in limited action a season ago.

Emily Murphy's successor at Kempsville High School in Virginia Beach, Va., Jelly Eaton looks to do the same entering 2017. Last season, Eaton saw a limited playing time on the field, but notched her first career RBI in just 12 at-bats.

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