IRVING, Texas – East Carolina junior Toni Paisley has been named the Preseason Conference USA Pitcher-of-the-Year, according to a release by the league Wednesday afternoon. Seniors Cristen Aona and Christina Merrida joined Paisley on the Preseason All-C-USA Team, as voted upon by the league’s nine head coaches.
Southern Miss senior outfielder Megan Hill received the other top honor in being named the Preseason All-Conference Player-of-the-Year. Tulsa and ECU had the most preseason selections with three each.
Paisley was the 2009 Conference USA Pitcher-of-the-Year as well as the league’s co-female athlete-of-the-year, becoming the first Pirate in any sport to earn that recognition. She was also named to the C-USA First Team and Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I Mideast All-Region Team as a sophomore.
Last year, the Lakewood, Calif., native led C-USA in wins (30), innings pitched (270.2), earned run average (1.22), opponents' batting average (.177), batters struck out (297) and batters struck out looking (92). Paisley also tied for the league lead in saves with three. Nationally, she finished the year ranked seventh in wins, 11th in ERA, 16th in strikeouts, 26th in saves and 30th in shutouts (9).
Aona, a third baseman, was one of five infielders named to the preseason team. A year ago she started all 55 of ECU’s games, driving in a team second-best 31 runs. Her 43 hits, including a career-high six home runs, put her in a tie for third on the squad. After a walk-off game-winning two-run homer against rival N.C. State last April, Aona was named the Conference USA Hitter-of-the-Week. She enters this season tied for seventh on the East Carolina all-time home runs list with 13.
Defensively, the Kapolei, Hawai'i native led the Pirates with 107 assists, the seventh-most in Conference USA. Her seven errors committed at the hot corner were a career low.
Merrida rounded out the ECU selections as one of four outfielders placed on the preseason team. The starting center fielder from Woodland, Calif., finished fourth on the squad with a .281 batting average and 26 runs scored last year. She tallied 22 hits in league games for the third-highest total on the team. From the beginning of April to the end of the season, Merrida picked up her pace and was the Pirates’ hottest hitter, batting .355 and scoring 11 runs.
The senior also displayed speed on the base paths, stealing 16 bases, one off the team lead. Defensively, she was one of five players to finish the season with a 1.000 fielding percentage.
East Carolina begins the 2010 season in less than a month with the USF DeMarini Tournament held in Clearwater, Fla., from Feb. 12-14.
Preseason All-Conference USA Honors
Megan Hill, Southern Miss
Toni Paisley, East Carolina
Preseason All-Conference Team
C - Camilla Carrera, UTEP
IF - Cristen Aona, ECU
IF - Tiffany Lane, UCF
IF - Catherine Douglass, UAB
IF - Alianna Telles, Marshall
IF - Vanessa Vice, Tulsa
OF - Christina Merrida, ECU
OF - Megan Hill, Southern Miss
OF - Lauren Lindsay, Tulsa
OF - Martina Landrum, UAB
P - Toni Paisley, ECU
P - Jackie Lawrence, Tulsa
UT - Chelsea Troupe, UTEP
DH - Jennifer Kinkert, Houston