The SWAC is learning what Coast softball aficionados have known for a while: Paige Breal and Josef Rankin know how to ball.
The former St. Martin and Mississippi Gulf Coast ace, now at Alcorn State, was recently named the SWAC's Newcomer of the Year. Rankin, who is in his second season leading the Braves after coaching the Lady Yellow Jackets for five seasons, was named the SWAC's Coach of the Year.
Breal had an impressive SWAC debut in 2016, leading the league with 154 strikeouts. She also posted a 12-11 record with a 3.78 ERA.
"Paige has done well for us," Rankin said in a statement to the Sun Herald. "She's done a great job of competing. I am extremely happy for her. It's been an awesome experience to coach her in high school and now I am getting the opportunity to coach her again.
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"She's really had a hand in helping turn our softball program around. (Being named) Newcomer of the Year and First Team All-SWAC are awesome, but honestly I am more impressed with seeing her on the bus during road trips working on papers and homework. She had a 4.0 last semester and close to a 4.0 for the spring semester. We need to make sure we celebrate that as well."
The Braves (15-25, 11-6 SWAC) opened the SWAC Softball Tournament on Wednesday in Irondale, Ala. The 15-win season was an impressive jump from last year's two-win campaign and netted the Braves the No. 2 seed in the East.