Dayton, Tenn. – The 2017 season is upon us as first-year head coach, Kayla Watkins, has scheduled 50 games for the Bryan College Lions Softball Team, consisting of 20 home events and 30 on the road.
The regular-season officially opens up for the Lions on Feb. 11 as they play host to Southern States Athletic Conference member and 14th ranked team in the nation, Martin Methodist College (Tenn.), in double-header action.
Following the season opener is an eight-game road stretch where the Lions will be tested against two teams receiving votes in the NAIA Coaches' Preseason Top-25 Poll and three ranked in the top-15. Brenau University (Ga.), who is receiving votes, hosts Bryan on Feb. 15 in a twinbill. The Lions then turn their focus to the inaugural NAIA Southeastern Challenge softball event from Feb. 16-18 at Richard Gray Sports Complex in Hardeeville, S.C. The field consists of eight of the top NAIA teams from the southeastern U.S. – two each from The Sun Conference, the Appalachian Athletic Conference, the Southern States Athletic Conference, and the Mid-South Conference. On the first day of the challenge, Bryan meets with 12th ranked Campbellsville University (Ky.) followed by No. 8 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.). Friday begins with a face-off against 10th ranked William Carey University (Miss.) and ends the day with a meeting versus Faulkner University (Ala.). On the final day of competition, the Lions duke it out with Thomas University (Ga.) in game one and end the challenge battling the host team, University of South Carolina – Beaufort, who are receiving votes.
February is capped with a home double-header against Lindsey Wilson on Feb. 28, marking the seventh out of nine teams that Bryan faces in the opening month that either rank in the top-25 or are receiving votes.
The Lions begin AAC play on Mar. 3, traveling to Bluefield, Va. to take on the Rams of Bluefield College. Following a home bout with No. 13 Georgia Gwinnett College on Mar. 10 is a conference matchup on Mar. 14 against Truett-McConnell University (Ga.) and the home AAC opener with Milligan College (Tenn.) on Mar. 18. Bryan's road conference opponents include Columbia College (S.C.) on Mar. 25, Tennessee Wesleyan on Mar. 31, and 15th ranked Reinhardt University (Ga.) on Apr. 5. The Lion's home AAC foes are comprised of Point University (Ga.) on Mar. 23, Union College (Ky.) on Mar. 28, St. Andrews University (N.C.) on Apr. 8, and Montreat College (N.C.) on Apr. 15.
Non-conference top-25 teams that the Lions see again on the road are Martin Methodist on Mar. 29, Georgia Gwinnett on Apr. 1, Campbellsville University on Apr. 18, and the final regular season game coming against Lindsey Wilson on Apr. 21. Other non-conference opponents include Cumberland University (Tenn.) on the road Mar. 6, at Hiwassee College Mar. 9 and home Apr. 15.
Reinhardt is the team to beat for the 2017 AAC softball championship, according to the AAC Preseason Coaches' Poll. Receiving seven first-place votes, Reinhardt garnered 95 total voting points. Bryan collected two first-place votes and 85 voting points to land second with Tennessee Wesleyan taking third with 79 voting points. Truett McConnell and College round out the top five with both picking up a first-place vote and receiving 76 and 74 voting points, respectively.
Making up the rest of the field are: Point (sixth/57 points), St. Andrews (seventh/39 points), Columbia (eighth/38 points), Union (ninth/35 points), and Bluefield and Montreat (tied for 10th/14 points apiece).
Bryan went 29-23 overall and 16-4 in the AAC in 2016, including three wins against top-25 teams. The Lions topped the Reinhardt Eagles midway through the season and pulled off an upset of the No. 4 team in the country at the time, Campbellsville, as the year came to a close. Bryan was top-five in conference in batting average (0.298) and slugging percentage (0.412). They also ranked fourth in the AAC in hits (414) and sixth in total runs scored (221) and runs batted in (194). Their 86 doubles were good enough for second in conference and 24th nationally. Averaging 1.654 doubles a game ranked the Lions 25th in the NAIA. On the mound, Bryan was in the top-5 of the AAC in earned run average (2.80), opponent batting average (0.245), batters struck out (225), hits allowed (315), and runs allowed (162).
The conference tournament is slated for Apr. 26-29, taking place at the Brickyard Ball Fields in Kingsport, Tenn.
For a complete look at the 2017 schedule, please click here.