Golden Suns ranked 11th in nation, open season Friday

After a historic 2016 campaign that saw program highs in both record, 49-11, and national ranking, fourth, the Golden Suns will begin the 2017 season ranked No. 11 in the nation by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Poll.

Inside the Great American Conference, the Golden Suns were voted to finish second by the Preseason Coaches’ Poll, following only Southern Arkansas, who won the GAC championship last season.

The young Golden Suns team will mostly stay the same as last year, but will feature six fresh faces on the field this season, as the team added five freshmen and a junior transfer.

Jalissa Gum, from Red Rock, Oklahoma, returns to the Golden Suns this season after having a breakout season in 2016, leading the NCAA, all divisions, in ERA with 0.60. Gum received honors for her prosperous season, being named the 2016 GAC Female Athlete of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, All-Region and All-American.

Gum is not the only recognized Golden Sun who will be returning. Morgan Vaughan from Bella Vista and Sarah Coronado from Frisco, Texas return after making All-GAC Second Team honors.

Vaughan helped surge the Golden Suns pitching staff to one of the best in the nation, posting a 15-1 record, winning 14 decisions before her first loss, with an ERA of 2.11.

Coronado is looking to avoid a sophomore slump, after posting a .315 batting average and leading the team with 16 steals in her freshman season.

The Golden Suns will open the 2017 season Friday at the Southeastern Oklahoma Regional Tournament. The Golden Suns will face Central Missouri and Emporia State to open the tournament.