HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Conference Carolinas head softball coaches voted Mount Olive College as their preseason poll favorite for the 2010 season.
Mount Olive enters the 2010 season as the only Conference Carolinas team to finish in the top three in both the regular season standings and the conference tournament in each of the last three years. The Trojans were 25-18-1 overall last year and finished second in the regular season standings with an 11-5 mark, one game out of first place. The Trojans placed third in the conference tournament after a runner-up finish in 2008.
The Trojans bring back three pitchers who combined for 20 wins last year and who each posted an earned run average under 2.30. Kristin Ware (8-5, 2.07 ERA), Sasha Snyder (6-2, 2.14) and Sarah Saunders (6-5, 2.28) combined for a .625 winning percentage and five of the Trojans' seven shutouts last year. Snyder was named to the All-Conference second team.
Mount Olive also brings back experience behind the plate and throughout the infield, led by All-Conference Carolinas first team shortstop Kelly Minshew. Minshew batted .336 and was among the nation's leaders with 15 doubles. Defensively, she recorded a .950 fielding percentage. Third baseman Allison Czerski batted .278 last season and was named to the All-Tournament Team at the conference tournament. Second baseman Katie Nalley is third among returning players in runs batted. Catcher/first baseman Robbin Kennedy led the Trojans in RBI last year. Mount Olive should also get offensive punch from first basemen/designated hitters Aubrey Reinhard and Erika Taylor, both of whom missed all or most of last year due to injury.
The Trojans will see new faces in the outfield after graduating starters in left, center and right. Anna Munizza, whose three-run double capped a seven-run sixth inning and rallied Mount Olive from a 6-0 deficit in a win over nationally ranked Shippensburg last season, opened the 2009 as the Trojans' leadoff batter and starting centerfielder before being sidelined with an injury.
The Queens University of Charlotte softball team earned the number two spot in the Conference Carolinas preseason coaches' poll this year. In 2009, Queens defeated Coker for the Conference Carolinas Championship, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA regional tournament. Queens was a strong representative for the Conference, as they fought their way to the semi-final game. In the opening game of the Regional Tournament, the Royals fell 2-0 to the No. 1 team in the nation, North Georgia who eventually went on to the Division II World Series.
The Royals, who have been selected No. 2 in the Coaches' Preseason Poll, graduated three seniors, but Head Coach Stacey Schramm hit the recruiting trail hard to fill the voids. Three junior transfers: Maria Goode, Brandy Jester, and Ashley Wilson will help provide leadership and experience to the remaining five returning upperclassmen. Six freshmen have also been added to provide depth in all areas.
Queens returns starting pitchers Chantel Dodge and Brittany Stephens. In 2009, Dodge was a Second Team All-Region performer and tenth in the nation in strikeouts. In addition, Jester and freshman Kelsey Newberg will strengthen and solidify the pitching staff. The Royals open the season on February 10 at Georgia College and State University.
Pfeiffer University has been picked to finish third during the 2010 softball season as voted on by the league's coaches. The Lady Falcons finished last year 26-17 overall, 12-6 inside conference play, finishing third in 2009. Pfeiffer returns their No.1 pitcher from last season, as well as their lead-off hitter, along with adding depth all over the field.
Starter Allison Braswell returns for her junior season after leading the Lady Falcons pitching staff with an 11-8 record and a 2.74 earned run average in 23 appearances. The right-hander completed 13 of those 23 games started limiting opponents to a .220 batting average. Senior Kylee Nichols returns to the leadoff spot for the Lady Falcons after hitting .321 a year ago with 45 hits. Nichols also added one homerun and 15 RBI swiping seven of eight bases. Junior transfer Sarah Waylock will help Pfeiffer add depth in the batting order and provide solid defense in the hot corner in 2010. Waylock hit .355 in 55 games, committing just ten errors at third base, playing with Heartland Community College. Freshman Amber Johnson will look to make an immediate impact patrolling the outfield while providing pop in the batting order.
Rounding out the softball preseason poll 4-11 was: Limestone, Coker, Erskine, Barton, Anderson, St. Andrews, Lees-McRae and Belmont Abbey respectively.
Conference Carolinas Pre-Season Coaches Poll
(First place votes in parenthesis)
1. Mount Olive College (1) 85
2. Queens University of Charlotte (4) 80
3. Pfeiffer University (2) 79
4. Limestone College (3) 78
5. Coker College 66
6. Erskine College (1) 63
7. Barton College 43
8. Anderson University 42
9. St. Andrews Presbyterian College 28
10. Lees-McRae College 25
11. Belmont Abbey College 16