Softball

 

Virginia Wesleyan Holds Down Top Spot in ODAC Softball Poll

Roanoke Two Points Back in Second, Bridgewater Third

FOREST, Va. --- Just two points separate the first and second positions in the 2013 ODAC Softball Preseason Poll, as Virginia Wesleyan College secured the #1 rank with seven first place votes and 96 total points.  Roanoke College sits second, having received the remaining four top nods and 94 tallies.  Bridgewater College caps the top three with 82 points.

The 2012 season saw Roanoke win its ODAC-best eighth conference title and go on a postseason run all the way to the NCAA Division III National Championship Series in Salem.  RC swept through the ODAC Tournament in four games, culminating with a 7-2 triumph over Bridgewater in the ODAC championship game.  The Maroons went on to sweep through Messiah College (7-2), Emory University (4-2), and host Christopher Newport University twice (4-1 and 3-1) in regional play to punch their ticket to the national final eight.

Roanoke advanced past its first game at the James I. Moyer Complex with a 1-0 victory over Tufts University, but suffered its first loss in 12 games to Montclair State University, 2-0, in round two.  RC bounced back with a 2-0 shutout of Luther College in its third contest, but the Maroons were eliminated in their next game by eventual national runner-up Linfield College, 6-1.

Virginia Wesleyan (30-12 overall, 17-1 in ODAC play in 2012) owned the top seed heading into the ODAC Tournament last season, and ODAC Co-Coach of the Year, Brandon Elliott, returns four all-conference players from that squad as the Marlins go in search of their seventh league championship.  That list includes a trio of All-ODAC First Team choices in outfielder Tori Higginbotham (.465, 13 2B, 7 HR, 24 RBI, 26 SB), pitcher/outfielder Kristina Karagiorgis (.382, 7 HR, 48 RBI/16-4, 4 SV, 1.48 ERA, 118.1 IP, 124 K), and second baseman Kelly Keys (.438, 9 2B, 18 RBI).  Higginbotham was the 2012 ODAC Player of the Year, while Karagiorgis earned ODAC Pitcher and Co-Rookie of the Year honors.  The duo was also named to the NFCA All-America Second Team.  All-ODAC Second Team pitcher MacKenzie Creech (11-6, 2.61 ERA, 110.0 IP, 70 K) is back for another go-round, as is first baseman Season Daily (.252, 2 HR, 31 RBI).

Roanoke (35-11, 13-5) and ODAC Co-Coach of the Year, Mike Mitchell, return five all-conference performers from a team that went 5-1 against Top-10 teams (as ranked by the NFCA) in 2012.  Four of those returners were named to the first team including pitcher Kelly Higbie (30-10, 2 SV, 1.39 ERA, 261.1 IP, 141 K), first baseman Alea Bier (.375, 16 2B, 31 RBI, 12 SB) and outfielders Leona Rainey (.371, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 41 SB) and Hollee Warlitner (.368, 11 2B, 4 HR, 31 RBI).  Higbie earned Co-ODAC Rookie of the Year honors in addition to a spot on the national championship series All-Tournament Team.  Bier doubled as the ODAC/Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete of the Year, while Rainey secured NFCA All-America Third Team accolades.  All-ODAC Third Team outfielder Rhea Schleicher (.307, 4 HR, 19 RBI) is back after a strong rookie season, as is shortstop Stephanie Clark (.404, 17 2B, 6 HR, 42 RBI).

Bridgewater (33-12, 12-6) features four All-ODAC Eagles back in action in 2013, led by second team third baseman Melanie Lamb (.375, 10 2B, 4 HR, 42 RBI).  She's joined by a trio of third team honorees in pitcher Heather Jenkins (17-5, 1 SV, 1.36 ERA, 154.0 IP, 96 K), outfielder Morgan Williams (.292, 2 HR, 20 RBI), and outfielder/pitcher Aven Thomas (.215, 4 HR, 31 RBI/11-7, 2.41 ERA, 107.1 IP, 79 K).  Second baseman Kasey Anderson (.379, 16 RBI, 41 SB) is also back in the crimson and gold as BC looks to make it two straight appearances in the ODAC title game.

Randolph-Macon College (29-14, 12-6) welcomes back three of its four all-conference athletes from a season ago.  Pitcher Heather Lewis (.256, 2 HR, 18 RBI/14-6, 1 SV, 1.54 ERA, 136.0, 73 K) garnered second team recognition in her third year in Ashland.  She's joined by a pair of third teamers in outfielder Amanda Sopko (.400, 10 RBI) and designated player Carolyn Gilbertson (.246, 13 RBI).

New to the ODAC this season is Shenandoah University (24-17, 9-9 in the USA South), which won the USA South title in 2011 and played in the 2005 championship game.  The Hornets bring with them six former All-USA South players, led by first team outfielder Brittany Guepe (.441, 13 RBI).  She's joined by second team designated player Jordan Wolford (.339, 2 HR, 22 RBI) and a quartet of third teamers in outfielder Morgan Coble (.373, 35 RBI), first baseman Lauren McCabe (.311, 12 2B, 26 RBI), catcher Denise Mitchell (.338, 7 3B, 21 RBI), and shortstop Heather Sink (.272, 10 RBI).

Lynchburg College (21-19, 12-6) and Eastern Mennonite University (27-13, 9-9) are both armed with three returners from All-ODAC teams.  The Hornets, in search of a seventh conference crown, look to second team outfielders Jessi Hall (.310, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 10 SB) and Melanie Tenney (.375, 12 RBI) to lead the way.  Third team pitcher Hope Johnson (7-5, 3.89 ERA, 77.1 IP, 50 K) spearheads the LC hurlers.  The Royals welcome back three-fourths of their starting infield, each of which earned third team recognition.  First baseman Sara Jenkins (.366, 8 HR, 31 RBI), second baseman Courtney Allman (.408, 9 HR, 39 RBI) and shortstop Brooke Hensley (.387, 13 2B, 4 HR, 28) are back in Harrisonburg, as is outfielder/pitcher Molly Smith (.346, 5 HR, 38 RBI/7-3, 2.91 ERA, 55.1 IP, 23 K).

Randolph College (18-20, 7-11) and Guilford College (17-23, 4-14) combine for three returning All-ODAC athletes.  The WildCats look to shortstop Ashley Gardner (.434, 26 RBI) to duplicate the efforts that saw her earn a spot on the 2012 first team.  She's joined by outfielder Brittany Willingham (.403, 19 RBI, 10 SB) and pitcher Kristen Hutchinson (4-6, 2 SV, 2.72 ERA, 56.2 IP, 33 K).  The Quakers turn to a pair of second team selections in first baseman Sarah Cutright (.304, 2 HR, 17 RBI) and second baseman Cynthia Hayes (.339).  Ashley Boteler (4-7, 5.09 ERA, 77.0 IP, 38 K) is the top GC arm returning to the circle.

Emory & Henry College (14-25, 4-14) opens its second season under head coach Sara Schoenhoft.  She welcomes back several key players including third baseman Martha Fluharty (.327, 11 2B, 12 RBI) and catcher Ashley Ebersole (.252, 5 HR, 27 RBI).  Sweet Briar College (0-22, 0-18) has shortstop Hollie Halford (.229, 2 2B) in tow as the Vixens look to climb the ODAC ladder.

Listed below is the full 2013 ODAC Softball Preseason Poll.  For more information on ODAC softball, visit any of the participating school's websites, or go to the ODAC's home on the Internet at www.odaconline.com.  Don't forget to become a fan of the ODAC on Facebook.  You can also follow the ODAC on Twitter @odacathletics

2013 ODAC SOFTBALL PRESEASON POLL
(#) Denotes first place votes

1. Virginia Wesleyan (7) 96 pts.
2. Roanoke (4) 94 pts.
3. Bridgewater 82 pts.
4. Randolph-Macon 65 pts.
5. Shenandoah 61 pts.
6. Lynchburg 58 pts.
7. Eastern Mennonite 54 pts.
8. Randolph 33 pts.
9. Guilford 31 pts.
10. Emory & Henry 21 pts.
11. Sweet Briar 10 pts.