2012 Selected CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS
Several conferences have not yet posted 2012 schedules oe predictions
NOTE: SPY has revised its 2012 notional calendar.
MISSOURI TABBED NO. 1 IN BIG 12 PRESEASON POLL
COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri softball team was picked as the top team in the Big 12 coaches’ preseason poll for the first time in program history, as announced today by the league office. The Tigers tallied 59 points and picked up three of the nine first place votes.
Mizzou returns 11 letterwinners from last year’s team that won the program’s first regular season Big 12 Championship since 1997 and qualified for the Women’s College World Series for the third straight year. Amongst those returning include redshirt junior Chelsea Thomas, 2011 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and one of three finalists for the USA Softball Player of the Year Award, and senior Ashley Fleming, an All-American from a year ago. Joining the Tigers this season are 10 freshmen in what is considered to be Ehren Earleywine’s best signing class as head coach of Mizzou.
Oklahoma (56) was picked to finish second, while Texas (50), Baylor (45) and Texas A&M (37) round out the top five.
The Tigers open their season against Ball State and Troy University at the Quality Inn Classic in Troy, Ala., on Feb. 17.
2012 BIG 12 SOFTBALL PRESEASON POLL
|Rank||Team (first-place votes)||Points|
Sooners Picked Second in Preseason Big 12 Poll
Oklahoma leads all teams with four first-place votes.
NORMAN, Okla. — Coming off its sixth trip to the Women’s College World Series, Oklahoma was picked to finish second in the Big 12 in a preseason poll of the league’s coaches the conference announced Wednesday. The Sooners led all nine Big 12 softball teams with four first-place votes and finished with 56 total points in the poll behind the 59 points of top-ranked Missouri.
Wednesday’s announcement broke Oklahoma’s three-year streak as the preseason conference favorite. Oklahoma returns 12 letterwinners including All-Americans Keilani Ricketts and Jessica Shults. The two, along with sophomore Destinee Martinez and freshman Lauren Chamberlain, all represented the U.S. as members of the USA Junior and Senior National Teams. Freshman Georgia Casey also saw international action as a member of the Australian Junior National Team.
Oklahoma opens the season on Feb. 10 against Cal-State Bakersfield in the Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas.
The Big 12 is coming off its most successful softball season after making up half of the eight-team field at the Women’s College World Series. Baylor, Missouri, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State earned trips to Oklahoma City.
Texas Softball picked third in Big 12 Preseason Poll
AUSTIN, Texas – After finishing second in the Big 12 in 2011, the Texas Softball team was picked to finish third in the 2012 Big 12 Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, announced Wednesday by the conference office.
UT returns 10 letterwinners, six positional starters and three pitchers from its 2011 squad that went 46-10.
Texas is a four-time regular-season Big 12 champion (2002, 2003, 2006 and 2010) which ties for most of all-time among conference schools. In each of the four years that the Horns won the regular-season title, UT was not the coaches’ preseason favorite to win the league crown. In 2002, the Longhorns were picked third behind Nebraska and Oklahoma, in 2003, UT was second behind the Cornhuskers, in 2006 Texas was picked second behind Texas A&M and in 2010 the Horns were picked fifth.
Opening day is Thursday, Feb. 9 when Texas hosts Cal State Fullerton in the Texas Classic.
FRESNO STATE PREVIEW
FRESNO, Calif. – The Fresno State softball program looks to add onto the storied tradition of the program and seeks to get past the NCAA Regionals this 2012 season, which is the 27th under legendary head coach Margie Wright.
Fresno State owns the NCAA record for consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with 30 and is third all-time in tournament victories (89) and World Series appearances (12). All of those numbers speak for themselves, but the 2012 Bulldogs are thirsty to get past regionals, which hasn’t been done since the 1999 season when the `Dogs made their last WCWS.
After losing in the regional championship game in five of the last seven years, Wright feels that her group of returning players have the motivation necessary to start what could be another long run of WCWS appearances. Remember, the Bulldogs made 10 WCWS appearances in a 13-year span from 1987-99 under Wright, so she knows what it takes to achieve that kind of success.
“I think it’s always the College World Series,” Wright said when asked about the goals for this team. “Until you get past that hump, there is no one returning that knows what that feels like. My hope with this group is that they can get past that championship game in regionals and get into a super-regional, which will carry over year after year.”
Leading the group of 11 returning letterwinners are senior right-handed pitcher/infielder Michelle Moses, senior outfielder Andrea Ortega, sophomore infielder Brooke Ortiz and senior right-handed pitcher Mackenzie Oakes. Moses, Ortega and Ortiz received All-WAC accolades a year ago while Oakes led the team with 18 victories in the circle.
With eight seniors on the roster, the experience of this group will mesh well with the nine newcomers on the team.
“Our returners, probably more so than in the last few years, really bring a lot of experience back into our program,” Wright said. “They’ve been through three regional championships and came within one or two runs of being able to go to the super-regionals, so that in itself and their desire to want to go one step further – when you have eight of them – that’s a pretty big majority.”
The consensus around Bulldog Diamond is that with the talent coming in combined with the returning veterans, the pieces of the puzzle are in place for this team to achieve their goals.
“We have quite a few new girls, but they’ve all come out here and done really great things and have worked really hard,” said Moses, who was a Easton Sports Inc. third-team All-American last year. “We want to go out with a bang and take the whole thing this year.”
Fresno State’s schedule is a favorable one, as the Bulldogs play 35 home games this season, including 10-straight to open the year.
“There is a 180 (degree) difference playing at home than anywhere else,” Ortiz said. “Our fans our amazing. Just coming out here even before the games, we are so pumped because there are always so many people here to support us.”
This will also be the Bulldogs’ final year in the Western Athletic Conference, as Fresno State moves into the Mountain West Conference next season. Wright has led the `Dogs to 10 WAC championships since Fresno State joined the league in 1993 and they hope to go out with one more.
Moses and Oakes will be the anchors of the pitching staff, as the two seniors have combined to pitch in 148 games with 106 starts and have accumulated 65 victories in the circle over their careers. Both have thrown no-hitters and they give the Bulldogs an intimidating 1-2 punch.
“I think our pitching staff could be very strong,” Wright said.
A pair of freshman, right-hander Destinee Levesque and left-hander Kiley Shae Aldridge, add to the overall depth and strength of the staff, giving Wright more options in the circle. Levesque throws the hardest of the four while Aldridge brings another dimension being able to switch it up on teams and throw a left-hander out at them.
The right-side of the Bulldog infield is pretty set in stone, but the left-side will be brand new with the graduation of shortstop Haley Gilleland and third baseman Nicole Angene.
Ortiz will anchor down second base and at first base Moses will see time there when she is not in the circle. Stesha Brazil, a transfer who started 56 games at first base for the
Houston Cougars as a freshman in 2011, will split time with Moses along with freshman Kelly Megee. Brazil can also play the other corner and fill in at third base when needed.
Mario Sio, a freshman with great range and great hands, will step in to fill Gilleland’s shoes at shortstop while sophomore Vonnie Martin and freshman Michelle Solomon will both see action at third base.
“Our whole infield will be relatively new, especially our left-side, but I still think it is going to be a deep group and I think we can be really solid there,” Wright said. “I think our defense is going to be a strength.”
Senior Kaitlin Griffin is the one returning catcher from last year who will see a lot of time behind the plate. A pair of freshman, Caitlin Neal who is a power hitter, and Taylor Green, a left-hander, can also fill in at catcher for the Bulldogs.
Ortega returns to anchor the outfield after she earned second-team All-WAC accolades a year ago when she started 51 games in left field.
Other returning players with experience you’ll see in the outfield are seniors Kaylan Pollard and Rebecca Hall and junior Diane Runge.
“The outfield returns a lot of veterans who have played off-and-on throughout their careers,” Wright said. “I feel really good about us back there.”
The one newcomer to the group Bulldog fans will get to know in center field is freshman Brenna Moss. In her prep career at Bakersfield’s North High School, Moss set the all-time state record for hits in a career and she sported a .518 career batting average in high school.
“I haven’t seen an outfielder that can cover as much of the field that she can really since Laura Berg,” Wright said. “I don’t know if Brenna is at her level, but she clearly covers the outfield and I think she is a big addition to the team.”
“We Are Your Team” – The Fresno State softball team opens the season with 10-straight home games and plays 35 games at Bulldog Diamond this season. To get your tickets, please call the Fresno State ticket office at (559) 278-DOGS.
2012 OVC SOFTBALL PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
(as voted on by the league’s head softball coaches and sports information directors)
1. Jacksonville State (14 first-place votes) – 190
2. Eastern Illinois (Two first-place votes) – 162
3. UT Martin (Three first-place votes) – 159
4. SIUE (One first-place vote) – 139
5. Southeast Missouri (One first-place vote) – 132
6. Tennessee Tech (One first-place vote) – 117
7. Murray State – 109
8. Eastern Kentucky – 75
9. Morehead State – 61
10. Austin Peay – 37
11. Tennessee State – 24
(Teams awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, 9 for second, etc.)
The conference championship will be decided by a three-team round robin.
Arizona’s 2012 class is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, in the country, Coach Mike Candrea says. The signees will enroll in the summer or fall of 2012. The signees include pitcher Nancy Bowling, infielder Lauren Young, infielder/outfielder, Mandie Perez, 1st baseman Darcy Taylor, outfielder Gabby Sandstet, shortstop Courtney Rodriguez, and pitcher Estela Pinon.