Princeton, WV - The West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference softball coaches have selected West Virginia Wesleyan as the preseason favorite to win its sixth consecutive WVIAC championship.
The Bobcats received 10 of the 14 first-place votes to amass 190 points in the annual preseason voting by the league coaches. West Virginia State, which dropped a 3-2 decision to Wesleyan in the 2012 WVIAC Tournament championship game, picked up three first-place votes and was No. 2 in the poll with 182 points.
Charleston was No. 3 with the lone remaining first-place vote with Shepherd and Fairmont State rounding out the top five. Seton Hill edged Alderson-Broaddus for No. 6 by a single point in the balloting and Ohio Valley was No. 8 followed by Concord, Glenville State, West Liberty, Davis & Elkins, Wheeling Jesuit and Bluefield State.
Here’s an alphabetical list of 2013 outlooks for each WVIAC team:
Alderson-Broaddus is coming off a solid 2012 campaign and will be under the direction of first-year head coach Shawn Bowers. The Battlers will have hurler Ali Neace in circle once again. In 2012, Neace picked up a team-best 12 wins while registering 11 complete games, including five shutouts en route to earning honorable mention all-conference honors. Senior Vanessa Bodily hit .317 last year and was second on the team in RBI (26) and homers (7) while also earning honorable mention accolades.
Bluefield State has a solid nucleus returning from a young 2012 squad. Brittany Cook started all but one game last year. She led the team in hits, doubles and triples. Loren Whited earned valuable experience in the circle, appearing in 21 games. She struck out 47 batters while tossing five complete games for the Lady Blues.
Charleston is looking to make a run at the WVIAC title and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament after finishing the regular season in second place in 2012. First-team all-conference performer Janeen Vazquez is back this year. She belted out a .455 average to lead the league. She also drove in 33 runs and swiped 15 bases. Honorable mention all-conference honoree Aspen Echelmeier is ready for her sophomore campaign after hitting .300 and leading the team with 7 homers and 38 RBIs. She also threw out six runners from behind the plate.
Concord narrowly missed making the WVIAC Tournament a season ago and has a stellar group of returners prepared for 2013. Second-team all-conference member Lacy McDougall led the Mountain Lions with a .390 batting average, 11 doubles and 3 home runs during her rookie season. Rebecca Gleason picked up honorable mention accolades after hitting .333. She crossed home a team-high 24 times and was second on the squad with 45 hits.
Davis & Elkins will vie for a spot in the WVIAC Tournament this season after narrowly missing out a season ago. The Senators return honorable mention all-conference performer Carissa Dunn, who led the team with 61 hits and a .372 batting average. Dunn also had 32 RBI and scored 27 runs. Hurler Alanna Jones won 13 games while appearing in 41 contests. She threw 18 complete games and earned three shutouts. Jones also had 158 strikeouts in 193.2 innings.
Fairmont State looks to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish and should once again be in the hunt for a WVIAC title with senior hurler Chelsea Cobb in the circle. The first-team all-conference ace went 21-9 last spring with a 2.26 ERA. She tossed 22 complete games, including 4 shutouts, while striking out 161 batters in 182.2 innings. Also returning is second-team all-conference selection Carly Mundie, who hit .324 with 12 homers and 48 RBI in her debut campaign.
Glenville State is looking to return to the WVIAC Tournament after falling short of qualifying for the eight-team event a year ago. Second-team all-league junior Kayleigh Huck led the Pioneers with 49 hits, a .358 batting average and 31 RBIs. Fellow second-team all-conference honoree Carlee Chatron had 47 hits and a .320 batting average while swiping 18 of 21 bases.
Ohio Valley will look to make another deep run in the WVIAC Tournament after last season’s impressive tournament showing. First-team all-conference honoree Brittany Shepley is coming off a big year with 62 hits, a .383 batting average and 36 runs scored – all team-highs. Honorable mention all-league selection Elora Oprins also returns after hitting .366 with a team-high 35 RBIs.
Seton Hill will be guided by sophomore Christine Henderson, who earned honorable mention all-conference honors as a freshman. In her first collegiate season, Henderson hit .361 with 52 hits while scoring 25 runs and chasing home 22 more. Stefanie Wiegrand also earned honorable mention accolades last year after pounding out 50 hits and scoring 25 runs while going 7-for-7 on her stolen base attempts. Wiegrand also held a .956 fielding percentage and helped turn seven double plays.
Shepherd has to be on the short list of championship contenders with a strong nucleus back from last year’s team which finished fourth in the regular season. Taylor Schaffer registered a team-best .321 batting average last year. She pounded out 51 hits while driving in 30 runs en route to second-team all-league honors. Bianca Biondillo was an honorable mention all-conference selection after collecting 51 hits, scoring 31 runs and driving in 25.
West Liberty is guided by second-year head coach James Bacca who led the team to eight league wins in his first campaign. Second-team all-conference honoree Felicia Hulslander leads the way as she hit .368 a season ago while recording 53 hits. Her 23 RBI were tops on the team as were her nine doubles. Hulslander also had 10 steals. Maggie Starr was an honorable mention all-conference pick after smacking out 41 hits driving in 17 runs. She led the Hilltoppers in extra-base hits, triples and home runs while swiping a team-high 13 bases.
West Virginia State will vie for another spot in the NCAA Tournament while trying to claim its first WVIAC Tournament Championship since 2008. The Yellow Jackets have a dynamic 1-2 punch in the circle with Kelsey Lorraine and Sara Pelegreen. Lorraine went 16-4 last year with 5 shutouts and a 2.22 ERA. She fanned 153 batters and yielded just 79 hits in 129 innings. Pelegreen was 17-7 with 6 shutouts and a 1.48 ERA. She punched out 111 batters and allowed only 128 hits in 170.2 innings. Both hurlers were named to the WVIAC all-tournament team with Pelegreen picking up first-team all-league laurels.
West Virginia Wesleyan has won the last four WVIAC Tournament Championships and every regular-season title since 2008. First-team all-conference performer Paige Cummings led the Bobcats with 74 hits, a .433 batting average and 48 RBI last spring. WVIAC Tournament MVP Jacqui Omichinski returns in the circle off a first-team all-conference year. Omichinski was 15-6 with 8 shutouts and a 1.30 ERA. She struck out 119 batters and gave up just 93 hits in 129 innings.
Wheeling Jesuit will be under the direction of first-year head coach Kelli Williams. The Cardinals will be led by electrifying first-team all-conference honoree Jarah Ice. The speedy table-setter led WJU with 70 hits, 38 runs scored and a .400 batting average last spring while swiping a WVIAC-best 42 bases in a mere 47 attempts. Ashley Nichols gained valuable experience in the circle a year ago. She won four games but appeared in 27 while throwing 14 complete games. Nichols tossed 134.2 innings and struck out 76.