FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - Penn State Harrisburg was picked seventh in the 2018 CAC Softball Preseason Poll. Defending champion Christopher Newport was selected as the early favorite. In a vote among the conference head coaches, the Captains received six first-place votes and totaled 48 points to land atop the poll.
Salisbury (40 points) and Frostburg State (36 points) each earned one first-place nod to finish second and third in the voting, respectively.
York (31 points) edged Mary Washington (30 points) by the slimmest of margins for the No. 4 position in the preseason rankings, with Wesley (18 points), Penn State Harrisburg (13 points) and Southern Virginia (8 points) rounding out the poll.
The CAC Tournament will feature a new format in 2018, with the six-team postseason event spread across two weekends. The opening weekend (Apr. 27-28) will feature a pair of three-team, double-elimination pods hosted by the top two seeds. The winners of those pods will square off the following weekend (May 4-5) at the highest remaining seeds' field.
The 2018 season begins this weekend as Southern Virginia and Frostburg State both open up their campaigns. Several squads make their 2018 debut the following weekend, with all eight CAC teams set to begin play by early March. CAC competition is slated to open on March 31.
CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT captured its third CAC title in the last four years last spring and advanced to the NCAA Regional Championship game before falling to Kean, one game shy of reaching the NCAA Super Regional round. The Captains enter the year ranked No. 14 by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). CNU welcomes back a host of returning all-stars, headlined by All-America senior shortstop Rachael Payne, who earned second-team All-America honors last spring. Senior Leah Andrews and sophomores Grace Wild and Aubrey Bateswere All-Region picks last season, while sophomore Calah Savage and Liz Andrews also received All-CAC recognition.
A trio of seniors will no doubt be the backbone of the 2018 version of the FROSTBURG STATE softball team. Thirteenth-year head coach Wes Landrum was named the CAC's Coach of the Year last spring and welcomes back First Team All-CAC selections in seniors Sam Gatton, Allison Short and Brittney Platt. Gatton (.467 avg./15-15 stolen bases) was a First Team NFCA All-Atlantic Region honoree as a junior, while Platt hit .339 with 39 hits and 22 RBI in her first season with the Bobcats a year ago. Short's resume is quite impressive and she will no doubt be one of the region's top pitchers. In three years as a starter, Short shows 38 wins, 224 strikeouts, 10 shutouts and 39 complete games.
MARY WASHINGTON welcomes back nine starters to a team that advanced to the CAC finals for the first time in eight years. Heading the list of returnees is All-CAC pitcher Kara Deppe, who led the league in wins, complete games, and strikeouts. The core of the lineup is back with sophomores Hannah Bruns (.359 BA) and Danielle Newman (.352 BA and three home runs) to go along with seniors Malia Rogers (.295 BA), Hannah Hautz (10 doubles), and Caroline Callahan (.351 BA). In addition, the Eagles welcome nine newcomers that will look to shore up any holes they have.
PENN STATE HARRISBURG, under the guidance of 13th-year head coach Tonya Dengler, will be looking to make the CAC Playoffs this season. Led by Junior pitcher Allison Hartman who had an ERA of 4.77 last season. Senior Erelle Sowers who has pitched over 100 innings for the Lions will also bolster the pitching staff. Offensively the Lions have a several solid returners. Senior Emily Parmer who recorded 29 hits last season while stealing 11 bases. Harrisburg also returns sophomore Dominique Emmett who hit .324 last season and lead the team in homeruns.
SALISBURY returns the Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year, LeAnne Collins, and Third-Team All-American Annie Pietanza to lead the Sea Gulls into 2018. Along with her CAC softball honor, Collins was also named the league's Female Athlete of the Year and was a First-Team All-American. She led the CAC and had the third-best batting average in the nation, having hit .537. Collins also finished in the top-25 nationally in hits, runs per game, slugging percentage, total bases and triples. Collins and Pietanza are half of a quartet of seniors that will lead the Sea Gulls this year. First baseman Kristen Yanarella and pitcher Rachael Milligan look to build on their strong 2017 campaigns as Salisbury aims for the program's 20th CAC championship.
First-year head coach Tiffane Pendleton leads SOUTHERN VIRGINIA into the 2018 season with goals of improving on last year's 11-27 record and making the CAC Tournament for the first time in program history. The Knights return 10 players from 2017 and over 70% of their offensive production, including outfielder Tara Hilton and infielders Mykayla Johnson and Mollie Gabbert. Megan Harmon is back in the circle for the squad after posting a 5.25 ERA last year. Southern Virginia will also look to integrate fresh faces into the lineup as they head into the new season.
On the cusp of making the CAC tournament last season, WESLEY will look to earn a spot in the conference playoffs for the first time in program history. The Wolverines will be highlighted by NFCA All-Region and All-CAC player junior Ashley Royer. Royer ranked fourth in the CAC in runs batted in (40), tied for eighth in home runs (4) and tied for ninth in doubles (10). She tallied a .495/.500/.796 batting split in 2017. Joining Royer will be fellow junior Megan DiRubbio. A CAC Second Team honoree last season, DiRubbio registered the fourth-highest batting average (.441) and eighth-highest on-base percentage (.485) in the CAC.
After a 28-15 campaign and another trip to the CAC Tournament last spring, YORK will lean on a trio of All-CAC returners in 2018. Senior catcher Haley Hirn and sophomore pitcher Ginger Lewis were second team All-CAC performers last spring, while senior pitcher Melissa Jurkiewicz was first team All-CAC in 2016. Hirn was tied for second in the conference with seven home runs last season, senior Savannah Zittle was tied for fourth in runs scored with 40, and junior Joanna Marmo was tied for seventh in hits with 50. On the mound, Lewis recorded the second-most strikeouts in the CAC (110) and ranked fourth in ERA (2.27), with Jurkiewicz closed behind in fifth (2.33 ERA).
2018 CAC Softball Preseason Poll
Points (First-Place Votes)
|1.||Christopher Newport||48 (6)|
|3.||Frostburg State||36 (1)|
|7.||Penn State Harrisburg||13|