(Photo Courtesy: UCA Athletics)
Conway, Ark. (UCA) - The Southland Conference has released its preseason softball polls, and the Central Arkansas Bears have been picked to finish fourth by both the Coaches and Sports Information Directors.
Northwestern State, who won last season's Southland Conference Tournament, was picked to finish first by the coaches, totaling 77 points and four first place votes, while the SIDs picked the Lady Demons to finish second, giving them 69 points and five first place votes.
McNeese State, the defending Southland Conference regular season champion, was tabbed to finish first by the SIDs, getting 71 points and three first place votes. In the coaches' poll, the Cowgirls were ranked second, tallying 74 points with four first place votes.
Sam Houston State, who finished fourth in the SLC last season, was picked to finish third by both the coaches (70 points, 2 first-place votes) and SIDs (65 points, 1 first place vote).
Central Arkansas earned 51 points in the coaches' poll and 55 points in the SID poll. The Bears, who finished third in the SLC last season and lost to Sam Houston on the final day of the SLC Tournament, will feature a mix of old and new in the upcoming season. The Bears are looking to replace the contributions of 5 seniors, and will do so with a combination of freshmen and transfers. But Central Arkansas also returns plenty of experience. First baseman Ashley Boswell, a two-year starter hit .288 last season with eight doubles and five home runs, while utility player Sarah Bigej returns with a .283 batting average, seven doubles, six home runs, and two triples.
The Bears also bring back Sam Forrest, who, as a freshman last season, batted .387 with 39 runs batted in, 16 doubles, and three home runs.
The polls are available in their entirety below.