North Georgia Named Preseason Softball Favorite
AUGUSTA, GA – For the fourth year in a row, the North Georgia Saints have been selected as the preseason team to beat in a poll of Peach Belt Conference coaches released on Wednesday. The three-time defending PBC Conference and Tournament Champions received eight of a possible 10 first-place votes and finished with 98 points in the poll, ahead of Armstrong Atlantic State who was second with 88. Flagler was third in the voting with 77 while Augusta State was fourth and Columbus State fifth. USC Aiken, Francis Marion, Georgia College, UNC Pembroke, Lander and Georgia Southwestern rounded out the voting.
The Saints are in the midst of a historic run with three straight Division II World Series appearances. In 2011, North Georgia won their third straight conference regular-season title and PBC Tournament Championship, finishing 53-12 overall and 17-3 in the league. Returning for 2012 is Daktronics National Pitcher of the Year and PBC Pitcher of the Year Jessica Coan, who led the league with 334 strikeouts a year ago. Also back for head coach Mike Davenport are All-Conference third baseman Hilary Cox and outfielder Pilar Harden, both of whom were named to the preseason All-Conference team yesterday.
Armstrong Atlantic State reached the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in the last six years and were second in the PBC standings with a 31-14 overall record, 13-7 in league play. Head coach Ted Evans returns the majority of that team led by PBC Player of the Year April Jowers who led the PBC with a .497 batting average last year. In all, five All-Conference players from last season will be back for 2012 including catcher Ashley Buckett, outfielder Shelby Duff, third baseman Baillie Temples and pitcher Megan Barnwell.
Flagler had their best season yet as a part of the Peach Belt in 2011 when they finished in a tie for third in the league standings with a 12-8 conference record, 42-18 overall, and made their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Many of the stars from that team are back this season including all four All-Conference performers. Breezy Collings led the PBC in RBIs with 60 last year at first base and was named preseason All-Conference yesterday. Also back are All-PBC picks Alona Personius at second base, Tori Jolley at third and Lauren Bessent at shortstop.
Augusta State made a run to the PBC Tournament championship game in 2011 and to their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last five years. ASU was 35-20 overall last year, 11-9 in the PBC, and return seven seniors from that team including utility standout Kristen Jones who was named the first All-American in the program’s history. Also back are senior All-Conference standouts Kacee Camp at shortstop and third baseman Jessica Thornton. Camp, the 2009 PBC Freshman of theYear, was named to the preseason All-Conference team on Tuesday.
The 2012 coaches poll is below, teams were given 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for a second and so on. Coaches were not permitted to rank their own teams. The 2012 softball season begins on Feb. 3 with conference play beginning Feb. 22.
A team-by-team preview of the 2012 season can be seen here.
|2.||Armstrong Atlantic State||3||5||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||88|