BRIDGEPORT, W. Va. – The Urbana University softball team received a sixth-place vote in the North Division of the 2017 Mountain East Conference Preseason Poll released on Thursday.
Urbana went 8-35 last season (5-24 MEC) under its new coach and dressed just nine players. Now with a full year under her belt, head coach Kira Zeiter has retooled the roster with seven newcomers to provide much-needed depth and additional talent.
Also, the Blue Knights will regain the leadership and services of junior shortstop Caitlyn Stoner in 2017. Stoner, who is a .368 career hitter, earned 2014 MEC Freshman of the Year and 2015 All-MEC First Team honors. She redshirted last spring and will make an immediate impact in the UU lineup.
The season approaches quickly as UU will host California (Pa.) for the opener on Saturday, Feb. 25, with first pitch set for 1 p.m. in the first game of a doubleheader at UU Softball Field. Then, the Blue Knights crank up the schedule when they travel to Florida during Spring Break (March 4-9) for eight games in six days.
Looking at the polls, West Virginia Wesleyan and Shepherd have been tabbed by the league coaches as the preseason favorites for the 2017 MEC softball season. Shepherd is picked to repeat as the North Division champion, while West Virginia Wesleyan was voted to win the South Division title.
Shepherd ended the 2016 campaign 34-16 (24-7 MEC) and collected 62 points, including nine first-place votes. Wheeling Jesuit was voted to finish second with 54 votes and two first-place votes, followed by Notre Dame in third with 42 points and the remaining first-place vote. Fairmont State (40), West Liberty (30) and Urbana (18) round out the North Division.
West Virginia Wesleyan posted a 54-11 record last season (27-5 MEC) after capturing the 2016 MEC Championship and securing its fourth NCAA Division II Super Regional appearance in five years. Wesleyan finished atop the poll with 64 points, including nine first-place votes. Charleston, which claimed the South Division championship last year and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight, was picked to finish second in the division with 58 points and the remaining three first-place votes. UVa-Wise and Concord tied for third with 37 points with West Virginia State (32) and Glenville State (18) completing the South Division.