AUM Softball lands 8th spot in NAIA Preseason Top 25 poll | Schools
The NAIA released its 2013 Softball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll this week, and Auburn Montgomery earned a top 10 ranking after completing its best season in program history.
The Warhawks, who finished last season 42-20 and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament for the first time, are ranked eighth in the poll with 404 points.
“It is a big honor for our program to be nationally recognized,” Head Coach Chris Steiner-Wilcoxson said. “We have strived to be a nationally respected program that can compete year in and year out. We have a tough schedule, and being ranked puts a target on your back, so we will have to bring our best every day.”
AUM is one of three teams from the Southern States Athletic Conference in the top 10, joining Brenau (No. 3) and William Carey (No. 7). Lee (No. 11) and Mobile (No. 19) are also represented, giving the SSAC a conference-high five teams in the poll.
Despite losing two NAIA All-Americans in Brandi Richards and Shea Driggers, AUM returns several key players from last year’s squad. Junior infielder and all-conference performer Jyssica Pepper will be back after starting all 62 games last season. She finished with a team-high .323 batting average while also leading the team in home runs (5 – tied for first), slugging percentage (.497), runs (46) and stolen bases (14).
Sophomore pitcher Cassie Daniels returns as well. Daniels earned spots on the SSAC All-Freshmen and All-Division teams after finishing with a 13-7 record and a 1.77 era. She had 161 strikeouts in 150.1 innings pitched and held opponents to a .203 batting average.
All-Division team member Laci Driggers (.287 batting average, 10 stolen bases, nine doubles) sophomore Katie Spain, who was one of the top performers on the team during the fall season, and Haley Johnson (.299 batting average, .361 on-base percentage) are among the other notable returners. Overall, the Warhawks bring back 10 players from 2012, with 10 newcomers joining the squad.
Cal State San Marcos is ranked first in the poll after receiving 520 points and 13 of 19 first place votes. Lubbock Christian, Brenau, Oklahoma City and Concordia (Calif.) round out the top five. Defending national champions Shorter does not appear in the rankings after moving to Division II for 2012-13.
AUM begins its 2013 season with a home doubleheader against Thomas on February 17.
“We are looking forward to our team stepping up to this season’s challenges to move our program forward,” Wilcoxson said. “I want our girls to step up and continue to keep pushing and building the tradition here at AUM.”
Source: AUM Sports Information Director