RICHMOND, Va., Feb. 5, 2013 – With seven starting field players and four pitchers returning from a team that went 15-5 in conference play, the James Madison softball team was selected to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll in the a vote of the league’s head coaches Wednesday.
JMU finished with 40 points in the poll, placing seven-points shy of league-favorite Hofstra. The nine-time CAA champion was a unanimous choice, receiving all seven first-place votes it was eligible to receive. Georgia State received Hofstra’s first-place vote and was tied for second with JMU with 40 points. Towson (28 points) claimed fourth, followed by Delaware (25) in fifth, George Mason and Drexel (17 points) in a tie for sixth and with UNCW (8) rounding out the poll.
The Dukes went 30-26 overall last year and return six starters that batted better than .268 a year ago, including four players that hit better than .300. Center fielder Jasmine Butler (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) enters her senior season as the team’s all-time leader in batting average (.343) and stolen bases (57). Last season, she hit .309 with seven extra-base hits, 33 runs and 15 RBIs. Sophomore outfielder Morgan Heath (Yorktown, Va./Grafton) was a First Team All-CAA selection after leading the team with a .355 average. She added 11 doubles, two home runs, 33 runs, 14 RBIs, and 13 steals. Fellow sophomore Sarah Mooney (Huntersville, N.C./North Mecklenburg) is the top returning power hitter after slamming nine home runs, eight doubles and 29 RBIs while hitting .322 as a rookie. Other returning starters include senior first baseman Haley Johnson (Ashburn, Va./Broad Run), senior catcher Megan Shinaberry (Davie, Fla./McCarthy) and junior third baseman Caitlin Sandy (Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt).
In the circle, Madison returns 93-percent of its innings pitched from a year ago led by reigning CAA Rookie of the Year sophomore right-hander Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls). Kiefer was a First Team All-CAA selection after going 14-6 with a 1.96 ERA in 143 innings pitched. She struck out 95 and limited opponents to a .242 batting average against while tossing 15 complete games and five shutouts. Mooney added a 8-10 record and a 3.56 ERA in 110 innings pitched while sophomore Reba DePriest (Apache Junction, Ariz./Skyline) went 4-7 with a 3.75 ERA. Junior Brittany Jeans (Camano Island, Wash./Stanwood) went 1-1 in five appearances.
Head coach Mickey Dean enters his first season as the JMU head coach. He won four-straight Big South regular season championships while at Radford and took the Highlanders to the NCAA Regionals twice. He owns a 241-116 career record as a head coach.
Hofstra returns seven starters, including pitcher/designated player Olivia Galati, outfielder Tessa Ziemba and catcher Erin Trippi. The Pride is coming off a 42-15 season which included a three-game sweep to capture the Los Angeles NCAA Regional. Hofstra made the program’s first-ever Super Regional appearance and finished one win shy of reaching the Women’s College World Series. The Pride went 22-0 against CAA opponents for the first undefeated conference performance in school history in 2012. Galati, the three-time CAA Pitcher of the Year, posted a 34-7 record in the circle with a 0.95 ERA and hit .345 with four home runs and 37 RBI for the Pride. Ziemba batted .316 on the season with a team-best 45 RBI, while Trippi hit .280 with 31 RBI as a freshman. The Pride have been ranked in the Top 25 preseason polls at No. 20 in the USA Today/NFCA poll and No. 22 in the ESPN/USA Softball poll.
Georgia State returns 15 letterwinners and nine starters from its 2012 team that went 38-18. Returning for GSU in the circle is two-time All-CAA selection Kaitlyn Medlam, who earned 14 wins a year ago with a 1.99 ERA to go along with four saves and 98 strikeouts. Lauren Coleman, an All-CAA first team honoree, returns after leading the Panthers in batting average (.326) and on-base percentage (.436). Callie Alford earned All-CAA second team accolades after leading the team with 43 RBI, 13 doubles, 80 total bases, and a.494 slugging percentage.
Madison’s season gets started Feb. 15-17 in Charleston, S.C. at the College of Charleston Cougar Classic. The Dukes take on tournament-host Charleston as well as Akron, East Tennessee State, Towson and Syracuse in the three-day event.
The 2013 CAA softball championship are scheduled for May 8-10 at the site of the regular-season champion.
2013 CAA Softball Preseason Poll
1. Hofstra, 47 (7 first-place votes)
2. James Madison, 40
Georgia State, 40 (1 first-place vote)
4. Towson, 28
5. Delaware, 28
6. George Mason, 17
8. UNCW, 8
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