BELTON – The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor softball team has been picked to finish third in the American Southwest Conference in the league’s annual Preseason Coaches and Media Poll. The Cru finished with 229 total points in balloting of ASC head coaches, Sports Information Directors and media members. Defending champion U.T.-Tyler was picked to repeat as ASC champs with 17 first-place votes and 287 total points, finishing just ahead of last year’s runner-up, East Texas Baptist (10 first-place votes and 278 total points). Louisiana College is picked fourth with 216 total points. Hardin-Simmons is the pick at #5 with 182 total points, U.T.-Dallas is picked sixth with 158 total points, Concordia Texas totaled 138 total points as the pick at #7 and LeTourneau University rounds out the top eight with 123 total points. Howard Payne University is picked ninth with 77 total points, Sul Ross State is the choice at #10 with 52 total points, and the University of the Ozarks is picked 11th with 46 total points. The ASC will play as an 11-team conference this season after playing in a two-division format prior to moving to a single conference alignment last season.
The Cru placed two players on the ASC Preseason Watch list in infielder Leah Brown and catcher Cori Drake. Brown, a sophomore from Crawford, led UMHB with a .436 batting average and 38 RBI last season. She added three home runs and 16 doubles while earning NFCA All-West Region and ASC All-Conference honors. Drake, a sophomore from North Zulch, batted .232 with one homer and seven RBI while backing up four-year starter Chandler Henson at catcher for the Cru. The Preseason Watch List replaced the ASC Preseason Player and Pitcher of the Year awards prior to last season.
The Cru will be under the direction of head coach Larry Hennig for the fifth season in 2015. UMHB returns 12 letter winners from a team that finished 30-14 overall and went 23-10 in ASC play last season. The Cru advanced to the ASC Championship Tournament and went 2-2 in that tournament. UMHB will open the 2015 season with a non-conference doubleheader against Southwestern University at Dee Dillon Field on February 14th. That doubleheader will begin at 1:00 PM.