FLORENCE, Ky. – The University of Rio Grande is the favorite in the 2017 River States Conference Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll, which was voted upon by the 10 head coaches in the league.
The conference preseason poll comes out in advance of the NAIA Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll next Tuesday, Jan. 17.
The River States Conference was formerly known as the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference before a name change went into effect July 1, 2016. The RSC has 13 member schools and 10 softball teams in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Rio Grande, which has won the last two conference tournament championships, is the favorite in this year’s preseason poll after garnering eight of the 10 first-place votes and 80 total votes in the polling.
The RedStorm was 41-9 overall and 17-1 conference last year and ended the regular season ranked No. 22 in the NAIA Softball Top 25 Poll as KIAC Tournament champion, KIAC regular-season champion and NAIA National Championship Opening Round qualifier.
Rio Grande, which finished No. 25 in the final post-season poll, returns its entire pitching staff, including KIAC Pitcher of the Year Jenna Jones, and seven starters from last season.
IU Southeast is second in the preseason poll coming off a season of 34-19 overall, 15-3 conference and runner-up to Rio Grande in the KIAC Tournament. The Grenadiers received the remaining two first-place votes and 73 points. IU Southeast was also an NAIA Opening Round participant. IU Southeast has three all-conference players returning including pitcher Emily Weiss.
Point Park University is picked third after a record of 23-19 overall, 14-4 KIAC last year and received 65 votes in the poll. The Pioneers reached the final four of the KIAC Tournament and return pitcher Ashley Iagnemma, the KIAC Freshman of the Year.
WVU Tech is picked fourth in the poll with 55 votes and was 21-29, 9-9 KIAC last year. Carlow University is close behind picked fifth with 50 points after a season of 25-12, 10-8 KIAC and finishing one game shy of the conference tournament championship round.
Cincinnati Christian enters its second year as a softball program picked sixth in the poll with 32 points. Next in a tie for seventh with 25 points each are Asbury University and Brescia University. The Eagles and Bearcats are predicted to take the last two of the eight playoff-qualifying spots. Ohio Christian University and Midway University round out the poll in ninth and 10th place with 24 and 21 points, respectively.
The top eight teams in the final standings qualify for the RSC Softball Tournament beginning May 5. The RSC will qualify two teams to the NAIA National Championship Opening Round with the regular-season champion and conference tournament champion earning the automatic bids from the conference.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.