Big South Preseason Softball Poll Following a year of major improvements, the Liberty softball team has been predicted to finish fourth in the Big South, through a preseason poll conducted among conference head softball coaches.
The Lady Flames received 56 points in the poll, while also garnering one first-place vote. Liberty's fourth-place prediction is the highest that the team has appeared in the preseason poll since 2012, when the Lady Flames were picked second.
Liberty improved by 18 games in the win column from 2014 to 2015 to finish last season with a 29-30 overall record. The 2015 squad had the largest win improvement among all NCAA Division I softball teams over the 2014 season. Additionally, the Lady Flames went 12-12 in Big South play, good for fourth place in the conference standings.
For the second year in a row, third-year Head Coach Dot Richardson welcomes a large freshman class, as 12 freshmen will make their debut this year. Liberty's top returnees include redshirt senior Chandler Ball, a second team All-Big South and VaSID All-State pitcher after posting 20 wins in 2015. Sophomore Alexia Taylor returns after being named 2015 Big South Freshman of the Year and leading the Lady Flames in batting average and doubles. Tori Zavodny was voted VaSID All-State second team as a freshman last year, while Madison Kotchey joined Taylor and Zavodny on the Big South All-Freshman team.
Defending Big South champion Longwood was voted to repeat, receiving 70 points and two first-place votes. Coastal Carolina (67 points) and Charleston Southern (60) garnered two first-place mentions apiece, with Liberty (56 point, one first-place vote) in fourth.
Winthrop appears fifth with 42 points and one first-place tally, followed by Presbyterian (39) in sixth and Campbell (36) in seventh with the final first-place vote. Radford (18) and Gardner-Webb (17) round out the poll.
Two-time first team All-Big South selection Morgan Noad of Coastal Carolina was voted Big South Preseason Player of the Year after hitting 22 home runs last year. Longwood junior Elizabeth McCarthy, the 2015 Big South Pitcher of the Year with 22 wins, was named 2016 Big South Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
The Lady Flames begin their 2016 campaign with a trip to Orlando, Fla. Liberty will play at No. 17/17 UCF on Feb. 11 at 4 p.m., before playing in four games at the Dot Richardson Invitational in Clermont, Fla., Feb. 12-13. Then, on Feb. 14, Liberty will face 2015 Women's College World Series team No. 5/5 Alabama, at UCF's stadium.
The 2016 Big South Softball Championship will be hosted by Winthrop, from May 11-14 at Terry Field in Rock Hill, S.C. The Big South champion will earn the conference's automatic bid to the 2016 NCAA Division I Softball Championship, which will begin the weekend of May 20.
2016 Big South Softball Preseason Poll Team (First-place votes) – Points 1. Longwood (2) - 70 2. Coastal Carolina (2) - 67 3. Charleston Southern (2) - 60 4. Liberty (1) - 56 5. Winthrop (1) - 42 6. Presbyterian - 39 7. Campbell (1) - 36 8. Radford - 18 9. Gardner-Webb – 17
2016 Preseason Player of the Year: Morgan Noad, Coastal Carolina
2016 Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Elizabeth McCarthy, Longwood
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