LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference softball coaches have selected Texas Lutheran as the preseason favorite based on balloting in the annual preseason coaches' poll.
The Bulldogs, coming off the program’s first-ever NCAA Division III Softball National Championship after sweeping Emory (Ga.) in the championship finals, were the unanimous selection to finish first in the poll after collecting all seven first-place votes and 49 total points. Southwestern, which advanced to its third-straight SCAC Tournament final and set a program record for wins in a season (35), finished behind TLU in the poll with 42 points. Trinity, who is looking for its first 20-win season since 2016 and first conference championship since 2007, checked in at third with 28 points. Centenary, which has advanced to the final game prior to the championship series at the SCAC Tournament three of the last four years, rounds out the top four with 27 points. Schreiner posted its third-straight 17-plus win season to close out the top five with 22 points followed by Dallas with 17 and Austin College with 11.
TLU, which claimed its sixth-straight conference championship in addition to its National Title a season ago, returns four batters that recorded 40 or more hits out of a lineup that in total returns 410 of an SCAC-leading 469 total hits last year. Junior Kelly Jurden, defending SCAC Player-of-the-Year, and sophomore Casey Martin, last year’s SCAC Newcomer-of-the-Year, along with senior Madisyn Cates and junior Skylar Ouellette, combined for 214 hits and a .419 batting average. The quartet also accounted for 116 of the Bulldogs’ 304 RBI, 148-of-348 runs scored, 31-of-85 doubles and 100 of an SCAC record 195 stolen bases.
In the circle, First-Team All-SCAC performer Kayla Oliveira is the leading returner from the Bulldogs staff after posting a league, best 18 wins in a conference-high 131.0 innings pitched. Oliveira finished the year with 99 strikeouts and a 1.44 ERA.
Leading Texas Lutheran from the dugout in 2020 will be Wade Wilson, who enters his ninth year as head coach with an overall record of 282-66 after posting a record of 40-8 last season. Wilson has guided the Bulldogs to six SCAC titles, earned five SCAC Coach-of-the-Year accolades and added NFCA Division III National Coaching Staff of the Year to his resume following the run to the National Championship.
Since the SCAC began sponsoring softball as a championship sport in 1999, seven different teams have claimed conference championships. Trinity leads the way in that grouping with seven titles (1999, 2000-02, 2005-07), while Texas Lutheran is currently second with six (2014-19). DePauw captured three (2008-09, 2011), Southwestern two (2010, 2013) and Millsaps (2003), Univ. of the South-Sewanee (2004) and Birmingham-Southern have each secured one title.
The 2020 SCAC softball season begins on February 1st, while the first conference series of the season are scheduled for Friday, February 28th. The 2020 SCAC Softball Tournament will be held in April on the campus of Schreiner University as the double-elimination tournament will begin on Friday the 24th.
|2020 SCAC Softball Preseason Coaches' Poll
(first-place votes in parentheses, followed by total points)
|1.||Texas Lutheran University (7)||49|
|6.||University of Dallas||17|