HIGH POINT, N.C. -†North Greenville enters the 2013 season looking to continue its recent success as it was chosen as the league's favorite to win the 2013 title after voting in the preseason coaches poll. The Crusaders made an immediate impact in 2012 scoring the league's regular season title with an 18-4 record in their inaugural season in Conference Carolinas. Pfeiffer University was selected to finish in a tie for ninth which would miss the year-end tournament.
The Crusaders return twelve players from a team that placed second in the leagues post-season tournament, including junior Rachel Glazebrook who was the teamís only All-Conference selection in 2012. Glazebrook led the Crusaders with a .395 average at the dish with 3 homeruns and 17 RBI. Sarah Armstrong also returns to the lineup as NGUís biggest offensive threat with 23 RBI and 25 runs scored.
Mount Olive returns three pitchers and six starting position players Ė including the Trojansí entire infield from last yearís squad, which surpassed the 30-win mark and won the Conference Carolinas East Division. The Trojans were 31-17 in 2012 and posted a 17-5 mark in conference play.
Mount Olive returns three All-Conference Carolinas players: sophomore shortstop Jennifer Jones, junior third baseman Kalie Smith and sophomore pitcher Lauren Smith. Jones batted .345 with 21 runs batted in, tied for third most among returning players. Kalie Smith recorded a .914 fielding percentage with 47 assists after moving to third base and helped spark the Trojan offense with five home runs. Lauren Smith was a two-time Conference Carolinas Pitcher of the Week, posting a 16-6 record with four saves, a 2.02 earned run average and 124 strikeouts. Returning players combined for 22 of Mount Oliveís 29 home runs last year, the most by the Trojans since belting 35 homers in 2008.
King College became Conference Carolinasí Cinderella story last season after sweeping through the conference tournament last season to win the tournament championship as a first-year member and No. 6 seed. Prospects are positive for the Lady Tornado as they return many of its contributing members in 2013 including star pitcher Hannah Light who was second in overall wins (19) and earned run average (1.53).
All-Conference selections sophomore shortstop Christina Melcher and junior catcher/outfielder Fallon Thomas combined for nine home runs and 71 runs batted in last season and will shore up the middle of the Lady Tornado lineup once again. King loses only three starters from last season and adds much depth in its incoming freshman class.
Rounding out the softball preseason poll 4-11 was: Erskine, Limestone, Queens, Coker, Belmont Abbey, Lees-McRae & Pfeiffer (tied), and Barton respectively.
CONFERENCE CAROLINAS PRESEASON POLL (First Place Votes)
1. North Greenville - (2) 89
2. Mount Olive - (4) 85
3. King - (4) 84
4. Erskine - (1) 73
5. Limestone - 65
6. Queens - 60
7. Coker - 50
8. Belmont Abbey - 29
T9. Lees-McRae - 27
T9. Pfeiffer - 27
11. Barton - 16