FRISCO, Texas – Stephen F. Austin is tabbed as the favorite to win the 2020 Softball title as the Southland Conference announced the preseason poll Thursday morning. The poll was voted on by head coaches and sports information directors from around the league. Voting for one’s own school is not permitted.
The top-billed Ladyjacks led the vote with 217 points and 11 first-place votes after placing a trio of selections on the preseason all-conference teams. SFA will look to build upon the 2019 season where it finished fourth in regular-season standings and landed three picks on the all-conference roster. The Ladyjacks are led by reigning Southland Freshman of the Year Kassidy Wilbur, who closed out her freshman season with 256 strikeouts, five shutouts and a 20-16 record.
Reigning regular-season and Southland Tournament champion Sam Houston State comes in next with 10 first-place votes and 210 points. The Bearkats also landed three picks on the preseason all-conference list, including seniors Tiffany Thompson and Megan McDonald on the first team and Brook Malia on the second team. SHSU is coming off a memorable season after an undefeated run through the conference tournament and a 2-1 win over Texas in the opening round of the NCAA Austin Regional Tournament.
McNeese checks in at the third with 202 points and one first-place vote after concluding the 2019 season with a 3-2 record in the National Invitational Softball Championship (NISC). The Cowgirls will be led by preseason first team all- conference pitcher Alexsandra Flores and a defense that led the league with 1,379 putouts last year.
Nicholls occupies the fourth-place spot after receiving a pair of first-place votes and 186 points in the vote. After a 21-6 record in conference play last season, the Colonels will be looking to avenge a runner-up finish at the conference tournament. Nicholls also landed a pair of automatic infield selections on the preseason all-conference squad in senior Samantha Dares and junior Caitlin Garcia.
Southeastern Louisiana (177), Northwestern State (152), Central Arkansas (122) and Lamar (110) fill the fifth through eighth positions.
Abilene Christian received 61 points for the ninth spot, while Houston Baptist was voted 10th with 56 points in the poll. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi finished next with 52 points and UIW rounds out the ballot with 39 points.
The 2020 season begins Thursday, Feb. 6, with Central Arkansas traveling to Baton Rouge to take on LSU in a 6 p.m. showdown. Nine more schools debut Friday, Feb. 7, while the remaining two schools open their seasons Saturday, Feb. 8.
The 2020 Southland Conference Tournament will be hosted by Southeastern Louisiana at North Oak Park in Hammond, La. Tournament action is slated for an eight-team field May 5-8.
Coaches and SIDs Poll (first place votes)
- Stephen F. Austin (11) 217
- Sam Houston State (10) 210
- McNeese (1) 202
- Nicholls (2) 186
- Southeastern Louisiana 177
- Northwestern State 152
- Central Arkansas 122
- Lamar 110
- Abilene Christian 61
- Houston Baptist 56
- Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 52
- UIW 39