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2021 SLIAC Softball Preseason Poll

Spalding University has been picked as the 2021 SLIAC softball favorites according the preseason coaches poll. The Golden Eagles edged out Eureka College and Westminster College for the top spot in a poll that featured five teams picking up at least one first-place vote.

#1 Spalding University

Two springs ago Spalding made a run to the SLIAC Tournament championship game. This year they are picked to take the next step and claim the program's first-ever title. The Golden Eagles received 41 points, with two first-place votes. They were picked either first or second on six of seven coaches ballots. Head Coach Art Williams returns six starters including four All-Conference players in Olivia Carter, Ally Klein, Jennifer Peffley, and Addie Morris. Carter, a pitcher, went 14-8 in 2019 with a 3.43 earned-run average and 19 complete games. She can also swing the bat, hitting .376 with 27 RBI. Klein, who hit .386 during her last full season is a threat on the bases, where she swiped a SLIAC leading 21 bags. Peffley hit .296 with 11 RBI while Morris hit .350 and finished with a .459 on-base percentage. Also back is Brooke Smith, who hit .328 with 20 RBI as a freshman in in 2019. Top newcomers include Bella Velez and Madison Loechle.

2019 Overall Record: 28-15

Starters Returning: 6

Head Coach: Art Williams

T-#2 Eureka College

Eureka, the last SLIAC Champion, received 37 total points and two-first place votes in the poll. After a record setting offense in 2019 the Red Devils and head coach Debi Neff are looking to see what they can do in 2021. Despite the loss of Sydney Shubert the team still has record setter Morgan Ledbetter. The senior first baseman hit .526 with a SLIAC record 17 home runs while driving in 58 during her 2019 season. She is joined by SLIAC Newcomer of the Year Raelyn Payne, who hit .457 with 7 home runs and 32 RBI of her own. Allison Cagley continues the Red Devil's potent lineup, hitting .356 with 3 home runs and 26 RBI as a sophomore. Along with the graduation of Shubert the Red Devils also said goodbye to longtime pitching stalwart Erin Smith. Newcomers looking to make their mark include Remi Ferguson and Savannah Hack.

2019 Overall Record: 27-8

Starters Returning: 5

Head Coach: Debi Neff

T-#2 Westminster College

Westminster finished with 37 points, tying for second on the poll, and picking up two first-place nods. Blue Jays head coach Sara Stafford has a nice roster makeup that ranges from six seniors to eight freshman. She will lean heavily on senior Katie Price to get back to her 2018 form when she was the SLIAC Pitcher of the Year. Price will not only anchor the pitching staff but is one of team's top hitters, hitting .324 with 2 home runs and 10 RBI in 2019. Mackenzie Myers hit .313 with 2 home runs and 12 RBI as a junior and while Laney Rosson will challenge for a starting role. The Blue Jays will also get a boost from the return of infielder Brooke Laidley, who sat out 2019, but is a .333 career hitter with 52 RBI and was All-Region in 2018.

2019 Overall Record: 13-19

Starters Returning: 5

Head Coach: Sara Stafford

T-#4 Fontbonne University

Fontbonne received one first-place selection and came in tied for 4th on the poll with 30 total points. The Griffins will be an experienced team with 12 players and nine starters coming back for head coach Casey Cromwell. A strong junior class that was off to a hot start before the season shut down in 2020 will be looking to pick up where they left off. Hannah Miener, a junior, was hitting .409 with 2 home runs last year while Michaela Mason, a sophomore, was hitting .302. Two-way player Lexi Becker was hitting .423 and held a 2.83 earned-run average in 2020 while Abby Richmond, a pitcher, finished with a 2.63 E.R.A. Fresh faces that could play key roles are Madison Galcyski and Grace Paez.

2019 Overall Record: 10-25

Starters Returning: 9

Head Coach: Casey Cromwell

T-#4 Iowa Wesleyan University

Iowa Wesleyan, who made the conference tournament for the first time in program history two springs ago, picked up 30 total points. The Tigers bring back nine starters from a team that went 5-5 last spring and 26-11 during their tournament run two years ago. Much of the fanfare for the Tigers stems from true two-way impact player Morgan Christner. Christner locked down the 2019 SLIAC Pitcher of the Year award when she went 17-5 with 199 strikeouts and a 2.36 earned-run average. At the plate she hit .415 and led the team with 37 runs batted in. But she is not alone in the lineup with Kayla Ford, Alex Eyman, and Emilee Rooney joining her. Ford hit .413 and scored 35 runs in her last full season while Eyman was second on the team with 35 RBI and hit .362. Rooney hit .323 as a freshman, finishing with more walks than strikeouts. Head Coach Mike Hampton will also rely on sophomores Brea Mettler and Taylor Johnson. Among the newcomers to the team are Nadia Howell and Ashley Pfadenhauer.

2019 Overall Record: 26-11

Starters Returning: 9

Head Coach: Mike Hampton

#6 Webster University

Webster University tallied 22 total points, coming in 6th on the poll. Head Coach Katie Griffith returns 13 players and seven starters. Abby Burroughs is back once again and looking to close out her Gorlok career. She currently ranks in the top ten in Gorlok history in home runs, doubles, runs scored, and total bases. Sheyla Iniguez, a junior, will be looking to follow up on her All-Conference season when she hit .304 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI. Also back are Taylor Jackson, who hit .363, and Avery Boccella, who hit .290, as well as pitcher Kirbie Mendenhall. Transfer Alyssa McWilliams is expected to make an immediate difference while freshman Paige Thomas could see time behind the plate.

2019 Overall Record: 10-24

Starters Returning: 7

Head Coach: Katie Griffith

#7 Greenville University

Greenville was picked 7th, finishing with 20 total points. With 18 returning players first-year head coach Angela Sheets has an experienced group to lean on. One of those players will be Maegan Stone. Stone, an All-Conference performer, hit .323 with 20 RBI and 9 stolen bases and was just as effective in the circle where she was 8-3 with a 2.82 earned-run average. Kendall Farr hit .313 during her last full season, driving in 22 and finishing second on the team with 6 home runs. Katie Myers hit .316 during her freshman season and is joined by returners Olivia Shipman and Hannah Hoffman. Top newcomers for the team are Desirae Yost and Emma Deters.

2019 Overall Record: 21-14

Starters Returning: n/a

Head Coach: Angela Sheets

#8 Blackburn College

Blackburn wraps up the poll after finishing with seven points. Head Coach Kerry Crum brings back five starters and will be a young team made up of freshman and sophomores. The only two seniors on the team are Brooke Daniels and Kennedy Henson. A trio of sophomores in Josie Manar, Maddie Wichmann, Lexie Shaw all saw extensive playing time last year before the season closed out early. Freshmen McKenzie Smith, Chelsea Ashlock, and Holly Heuerman will be counted on to compete for playing time.

2019 Overall Record: 12-20

Starters Returning: 5

Head Coach: Kerry Crum

2021 SLIAC Softball Preseason Watch List

It is a loaded list of players to watch this spring on the softball diamond in the SLIAC. Fans will get a chance to see Eureka's Morgan Ledbetter move up the SLIAC career home runs list and watch the growth of last season's Newcomer of the Year Raelyn Payne. Iowa Wesleyan will be counting on Morgan Christner, Kayla Ford, and Alex Eyman to shine once again while Spalding's Olivia Carter, Ally Klein, Jennifer Peffley, and Addie Morris will look to follow up their cinderella run in the conference tournament in 2019. Greenville will be led by the duo of Kendall Farr and Maegan Stone while Westminster brings back Mackenzie Myers. Sheyla Iniguez returns for the Gorloks while Webster fans will also have one more chance to see how Abby Burroughs concludes her Gorlok career.

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