The University of Arkansas at Monticello softball team has been picked eighth in the 2016 Great American Conference Preseason Coaches Poll.
The Blossoms finished the 2015 season with a 24-25 overall record and a 12-18 mark in GAC contests, which was good for seventh place and a 16th consecutive trip to the conference championship tournament, combining the last four years in the GAC and the previous 12 years as members of the Gulf South Conference.
UAM returns 13 letter-winners and eight starters from last year’s team, including 2015 All-GAC outfielders Kali Piha and Holly Wilmarth. Other starters combing back include infielders McKenzie Rice, Korie Parker and Aubree Head, outfielder Skyler Anderson and catchers Allison Stipes and Ashton Currey.
20th-year head coach Alvy Early (679-371-2) will be looking for new faces to step up in the circle this year after the departure of All-GAC pitcher Katie Slaughter. Early signed eight newcomers for the 2016 roster, including five true freshman and two pitchers from the junior college ranks.
The 2016 season opens on the weekend of February 6-7 at the Ronnie Hawkins Invitational in Arkadelphia, hosted by Ouachita. The first home games for the Blossoms are February 19-20 in a four-game GAC series against Southern Nazarene. The 2016 GAC Championship Tournament is scheduled for April 28-30 in Bentonville.
GAC SOFTBALL PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. East Central (113 points, six first place votes)
2. Henderson State (104 points, five first place votes)
3. Southern Arkansas (98 points, one first place vote)
4. Southeastern Oklahoma State (90 points)
5. Arkansas Tech (89 points)
6. Harding (71 points)
7. Southern Nazarene (61 points)
8. UAM (60 points)
9. Northwestern Oklahoma State (32 points)
10. Southwestern Oklahoma State (28 points)
11. Ouachita (26 points)
12. Oklahoma Baptist (20 points)