North Coast Athletic Conference softball coaches have selected DePauw as the preseason favorite based on balloting in the annual preseason coaches’ poll.
The Tigers, who claimed their third-straight conference championship and second-straight NCAC Tournament title a year ago, were selected to finish first in the poll after collecting eight first-place votes and 79 total points. Denison, which advanced to its first NCAC Tournament final since 2012 and won 20-plus games for the 11th-straight season, finished behind DePauw in the poll with 67 points. Wittenberg, which is looking for its first conference championship since 2000, garnered the final first-place vote and finished third with 66 points, followed by Allegheny (50), Kenyon (43), Wooster (33), Ohio Wesleyan (29), Hiram (24) and Oberlin (14).
DePauw, which won an NCAC-record 36 games and finished in a tie for fifth at the NCAA Championships in 2015, returns four batters that recorded 50 or more hits from a lineup that led the league with 421 hits. Seniors Linsey Button (Ballwin, MO/Lafayette) and Sammi Bell (Columbia, MO/Rock Bridge Senior) along with sophomores Lauren Godden (Carmel, IN/Carmel) and Liz Getz (Bloomington, IN/Bloomington South) combined for 213 hits (.367 BA), 134 of the Tigers’ 240 RBI, 145-of-281 runs scored, 26-of-42 home runs, 38-of-69 doubles and 331 total bases. In the circle, sophomore Emma Baldwin (Oak Park, IL/Oak Park River Forest) returns after leading the NCAC in strikeouts (175) despite ranking fourth in innings pitched (140.1) in 2015. Baldwin won 14 games with a 2.44 earned run average and set a new conference record with six saves a season ago. Leading DePauw in 2016 will be Erica Hanrahan, who enters her fourth year as head coach with an 85-53 record, three NCAC titles, two league tournament titles and was named NCAC Coach of the Year in 2015 for the first-time in her career.
Since the NCAC began sponsoring softball as a championship sport in 1998, five different teams have claimed conference championships. Denison leads the way in that grouping with eight titles (2001-03, ‘06, ‘07, 2009-11), while Allegheny has captured five (1998, ‘99, 2004, ’08, ’12), Ohio Wesleyan (‘04, ‘05, ‘10) and DePauw (’13, ’14, ’15) each have three and Wittenberg has one (‘00). The NCAC instituted the conference tournament in 2001 to determine the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Big Red have earned six tournament titles (‘01, ‘02, ‘06, ‘08, ’09, ’12), followed by Allegheny with four (‘04, ‘05, ’07, ‘13), Hiram (‘09, ‘11) and DePauw (’14, ’15) each with two and Wittenberg (’03) with one.
Founded in 1983, the North Coast Athletic Conference is made up of ten academically selective colleges and universities - Allegheny College, Denison University, DePauw University, Hiram College, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Ohio Wesleyan University, Wabash College, Wittenberg University and the College of Wooster, along with affiliate member, Earlham College (field hockey).The NCAC sponsors 23 championship sports, 11 for men and 12 for women.
2016 North Coast Athletic Conference Preseason Softball Coaches' Poll