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DePauw Favored to Win NCAC Softball Title

DePauw senior Emma Baldwin led the NCAC last year in the circle with a 0.36 ERA in conference play
DePauw senior Emma Baldwin led the NCAC last year in the circle with a 0.36 ERA in conference play

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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 NCAC Tournament title in 2017, were selected to finish first in the poll after collecting five first-place votes and 75 total points. Wittenberg, which claimed its second conference championship in program history and won 20-plus games for the sixth-straight season last spring, garnered the final four first-place votes to finish second in the poll with 72 points. Denison, which leads the NCAC with eight league titles and is looking for its first since 2011, finished third with 67 points, followed by Wooster (54), Ohio Wesleyan (42), Kenyon (34), Allegheny (28), Hiram (21) and Oberlin (12)

DePauw, which has made four-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, enters 2018 with five returning players that garnered All-NCAC honors last year, highlighted by a pair of first-team performers in senior utility player Megan Montgomery (Noblesville, IN/Noblesville) and senior pitcher Emma Baldwin (Oak Park, IL/Oak Park River Forest). Montgomery led the Tigers in runs scored (23) and at-bats (144), and finished second on the team in hits (47), stolen bases (11) and triples (1). On the mound, Baldwin returns after leading the NCAC in strikeouts (110) despite being outside the top-10 in innings pitched (89.2) in 2017. Baldwin posted the league’s lowest earned-run-average in conference play (0.36) and also led the league with six saves on the year. The Tigers also return junior Sidney Holler (Overland Park, KS/Shawnee Mission South) and senior Lauren Godden (Carmel, IN/Carmel). Holler earned first team All-NCAC accolades a year ago and led DePauw in slugging percentage (.516) and walks (13) to go along with 37 hits and 27 RBI. Godden, who was named NCAC Player of the Year in 2016, finished with team high 29 RBI and 11 doubles last year. Leading DePauw in 2018 will be Erica Hanrahan, who enters her sixth year as head coach with a 139-89 record, four NCAC titles, three tournament titles and has been named NCAC Coach of the Year twice.

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 (1998, ‘99, 2004, ’08, ’12) and DePauw (’13, ’14, ’15, ‘2016-17)  have each captured five, Ohio Wesleyan (‘04, ‘05, ‘10) with three and Wittenberg two (’00, ‘17). 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),  DePauw (’14, ’15) with two and Hiram (‘09, ‘11) and Wittenberg (’03, ’16) each with two. 

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.

2018 North Coast Athletic Conference
Coaches' Poll
(first-place votes in parentheses, followed by total points)

1. DePauw (5) 75
2. Wittenberg (4) 72
3. Denison 67
4. Wooster 54
5. Ohio Wesleyan 42
6. Kenyon 34
7. Allegheny 28
8. Hiram 21
9. Oberlin 12