Freeland, Mich. - The Alma College softball team has been picked to finish fourth in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association this season according to the conference's preseason coaches poll, which was released on Thursday (Feb. 7).
The Scots finished last season with a 23-14 overall record and a 9-7 conference record, good for fourth place in the league. However, they dropped both MIAA Tournament games they appeared in to No. 10 Saint Mary's and Hope. This year, Alma received 44 points in the preseason poll, four fewer than the Flying Dutch for third place.
Alma returns 15 players from last year's team, including three-fourths of its infield in All-Central Region second baseman Cassidy Tucker (Coleman, Mich. / Coleman), All-MIAA shortstop Riley Terwilliger (Mount Pleasant, Mich. / Sacred Heart Academy), and third baseman McKenzie Creed (Edwardsburg, Mich. / Edwardsburg). Tucker finished last season with the third-best batting average in Alma College history (.455). That total was also good enough for third in the league. Terwilliger hit .358 and Creed hit .331 with 31 RBI. Also returning is outfielder Chelsea Schweiger (St. Clair, Mich. / St. Clair), who was also named Second-Team All-Conference last season.
The Scots will have to replace first baseman/pitcher and Alma's all-time leader in slugging percentage, Mary Brooks, who was Alma's only First-Team All-Conference player and was third in RBI (52) and fifth in home runs (nine) last year. The Scots have returned senior Morgan Trout (Otisville, Mich. / Lakeville) to the squad, who played in three of the last year's five games. Creed will also help to fill in the gaps left by Brooks; her 31 RBI last year were second on the team.
Alma's pitching staff has gone through a makeover in the past few seasons. The Scots' two leaders in innings pitched from last year have graduated, though the team will return sophomores Jazmine Hamm (Byron Center, Mich. / Byron Center), Ashley Crowder (Bridgman, Mich. / Bridgman) and Jenna Steinhoff (Gladstone, Mich. / Gladstone) to the mound. It also adds freshmen Skylar Crisenbery (Watervliet, Mich. / Coloma), Amanda Efaw (Ithaca, Mich. / Alma), Olivia Fleming (Merrill, Mich. / Merrill) and Haley Ullrich (Elk River, Minn. / Elk River).
The Scots begin their season with their annual Spring Trip to Florida. Alma will play ten games in six days, starting with St. Mary's College (MN) and Augustana College (IL) on Sunday, Feb. 24. They will play Rensselaer, which finished last year ranked fourth in the Northeast Region according to the NCAA Regional Rankings, on Friday, March 1. Alma plays Ohio Northern, which finished last season ranked eighth in the Central Region, in its first doubleheader after the spring trip.
The MIAA has three teams ranked in the top eight in the Central Region: Hope (first), Calvin (fourth) and Trine (sixth). In addition, Saint Mary's finished last year with the conference's best record last season, having only dropped one game. Alma finished the season fourth in the league, one game ahead of Trine, but the Thunder were given an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament along with the Knights and Flying Dutch.
MIAA Preseason Cocahes Poll
1. Calvin - 64 points (8 first-place votes)
2. Trine - 52 points (1 first-place vote)
3. Hope - 48 points
4. Alma - 44 points
5. Saint Mary's - 34 points
T6. Olivet - 29 points
T6. Adrian - 29 points
8. Kalamazoo - 14 points
9. Albion - 10 points