LOCK HAVEN, Pa. (Feb. 17) – After winning its second-straight divisional title and advancing to the NCAA Super Regional last year, the California University of Pennsylvania softball team was picked first in the preseason Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West poll, announced the league office on Thursday morning.
The Vulcans were the unanimous favorite in the division, receiving all five of the first-place votes. Mercyhurst was chosen second followed by Edinboro at third, while Gannon and Slippery Rock were tied for fourth place in the preseason poll.
Cal U returns 10 players, five positional starters and one pitcher, from its 2010 PSAC West champion squad that went 37-14 and 18-1 in divisional play.
The Vulcans return three of the most dangerous hitters in the region in senior third baseman Danielle Easton (Hanover, Pa./South Western), junior catcher Alyson Johnson (Waynesburg, Pa./Waynesburg Central) and junior shortstop Jillian Russell (London, Ontario/St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic). The trio combined for nearly 30 homers and 125 RBI last year, while each player has received All-PSAC West laurels the last two seasons.
Defending-PSAC Tournament Champion Bloomsburg is the preseason favorite in the PSAC Central after receiving all five first-place votes, while Kutzown also was the unanimous choice in the PSAC East.
Already having opened the 2011 campaign, Cal U (2-1) returns to the diamond next weekend when it competes at the Limestone Invitational in Gaffney, S.C. The Vulcans are currently ranked No. 20 in the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll, which was released yesterday.