Penn State Berks Claims Top Spot in 2017 NEAC Softball Preseason Poll

Penn State Berks Claims Top Spot in 2017 NEAC Softball Preseason Poll

GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – After winning the South Division regular season championship in 2016, Penn State Berks received nine first-place votes to finish first in 2017 North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) softball preseason poll.

The Nittany Lions garnered 141 points, with seven starters returning to their 2017 squad. Last year’s top two players in the South Division return to anchor Penn State Berks in their search for a conference title. Reigning NEAC South Division Player of the Year Jenna Heffner (Bethlehem, Pa.) returns to the field for her senior season after leading all NEAC players with a .462 batting average and a .795 slugging percentage after appearing in all 37 games. She also led the league with eight triples while adding eight doubles, five home runs, and 29 RBIs. The 2016 NEAC South Division Pitcher of the Year, Jess Rozick (Bensalem, Pa.), returns to the circle after a stellar rookie campaign. Rozick tossed 120.2 innings en route to a 15-3 record with a 1.28 ERA, 154 strikeouts, seven shutouts, and 17 complete games. First Team All-Conference selection Ashley Malek (Bethlehem, Pa.) also looks to make an impact in the lineup after posting a .385 batting average with 35 RBIs last season.

Defending conference champion Keuka College comes in second with four first-place votes and 129 points. The Wolves return 12 players, including two First Team All-Conference selections in Katelyn Warren (Elmira Heights, N.Y.) and Mickenzie Palmer (Horseheads, N.Y.). Palmer led Keuka with a .365 batting average in 2016, while Warren finished the season with a .290 batting average, .516 slugging percentage, and a team-best 20 RBIs.

Wilson College comes in to the upcoming season ranked third with 110 points. Among the 13 returners for the Phoenix are First Team All-Conference honorees Kayla Sullenberger (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) and Jenna Knable (Clear Spring, Md.). Sullenberger proves to again be an offensive threat after finishing the 2016 season with a .447 batting average, .767 slugging percentage, 10 doubles, seven home runs and 33 RBIs. Knable will also be called upon to make an impact after posting a .375 batting average with 26 RBIs last season.

Penn State Abington finished with 102 points in the poll to place fourth.  The Nittany Lions will see the return of two South Division All-Conference selections in senior shortstop Breanna Lineman (Philadelphia, Pa.) and reigning NEAC South Division Rookie of the Year, junior pitcher Becca Dougherty (Churchville, Pa.).

SUNY Polytechnic placed fifth with 92 points and will look for growing contributions from Second Team All-Conference selections Danielle Witchley (New Hartford, N.Y.) and Taylor Hines (Mechanicville, N.Y.). Penn College rounds out the top six with 87 points. This year’s poll also sees the addition of a 13th team in Wells College. The Express will join the NEAC North Division under the guidance of head coach Erin Wolstenholme.

The full softball preseason rankings can be found below:

Rank Institution (First-Place Votes) Total Points
1 Penn State Berks (9) 141
2 Keuka College (4) 129
3 Wilson College 110
4 Penn State Abington 102
5 SUNY Polytechnic 92
6 Penn College 87
7 Cazenovia College 84
8 College of St. Elizabeth 66
9 Lancaster Bible College 64
10 Morrisville State College 48
11 Gallaudet University 38
12 SUNY Cobleskill 28
13 Wells College 16

 

The preseason poll rankings were conducted by the NEAC softball coaches, with each coach ranking out all teams but their own using a staggered points system (12 points for a first-place vote, 11 points for second, etc.). The 2017 NEAC softball season will officially begin next Saturday, Feb. 25.  A full season schedule can be found on the NEAC website here.  

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The North Eastern Athletic Conference has fourteen NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Bryn Athyn College, Cazenovia College, College of St. Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University - Abington, Pennsylvania State University - Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Morrisville State College, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Wells College, and Wilson College.  Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (M Volleyball), Hilbert College (M Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Penn State Altoona (M Volleyball) and Rutgers University - Camden (M Golf).  The North Eastern Athletic Conference has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sports of field hockey and men’s and women’s tennis.