Defending Champion Penn State Berks Earns Top Spot in NEAC Softball Preseason Poll

Defending Champion Penn State Berks Earns Top Spot in NEAC Softball Preseason Poll

GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – With back-to-back conference titles, Penn State Berks is the preseason favorite in the 2019 North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Softball coaches’ poll. 

Penn State Berks claimed the top spot in the poll with 10 first-place votes and 120 total points. The Nittany Lions return nearly all of their starters and key pieces from last year’s championship squad with NEAC Player and Pitcher of the Year Jess Rozick (Bensalem, Pa.) leading the way. Rozick returns to the circle for her senior year after going 15-7 with a 1.42 ERA and 162 strikeouts. She also patrolled the outfield for Berks while posting a .329 batting average with 24 hits and 16 runs scored. Sophomore outfielder Hunter Hart (Langhorne, Pa.) is coming off a solid first season with a .320 batting average, 11 doubles and 23 RBIs. Brianna Smith (Pottstown, Pa.) is also back for her sophomore season after finishing with a .460 batting average and a .679 slugging percentage in 2018. Head coach Donna Ference will prepare her team for conference play with a competitive non-conference schedule that includes games against Moravian College, Trine University and Otterbein University.

With 110 points and the two remaining first-place votes, Keuka College ranks second in this year’s poll. NEAC Coach of the Year Jamie Burke is bringing back seven starters from the 2018 team that went 14-2 against conference opponents. All-Conference First Team shortstop Jessie Hammers (Wayland, N.Y.) returned for her junior year after posting a .384 batting average with 39 hits and 14 RBIs last spring. The Wolves will take the field with two all-conference pitchers in Colleen Mooney (Endicott, N.Y.) and Whitney Tyler (Meshoppen, Pa.) with both finishing last season with a 10-4 record and 48 strikeouts. Mooney ranked fourth in the NEAC with a 2.60 ERA while Tyler was listed fifth with a 2.93. Keuka College will get going with non-conference games against the likes of Virginia Wesleyan, St. John Fisher and Alfred University before jumping into a full slate of NEAC games.

Penn College finished third in the preseason poll with 91 points as the Wildcats return seven starters and 12 players from last year’s team. Senior outfielder Taylor Krow (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) is coming off a year with a .362 batting average and 38 hits that resulted in an All-NEAC First Team nod. All-Conference pitcher Morgan Heritage (New Castle, Del.) returns for her sophomore year after going 8-8 with 126 strikeouts and a 3.49 ERA in 2018. Sophomore Chelsea Gray (Marysville, Pa.) is also expected to be a key contributor after putting up a .340 batting average, .454 slugging percentage and 17 RBIs last spring. The Wildcats will look to mix in nine newcomers in non-conference games against Wilkes University, Penn State Harrisburg and Susquehanna University.

Cazenovia College will enter the 2019 season ranked fourth with seven returners and eight newcomers looking to return to the conference tournament after going 10-6 in the conference last spring. Junior Hannah Croteau (Central Square, N.Y.) is a top returner after earning All-Conference First Team honors with a .420 batting average and a 1.174 on-base percentage last season. Infielders McKenzie Harris (Liverpool, N.Y.) and Alexandra Clifford (Clifton Park, N.Y.) should also make an impact this spring after having 29 and 21 RBIs, respectively, in 2018. The Wildcats’ schedule will feature non-conference matchups with Skidmore, Marywood and Albright.

After a 2018 campaign that included a 15-12 overall record to mark the second-most wins in program history, the College of Saint Elizabeth rounds out the top five with 80 points. First Team All-Conference selection Elizabeth Unger (Montebello, Calif.) returns for her junior year after hitting .413 with a .471 on-base percentage and 13 RBIs last spring. Sophomore Teya Carr (Moreno Valley, Calif.) is expected to play a key role in the Eagles’ season after finishing her rookie year with a .375 batting average while senior Ashley VonHorn (Montgomery, N.J.) is another threat at the plate after wrapping up last season with a .329 batting average and 18 RBIs.

The full 2019 softball preseason rankings can be found below:

Rank Institution (First-Place Votes) Total Points
1. Penn State Berks (10) 120
2. Keuka College (2) 110
3. Penn College 91
4. Cazenovia College 81
5. College of Saint Elizabeth 80
6. SUNY Poly 76
7. Penn State Abington 60
8. SUNY Cobleskill 51
9. Wells College 45
10. Gallaudet University 43
11. Morrisville State 22
12. Lancaster Bible 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The preseason poll rankings were conducted by the NEAC softball coaches, with each coach ranking all teams but their own using a staggered points system (11 points for a first-place vote, 10 points for second, etc.). The 2019 NEAC softball season is scheduled to begin March 2 with a full season schedule being available on the NEAC website

********************************************************************************************************************************************

The North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) has 12 NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Cazenovia College, College of Saint Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University – Abington, Pennsylvania State University – Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, Morrisville State, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and Wells College. Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (W Lacrosse), Hilbert College (M&W Lacrosse), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse), Rutgers University – Camden (M Golf), and Wilson College (M Volleyball). The NEAC has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sport of men’s tennis and with the Colonial State Athletic Conference in the sport of Field Hockey. For more information, please visit: www.neacsports.com.