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    Sam Houston State favored to win 2013 Southland sofftball title

    1:20 PM, Jan 23, 2013   |    comments
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    FRISCO, Texas (Southland)- Sam Houston State was picked to win the 2013 Southland Conference softball title in a vote by both the conference's head coaches and sports information directors, the league announced Wednesday.

    Sam Houston State received 78 points in the coaches' poll and 74 points in the SID poll. The Bearkats, who finished second last year in the regular season and conference tournament, received seven first-place votes from the coaches and five from the SIDs. Sam Houston returns 12 letterwinners, seven starts and three pitchers. Key returners for the Bearkats feature four preseason first-team all-conference selections, including first baseman Kim Damian, a senior from Angleton, Texas; third baseman Shelbi Tucker, a senior from Montgomery, Texas; catcher Hillary Adams, a sophomore from Elgin, Texas; and outfielder Tori Benavidez, a senior from Midlothian, Texas.

    McNeese State was tabbed second by the coaches and third by the SIDs. The Cowgirls received 72 total points, including two first-place nods, in the coaches' poll and 69 total points with two first-place votes from the SIDs. McNeese is under the direction of second-year coach Mike Smith, who took the Cowgirls to the semifinals of the conference tournament last season. The Cowgirls return 11 letterwinners, including seven starters and two pitchers.

    Central Arkansas was picked third by the coaches and second by the SIDs. The Bears received one first-place mark from the coaches' and three from the SIDs, giving them 65 total points from the coaches and 73 from the SIDs. UCA, which finished third in the Southland last season, returns 11 letterwinners, six starters and three pitchers this season. Preseason first-team all-conference selection Kelsie Armstrong will lead the Bears in the circle this season after posting a 22-15 record with a 1.76 earned run average and 249 strikeouts last year.

    Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was tabbed fourth in both polls. According to the coaches, Stephen F. Austin was picked fifth followed by Northwestern State and Nicholls State in sixth and seventh, respectively.

    In the SID poll, the Colonels were slated for fifth while the Lady Demons were picked sixth followed by the Ladyjacks.

    Houston Baptist, which is an affiliate member for softball this season before becoming a member of the Southland in all sports next year, was picked to finish tied for eighth along with Southeastern Louisiana in the coaches' poll. In the SID poll, the Lady Lions were tabbed eighth while the Huskies were picked ninth.

    Lamar, which is reviving its softball program this season after playing from 1983-87, was picked to finish 10th in both polls.

    Southland teams open the season Feb. 7 with conference play beginning March 9. The conference tournament will be hosted by Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La., May 9-11 at the Lady Demon Diamond Complex. The championship game will be streamed live exclusively on ESPN3.

    2013 Preseason Southland Softball Polls
    Coaches' Poll
    1. Sam Houston State (7) 78
    2. McNeese State (2) 72
    3. Central Arkansas (1) 65
    4. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 56
    5. Stephen F. Austin 44
    6. Northwestern State 42
    7. Nicholls State 39
    8. Houston Baptist 21
    8. Southeastern Louisiana 21
    10. Lamar 12

    Sports Information Director's
    1. Sam Houston State (5) 74
    2. Central Arkansas (3) 73
    3. McNeese State (2) 69
    4. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 53
    5. Nicholls State 47
    6. Northwestern State 41
    7. Stephen F. Austin 36
    8. Southeastern Louisiana 24
    9. Houston Baptist 22
    10. Lamar 11

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