North Coast Athletic Conference softball coaches have selected DePauw as the preseason favorite based on balloting in the annual preseason coaches’ poll.
The Tigers, who claimed their fourth-straight conference championship in 2016, were selected to finish first in the poll after collecting seven first-place votes and 78 total points. Wittenberg, which claimed its second NCAC Tournament title a season ago and won 20-plus games for the fifth-straight season, garnered the final two first-place votes to finish second in the poll with 71 points. Denison, which leads the NCAC with eight league titles and is looking for its first since 2011, finished third with 66 points followed by Ohio Wesleyan in fourth (48) and Wooster rounding out the top five with 43 points. Kenyon was predicted to finish sixth with 36 points and Allegheny checked in at seventh with 35 points. Oberlin and Hiram rounded out the poll by tying for eighth with 14 points each.
DePauw, which won 30-plus games for the second-straight season, enters 2017 with four returning players that garnered All-NCAC first-team honors last year, highlighted by the junior duo of designated player Lauren Godden (Carmel, IN/Carmel) and pitcher Emma Baldwin (Oak Park, IL/Oak Park River Forest). Godden, who was also named NCAC Player of the Year last season, finished 2016 as the conference leader in several different categories, including hits (62), home runs (10), RBI (43) and total bases (102). In the circle, Baldwin returns after leading the NCAC in strikeouts (166) despite being fourth in innings pitched (134.1) in 2016. Baldwin won 14 games with a 2.14 earned-run-average and also led the league with five saves on the year. Leading DePauw in 2017 will be Erica Hanrahan, who enters her fifth year as head coach with a 116-71 record, four NCAC titles, two tournament titles and was named the NCAC Coach of the Year in 2016 for the second-time in her career.
Since the NCAC began sponsoring softball as a championship sport in 1998, five different teams have claimed conference championships. Denison leads the way in that grouping with eight titles (2001-03, ‘06, ‘07, 2009-11), while Allegheny has captured five (1998, ‘99, 2004, ’08, ’12), DePauw (’13, ’14, ’15, ‘16) with four, Ohio Wesleyan (‘04, ‘05, ‘10) with three and Wittenberg one (‘00). The NCAC instituted the conference tournament in 2001 to determine the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Big Red have earned six tournament titles (‘01, ‘02, ‘06, ‘08, ’09, ’12), followed by Allegheny with four (‘04, ‘05, ’07, ‘13) and DePauw (’14, ’15), Hiram (‘09, ‘11) and Wittenberg (’03, ’16) each with two.
Founded in 1983, the North Coast Athletic Conference is made up of ten academically selective colleges and universities - Allegheny College, Denison University, DePauw University, Hiram College, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Ohio Wesleyan University, Wabash College, Wittenberg University and the College of Wooster, along with affiliate member, Earlham College (field hockey).The NCAC sponsors 23 championship sports, 11 for men and 12 for women.
2017 North Coast Athletic Conference Preseason Softball Coaches' Poll