POLL: @Patriot_sb ranked third in preseason poll

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The UT Tyler softball team will come into the 2018 season ranked No. 3 according to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association preseason poll.

The reigning national champion Virginia Wesleyan starts the season right where it left off, as the No. 1 team in the NFCA Division III Top 25 softball rankings. UT Tyler, which won the 2016 National Championship and finished third in 2017, will open its season with a doubleheader on Wednesday, Feb. 14 with a doubleheader at Southwestern and plays its home opener on Feb. 23-24 against Concordia at Suddenlink Field.

Virginia Wesleyan claimed last year’s title with a sweep of St. John Fisher in the best-of-three NCAA Championship Series on May 29 at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium – OGE Energy Field in Oklahoma City, after two straight wins the previous day over defending champion Patriots.

The national runner-up Cardinals continue in the No. 2 slot in a slightly shuffled top eight composed of the same eight teams from last year’s final poll. UT Tyler, which finished tied with St. John Fisher in that ranking, is third, while Williams and Illinois Wesleyan, who also advanced to the NCAA Championship site, are fourth and fifth, respectively. Only three points separate places three through five.

Trine, meanwhile, jumps ahead of Amherst and St. Catherine from that final poll, to the No. 6 spot, while Luther and Texas Lutheran round out the top 10.

Two teams receiving votes — No. 19 Berry and Whitworth — have already started their seasons. Berry (2-0) swept Covenant with a pair of run-rule wins on Tuesday, while Whitworth (3-3) split its first three doubleheaders on a three-day road trip at the end of January.

In all, 22 of the teams starting the year in the Top 25 were ranked, with two of the other three — No. 18 Moravian and No. 19 Ithaca — receiving votes in the final 2017 poll. Only No. 17 Washington (Mo.) did not receive votes in that final ranking.

Eighteen of the 34 teams that received votes in this first poll — including NCAA Championship finalists Virginia Wesleyan and St. John Fisher — will compete in the 32-team NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic on March 2-4 in Tucson, Ariz.

The NFCA Division III Top 25 Poll is selected by eight NCAA Division III head coaches representing the eight NCAA regions. Final 2017 records are listed, with first-place votes in parentheses.