FOREST, Va. --- Last season's ODAC Softball Preseason Poll opened with a notation for the two-time conference champion, but the 2019 edition steps that up a notch as two-time defending NCAA Division III champion Virginia Wesleyan University headlines the annual survey of the league's head coaches. The Marlins received 10 first place votes on the way to an even 100 points, while Randolph-Macon College joined VWU in separating themselves from the remaining nine squads in the poll with one top nod and 90 total markers.
Emory & Henry College and the University of Lynchburg are separated by just one point for third. The Wasps gathered 78 points, while the Hornets chimed in with a 77-point haul.
The 2018 campaign continued the ODAC's claim as arguably the best Division III conference in softball with four squads winning 30 or more games. That highlight was brightened when you consider Randolph-Macon went a program-best 40-7 and Virginia Wesleyan set ODAC and NCAA benchmarks with a 55-3 record that boasted an ODAC-record 41-game winning streak dating back to the final six games of 2017. When looking at the stats, pitching was a key component for both VWU and R-MC as the two finished second (22) and third (20), respectively, in shutouts in the country. Randolph-Macon led Division III with a 1.03 team earned run average. Virginia Wesleyan ranked third at 1.25.
The ODAC Tournament provided plenty of excitement for fans as the maximum of 15 games was needed to crown a champion. Virginia Wesleyan lost its opening outing to Guilford (5-1), but rattled off four wins to put itself back in title contention. Emory & Henry, contrarily, took the shortest route to championship scenario and put itself in the driver's seat with a game in hand after wins over Roanoke (6-5), Guilford (4-0), and Lynchburg (3-1).
Two-time NFCA National Player of the Year, Hanna Hull, twirled a one-hitter for VWU, while E&H pitchers Tiffany Cole and Cameron Derr combined to allow just one run as the Marlins took the first title game, 1-0, to setup a winner-take-all 15th contest. Carla Hall came up big in the circle for VWU as she tossed a four-hit shutout to propel Virginia Wesleyan to a 6-0 victory for its third straight ODAC trophy.
RELATED: ODAC Tournament Bracket
For the second straight year and third time overall, three ODAC teams continued their seasons in the NCAA Tournament. Lynchburg headed to Atlanta for regional play, while Virginia Wesleyan went across the bay to Christopher Newport and Randolph-Macon traveled to Glassboro, N.J. Lynchburg's stay lasted two games as the Hornets saw their season close with losses to Berry (9-1) and Emory (4-2). Randolph-Macon won its first two games over Staten Island (1-0) and Penn State-Berks (3-0), but consecutive losses (7-1, 2-1) to host Rowan saw the Yellow Jackets season come to an end abruptly.
Virginia Wesleyan swept thru three-games in the regionals, defeating Gettysburg (9-2) and CNU twice (7-6 in 8 innings, 7-2) to earn hosting privileges in the super regionals. Berry traveled to VWU for the best-of-three affair. The Marlins won game one, 4-0, and used a Kiersten Richardson single to center to win game two, 7-6 in eight innings, to earn a return trip to the national championship series in Oklahoma City.
VWU's winning streak reached 14 straight outings with wins over Ithaca (6-0), Luther (3-0), and Ithaca again (1-0) to setup a best-of-three showdown for the walnut & bronze with Illinois Wesleyan. The Marlins earned a 15th consecutive win, 6-1, in game one, but lost the second contest, 5-4 in eight innings, to leave one final clash for the championship. IWU got on the board with a run in the first, but a two-run shot by ODAC Player of the Year Madison Glaubke in the bottom half put VWU up for good as the the Marlins captured their second title in as many years with a 3-1 victory.
RELATED: NCAA Championship Series Results
Entering the 2019 season, several ODAC teams and student-athletes have earned preseason recognition. The NFCA announced its preseason top-25 coaches poll on Wednesday with Virginia Wesleyan sitting #1 and Randolph-Macon perched at #11. Lynchburg is receiving votes towards the listing.
Fastpitch News released its preseason power rankings and All-Americans in January. The Marlins again feature as the top program, while the Yellow Jackets sit eighth. Three other teams appear in the top-50 -- #26 Lynchburg, #36 Emory & Henry, and #49 Roanoke College.
Virginia Wesleyan's Hull was tabbed a preseason All-American, which should come as no surprise after setting ODAC single-season records for wins (40), innings pitched (267.2), and strikeouts (376) in addition to establishing new career marks for wins (72), shutouts (27), and strikeouts (748).
Hull is joined by two other ODAC standouts. Guilford outfielder Makayla Carver is slotted on the first team following a 2018 campaign where she led the ODAC and finished fifth in the country with a .514 batting average. Randolph-Macon righty Madie Rhoads earned an honorable mention nod after leading Division III with a 0.80 earned run average (12 ER in 104.2 IP).
RELATED: NFCA Preseason Poll | Fastpitch News Preseason Poll | Fastpitch News Preseason All-Americans
ODAC rosters are stocked full of returning All-ODAC honorees with 28 of the 40 awards winners from a season ago back in the fold. Virginia Wesleyan leads the way with Hull and Glaubke joined by utility player Beth Ford on the first team. Catcher Jessica Lindsay and second baseman Katelyn Biando were second team choices, while third baseman Julia Sinnett earned a third team nod. The Marlins are further bolstered by the return of 2017 All-ODAC infielder Kayla Duplain following a year away from the team.
Randolph-Macon boasts five returning all-conference honorees including arguably the best 1-2 pitching tandem in first team choice Candace Whittemore and Rhoads, who was tabbed to the second team in addtion to earning ODAC Rookie of the Year honors. Whittemore is currently eighth all-time in the ODAC in career strikeouts (413) and ninth in career wins (54). Catcher Sami Davidson can certainly take some credit for the solid pitching after a first team choice last year. Outfielder Shelby Hill and shortstop Savannah Wood earned third team recognition.
Four returning All-ODAC players don Lynchburg jerseys. Brittany Coffey was a first team choice at catcher, while third baseman Taylor Mabry, shortstop Kayla Hugate, and designated player Sarah Commons picked up second team laurels.
Emory & Henry and Guilford each welcome back four All-ODAC players. The Wasps look to first team outfielder Erin Anderson, who doubled as the ODAC/Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete of the Year. E&H also features second team catcher Amanda Whitlow and a pair of third teamers in second baseman Lyndsay Boyd and designated player Madison McClanahan. The Quakers are led by Carver on the first team and a trio of third team choices in catcher Makayla Crawford, third baseman Anna Wolfe, and second baseman Savannah Yale.
Roanoke welcomes back two all-conference standouts, both of whom feature in the circle. Teresa Wagner was named to the 2018 second team, while Emily Salsberry was a third team selection.
The remaining All-ODAC returners wear Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, and Shenandoah University colors. The Eagles welcome back first team third baseman Stephanie Carroll. The Royals have third team designated player Kelsi Martin on the roster and hold out hopes for a late season return of second team utility player Sydney Reath. Shenandoah looks forward to the second season for pitcher Autumn Beasley, who earned a third team appointment in 2018.
ODAC newcomer Ferrum College features some returning All-USA South talent. Second baseman Cheyenne Strickland was an East Division first team choice, while catcher Tori Scott was a second team selection.
RELATED: 2018 All-ODAC Awards
The 2019 season begins with non-conference play on Saturday, February 9. The first set of ODAC contests are slated for the Saturday, March 16. The conference tournament returns to Salem and the Moyer Complex the weekend of April 26-28.
Listed below is the complete 2019 ODAC Softball Preseason Poll as well as preview capsules for each of the ODAC softball programs. For more information on ODAC softball, visit the websites of any of the participating schools, or go to the ODAC's home on the Internet at www.odaconline.com. Don't forget to become a fan of the ODAC on Facebook and follow @odacathletics on Twitter and Instagram.
|2019 ODAC SOFTBALL PRESEASON POLL|
|(#) Denotes First Place Votes|
|1. Virginia Wesleyan College (10)||100 pts.|
|2. Randolph-Macon College (1)||90 pts.|
|3. Emory & Henry College||78 pts.|
|4. University of Lynchburg||77 pts.|
|5. Guilford College||58 pts.|
|6. Roanoke College||56 pts.|
|7. Ferrum College||42 pts.|
|8. Eastern Mennonite University||38 pts.|
|9. Bridgewater College||27 pts.|
|10. Randolph College||23 pts.|
|11. Shenandoah University||16 pts.|