zKANSAS CITY, Mo. – California Baptist, a team ranked No. 1 for the last 16 polls dating back to the 2009 season, will begin the 2011 campaign in the top spot. The Lancers earned 550 total points and nine first-place votes in the 2011 NAIA Softball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced in November. Behind California Baptist by a mere three votes, defending national champ Simon Fraser (B.C.) brings home the second spot with 547 total points and 11 first-place nods. The rest of the top-five is No. 3 William Carey (Miss.), No. 4 Concordia (Ore.) and No. 5 Lubbock Christian (Texas).
The Lancers bring a 64-4 record from last year and advanced to the National Championship semifinals before losing to Oklahoma City. With a 64-4 record last year, California Baptist won the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) championship. California Baptist has been listed in the top spot since March 24, 2009.
Right behind the Lancers is No. 2 Simon Fraser, a team that won its fourth national championship in 2010. No. 3 William Carey earned a 45-15 record last year and was one of nine teams to reach at least 45 victories. No. 4 Concordia looks to repeat as Cascade Collegiate Conference champions as the Cavaliers went 35-7 a year ago. No. 5 Lubbock Christian will battle with No. 10 (tie) Oklahoma City in the Sooner Athletic Conference as both teams were picked to win the league title.
Twelve conferences and unaffiliated groupings are represented in the poll. The Southern States Athletic Conference leads all leagues with seven ranked teams: William Carey, No. 7 Lee (Tenn.), No. 10 (tie) Shorter (Ga.), No. 12 Belhaven (Miss.), No. 18 Brenau (Ga.), No. 23 Auburn Montgomery (Ala.), No. 25 Mobile (Ala.). The GSAC and Association of Independent Institutions each have three ranked squads.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conference/independent/unaffiliated. The first regular season Top 25 will be announced on March 22, 2011.