KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) is the No. 1 unanimous choice in the 2015 NAIA Softball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Tuesday. En route to a 44-7 record, the Warhawks won their first-ever NAIA Softball World Series last year, after a 10-6 defeat of No. 2 William Carey (Miss.), on May 29, 2014. Behind 498 total points, Auburn Montgomery garnered its second-straight No. 1 ranking.
Warhawks first-year head coach Eric Newell welcomes back 18 letter winners and starters at every position. One of those performers is senior pitcher Cassie Daniels, who was named the World Series Most Valuable Player. She is a two-time All-American (2014 – First Team; 2013 – Second Team) and ranked No. 4 last season in opponent batting average (.158) and No. 11 in total strikeouts (230) after going 20-5 overall with a 1.41 ERA. Auburn Montgomery is scheduled to start the season Feb. 20-21 at the AUM/Faulkner (Ala.) Invitational.
No. 2 William Carey checks in with 481 total points. The Crusaders look to build off its most successful season in school history after a 52-12 mark and a national runner-up finish. New head coach Craig Fletcher takes over the reins after serving as an assistant coach since 2006.
No. 3 Reinhardt (Ga.) stayed in the same position as the 2014 Postseason Top 25 (June 4) with 466 points. The Eagles advanced to the third-place game of the 2014 Softball World Series and finished with a 46-10 record.
With 447 points, No. 4 Lindsey Wilson starts the preseason with high hopes. NAIA First Team All-American Amanda Trampe and Second Team All-American Jordan Hood return for the Blue Raiders.
Fifth-ranked Oklahoma City, with 434 points, vaults up three positions in the preseason Top 25. The Stars went 55-13 last year to record the most wins of any 2014 NAIA softball program.
No. 15 Concordia (Ore.) and No. 25 Taylor (Ind.) are the newcomers this week. Concordia was most recently ranked on May 6, 2014 in the final Top 25 poll (No. 23).
Taylor finds itself in the Top 25 for the first time in school history. The Trojans are fresh off their most successful season in program history with a 42-17 mark and the team set season school records in team batting average, runs scored, hits, home runs, and RBIs. Taylor also won its first-ever regular-season Crossroads League title and first league tournament championship since 1999.
Fourteen of 21 conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups are represented this poll. The SSAC places the most teams among the Top 25 with four: Auburn Montgomery, William Carey, No. 11 Belhaven (Miss.) and No. 20 Brenau (Ga.). The Sooner Athletic Conference, the Unaffiliated Group (Cal Pac / Golden State), and the Unaffiliated Group (Cascade / Frontier) all claimed a trio of ranked programs.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences /independent /unaffiliated groupings. The first regular-season Top 25 will be announced on March 17.
-- Courtesy of the NAIA