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North Georgia Selected as Softball Preseason Favorite

AUGUSTA, GA -- For the first time, North Georgia College & State University has been named the preseason favorite to win the Peach Belt Conference softball championship in a poll of the league’s head coaches released on Wednesday. The Saints received five of a possible nine first-place votes for 76 points, six more than Francis Marion in second place. GCSU was third with 64 while Armstrong Atlantic State was fourth with 62. UNC Pembroke, Columbus State, Augusta State, USC Aiken, Lander and Georgia Southwestern rounded out the voting.

North Georgia finished 35-18 overall and 10-8 in conference play last season as they advanced to the championship game of the PBC Tournament and made their first NCAA South Atlantic Regional appearance. The Saints return 15 players and seven starters from last year’s team including All-Conference second baseman Laura Voyles and 20-game winner Sarah Phillips on the mound.

Francis Marion made their first NCAA Tournament appearance last season a memorable one as they won the region championship to advance to the DII World Series. The Patriots, 39-16 last year and 10-8 in PBC play, were ranked #5 in the nation in the final poll last year and return 14 letterwinners and six position starters for 2009. Also back is All-America pitcher Michaela Wolf who joins All-Conference players Shannan Tyson and Jessica Birchmeier.

GCSU won the 2008 PBC Tournament over North Georgia to return to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. 40-14 last season with a 12-6 PBC record, the Bobcats return all but two field starters including PBC Player of the Year and All-American Sherquita Bostick. Also returning is All-America pitcher Mandy Chandler, one of eight seniors on the 2009 roster.

Armstrong Atlantic State advanced to the finals of the NCAA Regional tournament and were second in the PBC standings after finishing 30-23 overall, 13-5 in the conference. Seven starters return for this season, including All-Conference shortstop Ashley Bain and utility player Sam Floyd.

The 2009 PBC coaches poll is listed below. Coaches were not allowed to rank their own team. Schools were given nine points for a first-place vote, eight for a second and so on. The 2009 softball season begins on Feb. 4 with all teams taking the field by Feb. 6. Conference play begins on Feb. 10 and continues through to the PBC Tournament April 17-19, 2009, in Florence, S.C.

A team-by-team preview of the 2009 season can be found here.

2009 Softball Preseason Poll

Rank  Team
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6th
7th
8th
9th
Total
 1.  North Georgia 5
3
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
 76
 2.  Francis Marion
4
1
2
0
1
1
0
0
0
 67
 3.  GCSU
0
4
3
1
1
0
0
0
0
 64
 4.  Armstrong Atlantic St.
1
1
3
4
0
0
0
0
0
 62
 5.  UNC Pembroke
1
1
4
1
1
1
0
0
 51
 6.  Columbus State
0
0
1
4
3
1
0
0
 41
 7.  Augusta State 0
0
0
0
3
5
0
1
0
 37
 8.  USC Aiken 0 0
0
0
0
0 7
2
0
 25
 9.  Lander 0 0
0
0
0
1
5
3
 16
 10.  Georgia Southwestern  0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
7
 11