CHARLOTTE, N.C. (www.BigSouthSports.com) - The Charleston Southern softball team was voted second in the 2013 Big South preseason poll, as announced by the Big South Conference on Monday afternoon.
The Lady Bucs, the 2012 Big South Tournament runner-up, received 69 points and two first place votes in finishing behind reigning Big South Champion Coastal Carolina in the annual preseason poll as voted on by the League's Head Softball Coaches. The Chanticleers picked up seven first place votes and 78 points in receiving top honors in the poll.
"The exciting thing about the preseason poll is that it means the season is right around the corner," commented Winkler on the poll results. "We are right where we expected to be based on the finish to last season, but the Big South is so balanced that anyone can beat anyone from 1 through 9."
Six seniors headline this year's group of 15 returners that set a program record with 12 conference wins last season heading into Head Coach Shane Winkler's sixth season at Charleston Southern.
With a tough schedule on tap, featuring 24 Big South games, 10 games against the Southern Conference, five against the Southeastern Conference and four against the Colonial as well as opponents from the Colonial, Mid-Eastern Atlantic, Horizon, Pacific Coast, Pacific 12 and Metro Atlantic conferences during the season, the Lady Bucs will be ready for all comers come tournament time.
"The Big South will be up for grabs this season and we are putting ourselves through a grueling schedule in the preseason to get ourselves ready for that conference grind beginning in March," said Winkler "Our girls are improving every day and they'll be ready. 2013 is going to be a fun year!"
Coastal Carolina sophomore third baseman Kory Hayden (West Palm Beach, Fla.) has been selected as the Conference's Preseason Player of the Year, while Radford's Jackie Jenkins (Mechanicsville, Va.) was tabbed Preseason Pitcher of the Year by the panel.
In the No. 3 spot was Campbell with 58 points, followed by new Big South member Longwood with 47 points. Radford, the 2012 Regular-Season Champion, was projected to finish fifth with 44 points, while Gardner-Webb earned 38 points for the No. 6 spot. Liberty and Winthrop were voted seventh and eighth with 35 points and 19 points, respectively. Presbyterian College rounded out the voting with 18 points.
Hayden was the 2012 Big South co-Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-Big South selection. She led the Conference last year in overall home runs (15), slugging percentage (.713), on-base percentage (.488), total bases (117), walks (37) and sacrifice flies (5). In addition, she ranked second in the League in RBIs (46), fourth in batting average (.378) and fifth in hits (62). She captured five first-place votes and 10 points, ahead of Gardner-Webb's Samantha Meenaghan, who finished second with seven points and three first-place votes.
Jenkins is a two-time Big South Pitcher of the Year (2011, 2012), First-Team All-Big South and Second-Team All-Region honoree. Last season, she tied for second in the League in overall shutouts (5), third in wins (17) and saves (3), fourth in ERA (2.16) and fifth in opponent's batting average (.219). In Conference games, Jenkins recorded a League-best 10 wins, 1.37 ERA and fewest walks per seven innings (1.28). She received seven first-place votes and 15 points, ahead of Coastal Carolina's Kiana Quolas, who finished second in the voting with 10 points and two-first place votes.
The 2013 Big South softball season begins Friday, Feb. 8 with Campbell, Charleston Southern and Presbyterian College in action. Conference season begins Friday, March 15 as Gardner-Webb travels to Campbell. The Big South Softball Championship presented by Musco Sports Lighting is slated for May 9-12 on the campus of Winthrop University, with the championship game to be televised on ESPNU. All nine teams will be eligible for the 2013 Tournament.