NEW ALBANY, Ind. — The University of Rio Grande is predicted as the favorite in the 2018 River States Conference Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
The RedStorm, which is coming off a season of 47-10 overall and just a game shy of the NAIA Softball World Series, is picked as the top team in the conference for the third year in a row.
Rio Grande garnered seven out of a possible nine first-place votes in the preseason poll. The RedStorm earned 79 total votes to take the top spot of 10 teams in the conference.
The voting was done by the 10 RSC softball head coaches. The NAIA Softball Top 25 Preseason Coaches’ Poll will be released Tuesday, Jan. 16.
Rio Grande has won the last three conference tournament championships, its third one coming after a 17-1 record in conference play last year. The RedStorm went on to reach the finals of the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round before coming up short versus Davenport (Mich.), a game away from the World Series.
IU Southeast, which was 28-23 overall, 12-6 RSC last year, was picked second in the poll. The Grenadiers received three first-place votes and 72 total votes. IU Southeast has finished up runner-up in the conference tournament the last three years and made the NAIA national tournament the last two years.
Midway (Ky.) University came in third in the poll with 59 votes. The Eagles were new to the softball conference last year and made a splash finishing in second place during the regular season at 12-6 RSC. Midway had the second-most wins in the conference at 29-18 overall and made it to the final four teams of the conference tournament.
Point Park (Pa.) University was close behind in fourth place in the poll with 57 votes. The Pioneers were 21-21 overall, 11-7 RSC last year for fourth place in the standings.
Cincinnati Christian University followed closely behind as well with 54 votes for fifth place in the poll. The Eagles were 22-19, 8-10 RSC, and they stayed alive to reach the semifinals of the conference tournament as the No. 6 seed last year.
WVU Tech placed sixth in the poll with 44 votes and coming off a 10-8 RSC record a year ago.
The next three teams were very close with Brescia (Ky.) University predicted seventh with 25 votes, Carlow (Pa.) University picked eighth with 24 votes and Asbury (Ky.) University chosen ninth with 23 votes. Ohio Christian University rounded out the poll in 10th.
The top eight teams will qualify for the RSC Softball Tournament to be held May 4-5 at Jackson Memorial Park in Vienna, W.Va. The RSC will qualify two teams to the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round with the regular-season champ and the RSC Tournament champion guaranteed bids.