BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – In a preseason poll of the league’s head coaches and sports information directors, the University of Tennessee at Martin softball team has been tabbed to finish second in the quest for an Ohio Valley Conference championship. The Skyhawks picked up three first-place votes and garnered 203 total points.
The Skyhawks will look to enter the 2018 season under the direction of head coach Donley Canary for the 17th year. Canary and the Skyhawks wrapped up yet another successful campaign in 2017, notching a 39-20 overall record along with a 13-5 mark in league play to finish second. Along with the strong season, the Skyhawks would make it to championship Saturday of the OVC Softball Championship while earning an automatic berth into the inaugural Postseason National Invitational Softball Championship (NISC).
UT Martin will look to several key contributors in search of the program’s third conference championship since 2010. Leading the way are seven returning starters – including a pair of All-OVC performers in Jodie Duncan and Aeron Smith - along with a total of 13 returners and eight newcomers. Duncan returns to the hot corner where she started in all 59 games while notching a .360 batting average, 10 doubles, nine home runs and 48 RBIs. Smith started 51 games primarily behind the plate, notching a .261 batting average, five doubles, one home run and 22 RBIs.
Jacksonville State has been selected to win the 2018 OVC earning 15 first-place votes and 230 points. UT Martin is selected to finish second with 203 points while SIUE earned 186 points for a third-place predicted finish. Eastern Illinois earned three-first place votes and 183 points to place fourth while Murray State picked up two first-place votes and 169 points for a fifth-place predicted finish. Belmont (152) Eastern Kentucky (139), Southeast Missouri (87), Morehead State (77), Tennessee Tech (76), Austin Peay (53) and Tennessee State (25) completed the poll.
Eight different OVC teams have won a regular-season championship with Jacksonville State, leading the way with six titles each. The regular-season champion has gone on to win the league tournament title 15 times since the inception of the championship in 1994. Last year, Jacksonville State won its sixth regular-season title and its sixth OVC Tournament crown.
The 2018 softball campaign gets underway on Friday, Feb. 9 through Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Mardi Gras Classic in Monroe, La.
2018 OVC SOFTBALL PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
(as voted on by the league’s head softball coaches and sports information directors)
1. Jacksonville State (15 first-place votes) – 230
2. UT Martin (Three first-place votes) – 203
3. SIUE - 186
4. Eastern Illinois (Three first-place votes) – 183
5. Murray State (Two first-place votes) – 169
6. Belmont - 152
7. Eastern Kentucky (One first-place vote) – 139
8. Southeast Missouri – 87
9. Morehead State - 77
10. Tennessee Tech - 76
11. Austin Peay - 53
12. Tennessee State - 25
(Schools were not allowed to rank their own team. 11 points awarded for a first-place vote, 10 for second, etc.)