GREENWOOD, Ind. - In exclusive voting conducted by the league's nine head coaches, the Hanover softball team has been picked to finish fifth in the 2018 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll.
The Panthers received 49 total points to tie Mount St. Joseph for the fifth spot. Last year's conference tournament champion, Transylvania, was chosen as the favorite to take home the 2018 crown. The Pioneers received eight of the nine first-place votes for a total of 89 points.
Anderson, which tied Transylvania with a 12-4 regular season mark a year ago, was second with 73 points. Franklin received the final first-place vote for 69 points, followed by Defiance in fourth with 66 points. Rounding out the poll was Bluffton in seventh (42), Manchester in eighth (29) and Rose-Hulman in ninth (20).
Hanover will enter the 2018 season under new leadership as Cori Eckerle takes over after spending the past seven seasons as a player and coach at the University of Indianapolis. She inherits a program that that has won at least 18 games in each of the past four seasons and finished 18-14 last year.
This marks the fifth straight year the Panthers have been picked to finish among the top five. Over the last five years Hanover has only ended a season in its predicted finish once. After being selected to place fourth in 2016, the Panthers ended the season in fourth and went on to win their first-ever HCAC Tournament championship to earn a trip to the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
Hanover returns 10 players from last year's team including three all-conference players. Senior Dabney Skutt (Indianapolis, Ind.) was a first team outfielder. Junior Sydney Griffin (Cambridge City, Ind.) earned second team recognition as a pitcher, and senior McKenzie Writt (Franklin, Ind.) was named to the honorable mention team.
The Panthers are scheduled to travel to Clermont, Fla. Sunday, Feb. 25 through Thursday, March 1 to begin the season with their annual winter break trip. Hanover is set to open the year with a split doubleheader Sunday, Feb. 25 against Alverno (Wis.) and Concordia-Moorhead (Minn.).
Contact: Mike Pritchard