Written by Sports Information Student Assistant, Jake Sipes-Salter
HANOVER, Ind. - In a poll conducted of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference's nine head coaches, the Hanover softball team was picked in a three-way tie for fourth place in the preseason coaches poll.
The Panthers received 52 total votes, along with rivals Defiance and Manchester. The 2018 HCAC Conference Tournament Champions, the Franklin Grizzlies, were predicted to finish third in the poll, while their finals' opponent, Transylvania, was given the first-place nod with 81 points and seven top selections. Sitting second was Mount St. Joseph, who garnered 74 total points, including two conference-winning selections.
Hanover will enter 2019 with head coach Cori Collinsworth, who in her first year guided the Blue and Red to a 19-17 overall record with a 7-9 mark in league play. Effectively, Collinsworth became the only head coach in program history to finish their inaugural season with a winning percentage above .500.
With its fourth seeding in the poll, HC has now been selected to finish in the top five for six consecutive campaigns, and in only one of those have they finished in their predicted slot. The last time that their preseason seeding and their final finish matched one another was 2016, when Hanover finished fourth in the regular season and then went on to gain the program's first HCAC Tournament Championship. Moreover, the Blue and Red also earned their premier berth in the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
The squad will see 11 returners, headlined by junior Mackenzie Smith (Jeffersonville, Ind.) and sophomore Lily Beurman (Evansville, Ind.) who earned HCAC season honors in the honorable mention and sportsmanship categories, respectively. In her first year as a member of the Blue and Red, Smith batted a .319 average and led HC with 29 runs. She also had four stolen bases to slot second on the team. As for Beurman, she was the Panthers' best pitcher through the second half of the season, as she finished with a 3.24 earned run average. Over the final month of the campaign, Beurman went 5-4 with a 2.82 ERA, while striking out 45 batters in 57.0 innings to earn Hanover's Female Athlete of the Month award last April.
Contact: Tyler Jester