USF Tops 2013 BIG EAST Softball Preseason Poll

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - USF has been tabbed the 2013 BIG EAST Softball preseason favorite by the league's 13 head coaches.


USF earned seven first-place votes and 134 overall points in the coaches' poll. Last season, the Bulls finished with a 50-12 overall record and 17-5 BIG EAST mark while finishing third in the regular-season standings. USF reached the Women's College World Series in 2012 and returns three All-BIG EAST selections from last year's team, shortstop Kourtney Salvarola, first baseman Stephanie Medina and pitcher Sara Nevins. Salvarola, a first team selection, hit .407 with 14 RBI in BIG EAST play last season. Nevins, a second team selection, ranked third in the nation with a 1.12 ERA and led the BIG EAST in wins (31) and strikeouts (336).


Notre Dame, the 2012 BIG EAST runner-up, received one first-place vote and 129 points to rank second in the poll. The Fighting Irish finished second in the BIG EAST last season with a 16-3 record and 40-16 overall mark and return four All-BIG EAST selections including the 2012 Pitcher of the Year, junior Laura Winter. Winter went 13-2 in league play with 12 complete games, four shutouts and a 1.21 ERA. She ranked second in the BIG EAST and 16th in the nation in strikeouts, recording 287. Joining her are three 2012 All-BIG EAST Second Team selections: catcher/utility Amy Buntin, shortstop Chloe Saganowich and rightfielder Kelsey Thornton. Notre Dame has finished conference play in the top-two spots in each of the previous four seasons.


Ranking third in the preseason poll is reigning BIG EAST Champion Louisville with four first-place votes and 128 points. The Cardinals claimed the BIG EAST regular-season and championship titles in 2012. They finished with a 55-5 overall mark and a 20-2 conference record. The 2012 BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year loses two All-BIG EAST First Team selections from a year ago but returns seven all-conference selections. Catcher/utility Taner Fowler and first baseman Alicja Wolny were first-team selections last season while second baseman Katie Keller and pitcher Caralisa Connell were named to the second team. Three third-team selections, including the BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player, outfielder Jordan Trimble, return for 2013. Joining Trimble are outfielder Jennifer Esteban and shortstop Whitney Arion.


DePaul recorded one first-place vote and 117 points to place fourth in the preseason poll. Since joining the BIG EAST in 2006, the Blue Demons have captured three regular-season titles. They finished fifth in the league last season with a 14-8 record and 36-22 overall mark. DePaul returns pitcher/first baseman Kirsten Verdun. As a sophomore, Verdun was named a second team All-America selection and was a unanimous first team All-BIG EAST selection in 2012. First baseman Mary Connolly returns for her second season with the Blue Demons after being named a third team all-conference pick as a freshman.


Syracuse finished fifth in the preseason poll with 96 points. The Orange tied for third in the final regular season standings last year with a 17-5 record and 43-16 overall mark. They return two All-BIG EAST selections in centerfielder Veronica Grant and pitcher Stacy Kuwick. Grant was a first team pick in 2012 and batted .354 with nine runs, eight RBI and two home runs in league play. Kuwick, a third team selection, was 8-0 with a 1.02 ERA in BIG EAST action.


Rutgers is sixth in the poll with 87 points. The Scarlet Knights finished 26-28 (9-13 BIG EAST) last year. Pitcher Alyssa Landrith headlines the top returners from 2012. Landrith, the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year a season ago, posted a 1.85 ERA in league play. Also returning to the squad is All-BIG EAST Third Team outfielder Chandler Howard. Both players enter their sophomore seasons in 2013.


With 71 points, Pittsburgh earned the No. 7 slot in this year's poll. The Panthers went 8-14 in BIG EAST action a year ago with a 26-26 overall record. Three of the team's top returners played in all 22 conference games last year and are led by 2012 All-BIG EAST Third Team catcher Holly Stevens.


St. John's landed just below Pittsburgh in the eighth spot with 70 points. St. John's placed sixth in the final regular season standings last year with a 10-12 record and 23-34 overall mark. With the departure of 2012 BIG EAST Player of the Year Kacee Cox, the Red Storm will rely on a quartet of key returners and a pair of newcomers to fill the void. Catcher/shortstop Erin Burner headlines the returning cast with a .329 batting average and four home runs in league play last season.


In the ninth spot with 65 points is Connecticut. The Huskies are led by All-BIG EAST First Team third baseman Kim Silva. Providence rounds out the top 10 with 42 points. Five players who played in all 21 BIG EAST games last season return to the squad in 2013.


The final three preseason poll positions are held by Villanova, Seton Hall and Georgetown.  The Wildcats picked up 30 points in the coaches' poll while the Pirates and the Hoyas claimed 24 and 21 points, respectively. 


This season's BIG EAST Championship will be held in Tampa, Fla. and will be hosted by the University of South Florida. The league's top eight teams will advance to the three-day tournament, which begins on May 9.  The championship game on May 11 at 4 p.m. will be televised live on ESPN2.



2013 BIG EAST Softball Preseason Poll




2012 Record (BIG EAST)

1.            USF (7)


50-12 (17-5)

2.            Notre Dame (1)


40-16    (16-3)

3.            Louisville (4)


55-5 (20-2)

4.            DePaul (1)


36-22 (14-8)

5.            Syracuse


43-16 (17-5)

6.            Rutgers


26-28 (9-13)

7.            Pittsburgh


26-26 (8-14)

8.            St. John's


23-34 (10-12)

9.            Connecticut


21-27 (9-13)

10.         Providence


17-36 (7-14)

11.         Villanova


32-24 (6-16)

12.         Seton Hall


21-32 (3-19)

13.         Georgetown


19-32 (3-15)