Southeastern softball picked to finish first in GAC - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Southeastern softball picked to finish first in GAC

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DURANT, Okla. (SE)  - Coming off a National Semi-Final appearance last season, Southeastern has been tabbed as the preseason favorite to win its third-straight regular season Great American Conference championship according to the 2015 preseason poll released on Wednesday.

The Savage Storm put together a 45-20 record in 2014 with a 28-11 GAC mark, winning the regular season championship, but falling short of its goal to repeat as the tournament champions.

SE advanced to the Central regional as a No. 7 seed and made the trek to Mankato, Minn., for the second-straight season.

However, this time the Storm clicked on all cylinders winning the regional in an "if game" against Emporia State before sweeping Augustana on its home field in the Super Regional to earn the program's first bid to the NCAA National Finals.

Southeastern dropped its first game there but continued to battle, winning a pair of games in the loser's bracket before falling in the semi-final to Valdosta State.

The Storm will look to pick up where they left off and will do so with a vast majority of the team that made that run still intact.

The team returns its top four hitters including All-American and GAC Player of the Year Jessica Simmons who hit .413 and stole a league best 38 bases.

She is joined by Laramie Beal, Sydney Kramer and Haley Strawn, all of whom hit over .350 for the season.

In all, Southeastern returns seven position players who started at least half the team's games last year.

The Storm will have to replace GAC Pitcher of the Year Mindy McElroy who graduated, but the staff does return Jacee Bennett who was 8-5 with a team-best 83 strikeouts in 89.0 innings pitched.

SE will also welcome five newcomers to the roster, including four freshmen.

The Storm collected seven of the league's 11 first-place votes in the poll for a total of 97 points.

Southern Arkansas was picked second with 85 total points and a pair of first place votes.

East Central was third at 79 points and Henderson State fourth with 71, while each received one of the remaining first place votes.

Harding rounded out the top five with 66 points.

Northwestern Oklahoma State was picked sixth, followed by Arkansas-Monticello, Arkansas Tech, Southern Nazarene, Southwestern Oklahoma State and Ouachita Baptist.

Southeastern opens the 2015 season at the NFCA Division II Leadoff Classic with a Feb. 6 matchup against Colorado Mesa.

The team will open the home portion of its schedule when it hosts the Southeastern Regional Invitational Feb. 13-15.