CLEVELAND (Feb. 10) - The Kent Golden Flashes and the Central Michigan Chippewas are the early pre-season picks to capture the East and West Division titles, respectively, by the Mid-American Conference softball coaches.
Kent received 66 points and seven first-place votes, while Central Michigan finished with 67 points and eight first-place votes.
Voting was done on a 6-5-4-3-2-1 basis with the first-place team receiving six points and so on, in each division. First-place votes for each team are in parentheses.
The East Division
Kent finished with a 34-18 overall mark in 1999 and a 20-8 MAC slate. The Golden Flashes finished first in the East Division last year and will return seven starters to this year's lineup including two 1999 first-team All-MAC selections, senior outfielder Denae Jones and junior infielder Le Ann Fonner. Last season, Jones finished the season with a conference-best .426 batting average, 46 runs scored and eight triples. Junior pitcher Nicole Karasek, who led the Golden Flashes with a 1.93 earned-run average and a 13-4 record in 1999, will also return for Kent.
Rounding out the East Division are: Ohio, second with 48 points and three first-place votes; Akron, third with 47 points and one first-place vote; Bowling Green, fourth with 38 points and one first-place vote; Miami, fifth with 35 points and Marshall, sixth with 18 points.
Ohio finished the 1999 season with an overall record of 27-34 and finished fourth in the East Division with a 13-14 conference record. This season the Bobcats will return their starting pitching staff and eight letterwinners including senior catcher/designated player Jen Sewell who led the MAC with 17 doubles last season.
Akron lost two first-team All-MAC selections with the departure of Kelli Metzger, the MAC career home run leader, and Jana Jenkins, but still return seven starters, including seniors Leticia Gamboa and Jamie Zwisler. The Zips finished 27-28 overall last year and went 13-13 in conference play.
Bowling Green returns 12 letterwinners from the 1999 squad that finished 21-27 overall and 15-11 in the conference. The Falcons will be returning junior infielder Angie Domschot, a 1999 first team All-MAC selection who finished seventh in the MAC with a .356 batting average, and junior outfielder Jen Domschot, a 1999 second-team All-MAC honoree.
Miami will have more experience as the team enters Angie Jacobs' second year at the helm of the RedHawks. Miami will return all four starters from the 1999 pitching staff that set a school record of 283 strikeouts, and two All-MAC selections, sophomore outfielder Keri Brisnehan and junior first baseman Kristina Mortaloni.
Marshall will be under the direction of first-year coach Shonda Stanton, a 1995 graduate of UNC-Greensboro. The Thundering Herd will be returning 14 letterwinners and eight starters from a squad that finished 24-28 overall and 8-17 in only its second year of competition in the MAC. The team will be led by junior third basemen/catcher Aimee Reiner, a 1999 second-team All-MAC selection, who led Marshall in batting average, RBI, total bases, home runs and slugging percentage.
The West Division
Central Michigan captured the 1999 MAC Tournament after finishing second in the West Division with a 41-18 overall record and a 20-8 conference record. The Chippewas will be returning the1999 MAC Tournament MVP senior pitcher/designated player Tina Kinney, who pitched four consecutive shutouts to help Central Michigan win the MAC tournament championship. Also returning for the Chippewas will be the 1999 MAC Freshman of the Year, infielder Becky Manson, who finished second in the MAC in hits (73), third in runs scored (38), fourth in triples (5) and fifth in total bases (93). Junior second-team All-MAC selections Hope Robertshaw and Kim Burke will join Manson in the Chippewa infield. Last season Central Michigan led the conference in team batting and finished second in team pitching statistics.
Rounding out the West Division are: Northern Illinois, second with 64 points and 4 first-place votes; Ball State, third with 38 points; Eastern Michigan, fourth with 36 points; Western Michigan, fifth with 31 points and Toledo, sixth with 16 points.
Northern Illinois finished the 1999 season winning the West Division behind the 1999 MAC Player of the Year, senior pitcher Christy Dalton, who led the conference with a 1.05 earned run average. Dalton will be joined on the Northern pitching staff by junior first-team All-MAC selection Courtney Witvliet. The Huskies finished the 1999 campaign with an overall record of 35-19 and a conference-best 22-4 record.
Ball State finished 22-38 overall and 8-18 last season for a fifth-place finish in the MAC West Division. This season Ball state will be led by senior catcher Misty Snider. Snider finished the 1999 season with a .324 batting average, 56 hits,pp a slugging percentage of .509 and 32 RBI. The Cardinals' pitching staff will be led by sophomore Marcy Mobley, who had a 2.32 earned run average and struck out 144 batters last season.
Eastern Michigan finished third in the West Division with an overall record of 31-26 and a 16-11 MAC ledger. The Eagles will return ten starters from last year's tournament team, including second-team All-MAC selections senior second baseman Paula Slingerland and senior shortstop Randi Wolf. Slingerland led the conference last season with 75 hits and Wolfe finished the 1999 season with a .351 batting average and 23 RBI.
Western Michigan returns 10 letterwinners from last year's squad which finished with a 17-29 overall mark and a 9-17 MAC slate. Head coach Kim Worden, who earned her 300th career victory last season, will have to fill the holes left by All-Mac honorees Yvonne Jenks and Jennifer VanOver with a team that includes only two seniors.
Toledo finished the 1999 season with a four-game improvement as Michelle Fagnant enters her first year at the helm of the Rockets. Toledo finished last season with an overall record of 17-37 and a 7-21 MAC record. This season the Rockets will be led by junior catcher Laurie Nagel, who garnered All-MAC honors her freshman sesaon.
Central Michigan was also picked to win the 2000 MAC Tournament Championship. The MAC Tournament will be held from May 11-13 at the site of the No. 1 seed. The tournament is composed of each division winner and the next four teams from either division with the best conference record.