NORTH MANCEHSTER, Ind. – The 2019 Manchester University Softball season is right around the corner. The Spartans finished in a three-way tie for fourth-place in the HCAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, released Thursday afternoon.
Reigning HCAC regular season champion Transylvania led the poll with 81 points and seven first-place votes. The Pioneers are coming off a 34-9 season and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Mount St. Joseph earned 74 points in Thursday's poll and received the other two first-place votes. Franklin College, winners of the 2018 HCAC Tournament, was selected to finish third in 2019.
The Spartans finished in a three-way tie for fourth-place in the preseason poll. MU, Defiance College, and Hanover College all earned 52 points.
Manchester finished 17-21, 9-7 HCAC a season ago and advanced to the HCAC Tournament for the first time since 2015. Last season, Manchester led the HCAC with 33 home runs and ranked second in the conference with a .453 slugging percentage. The Spartans also ranked third in the league with 204 runs scored.
MU will return several key members from last season's squad. Senior Kate Skeens earned first-team all-conference accolades in 2018 after hitting .397 with six doubles, five homers and 22 RBI. Fellow senior Sydney Thompson was also an all-HCAC first-teamer. Thompson batted .382 with seven doubles, four home runs and 21 RBI in 2018. Sophomore pitcher Haley Perez earned honorable mention all-conference honors last year after turning in a 7-6 record with five complete games, two shutouts, and a no-hitter.
The Spartans will open their season at home on Monday March 4 with a doubleheader against Hope College. MU will travel to Florida for its Spring Trip in mid-March. HCAC play will begin on Saturday March 30 at home against preseason favorite Transylvania.