BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Southwestern Athletic Conference’s 2016 Softball Tournament finalists have been pegged to win their respective divisions, as Alabama State (Eastern) and Texas Southern (Western) were chosen as preseason favorites as part of the league’s 2017 preseason softball awards. The preseason teams and order of finish were each chosen in a vote by the league’s coaches and sports information directors.
For Texas Southern (86 points), this is the fourth-straight season the Lady Tigers have been chosen as favorites to win the Western Division. TSU, which looks to return much of its league-leading pitching staff and defense, received 16 first-place votes. Southern was tabbed to finish second with 61 points. Prairie View A&M (59 points), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (37 points) and Grambling State (27 points) rounded out the projections out west.
Defending champion Alabama State earned 79 points (11 first-place votes) and is expected to return the majority of the league’s best offense. Mississippi Valley State claimed 67 points (four first-place votes), and Alcorn State (49 points), Jackson State (38 points) and Alabama A&M (37) followed in the projections.
Alabama State’s Core, Texas Southern’s Rodriguez tabbed for individual honors
Alabama State third baseman Kendall Core was the preseason favorite for player of the year. The Benicia, Calif. native hit .348 last season and was one of the top bats in SWAC ranks. She was fourth in hits (57), sixth in slugging percentage (.610), tied for second in RBI (43), first in doubles (13), third in home runs (10), first in total bases (100), fourth in total plate appearances (177), tied for second in at bats (164). Core won 2016 SWAC Softball Tournament MVP honors as well.
Rodriguez went 11-7 in the circle last season and was the lone SWAC pitch to record a sub-3.0 ERA (2.99). Her ERA and opponent’s batting average (.263) led the conference. The junior earned first-team accolades to close the season and also garnered preseason first-team honors this season.
Texas Southern leads the preseason honors list with five selections – three first-teamers – and four Alabama State players garnered a slot. Mississippi Valley State and Prairie View A&M each placed three players on the All-SWAC teams. Alabama A&M, Alcorn State and Southern each saw two players earn an all-conference selection, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Jackson State each landed one all-SWAC nod. The full team is listed below.