To no one’s surprise, Linfield received all eight first-place votes and is ranked No. 1 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III preseason Top 25 Poll.
The defending national champion Wildcats finished the 2011 season with a record of 51-3, cruising through the NCAA regionals before battling back through the loser's bracket on their way to the program's second championship crown in five seasons.
Three NFCA All-Americans return for the Wildcats. Catcher Emilee Lepp, first baseman Staci Doucette and third baseman Karleigh Prestianni (Sr., Grants Pass, Ore.) combined to hit 64 of Linfield’s NCAA-record 103 home runs in 2011.
Texas-Tyler begins 2012 in the No. 2 spot after going 40-13 a year ago and finishing third in the nation. Christopher Newport, a program that experienced its best finish as national runner-up to Linfield a year ago, begins at No. 3 after a 38-12 season. No. 4 Eastern Connecticut, which tied for fifth at the national championship tournament last year, looks to improve upon that finish in three-time All-American pitcher Molly Rathbun's final year. Another national championship participant, Luther, begins the season at No. 5 after finishing 41-6 in 2011.
Cortland State, which has made national championship appearances in three of the last four years, begins this season at No. 6, while Atlantic Region powers Salisbury and Emory follow at Nos. 7 and 8, respectively. DePauw is the preseason No. 9 after finishing in a tie for fifth at the national championship, while Coe rounds out the top 10 after a 38-11 season.
The Wildcats' season begins Wednesday, Feb. 22, at home against NAIA affiliate Concordia-Portland. Northwest Conference action starts three days later with a four-game weekend series at Whitworth.
33 home runs in first two seasons
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