MITCHELL, S.D. – After finishing in a four-way tie for fifth in the Great Plains Athletic Conference last season, the Dakota Wesleyan University softball team was picked to finish eighth in the league in the preseason poll, which was released Tuesday morning.
The Tigers received 40 points in the poll, which was voted on by the league’s head coaches. GPAC Tournament champion Morningside finished first with 95 points and seven first-place votes and Northwestern College, which won the regular-season title, finished second with 91 points and two first-place votes. Doane College and Midland University both received one first-place vote.
Dakota Wesleyan went 17-30 overall and 10-10 in the GPAC in 2012, including a sweep of the Mustangs in April. The Tigers enter 2013 missing several key components from last year’s squad, which went 0-2 at the conference tournament in May. Brandi and Roni Nekrassoff – who did the bulk of the pitching for DWU in 2012 – are both gone, and the Tigers’ top four hitters from last season all graduated or are no longer with the team.
Katie Anderus returns as the team’s leading hitter after batting .287 as a freshman in 2012. She had 37 hits and 10 RBIs to go with a .919 fielding percentage from shortstop. Katie Uttecht made four appearances on the mound as a freshman and batted .244 with 12 RBIs.
Second-year head coach Ed Kieff bulked up DWU’s roster in the offseason with 11 signees. Among them are Jill Dickson, a junior transfer from Seward County Community College, and Hailey Unger – a freshman from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Dickson is a pitcher who went 19-9 with a 2.67 ERA as a sophomore at Seward. She had 158 strikeouts in 173.1 innings pitched. Unger is a catcher who led the Canadian league she played for in home runs, and helped the Smitty’s Terminators to a provincial championship. She played in the U19 Women’s Fast Pitch Canadian Championship, where she had 10 hits and nine RBIs.
Other key signees include Lindy Snook, a utility player from Temecula, Calif., who batted .467 as a junior. Courtney Hellman played high school softball right here in Mitchell, and also played club softball with the Venom, an 18-and-under team which won the AAU Class B state title this season. She batted .422 with an on-base percentage of .556.
The Tigers start the 2013 season with their spring break trip to California. They play Hope International University at 4 p.m. CDT on March 4 to kick off the trip, which includes seven doubleheaders in eight days.