CHATTANOOGA (UTC) -- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team was picked as the preseason favorite to win the Southern Conference in voting by the league's coaches.
The Lady Mocs received the maximum possible eight first-place votes in the poll, which was released Friday. Georgia Southern received one first-place vote. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.
College of Charleston is expected to finish second followed by Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and UNCG to round out the top five. Elon, Furman, Samford and Western Carolina rounded out the nine-team poll.
Senior designated player Vivian Morimoto and junior second baseman Sara Poteat were tabbed to the preseason all-conference first team, while senior Michelle Fuzzard took two positions, pitcher and utility, on the second team along with junior first baseman Kasey Tydingco.
Despite losing six senior starters from last season's squad, the coaches believed that the Lady Mocs had enough talent coming back to be selected as the preseason favorite. Chattanooga captured the 2011 SoCon Regular Season and Tournament Championships before advancing to the finals of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional.
The first representative for Chattanooga on the all-conference team was Poteat, who was the 2011 Southern Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player. The Thomaston, Ga., native compiled a .362 average with 63 hits and a .461 on-base percentage. She posted a .926 fielding percentage with 103 putouts and 107 assists starting all 58 games at second base or shortstop.
Morimoto also garnered fist team recognition as she paced the Chattanooga offense a year ago with a .402 batting average. The Sao Paulo, Brazil native tallied 51 hits, nine doubles and six home runs, while driving in 31 runs during her first year as a Lady Moc after transferring from Miami-Dade.
Taking two positions, pitcher and utility, on the second team was Fuzzard, who is the reigning 2011 SoCon Player of the Year. She set a school and league record with 75 RBI during the campaign, while hitting at a .400 clip. The Huntington, Calif., native blasted 14 home runs and added 15 doubles. Fuzzard, coming off an ACL injury that forced her to redshirt during the 2010 season, was also impressive in the circle posting a conference leading 18-6 record with a 3.04 ERA and 89 strikeouts in a team leading 133.2 innings pitched.
Rounding out the all-conference selections for the Lady Mocs was Tydingco. The Fairfield, Calif., native has played stellar defense at first base the past two seasons and compiled .994 fielding percentage with 337 putouts last year. She has been a threat at the plate recording a .305 batting average in 2010 with 50 hits, 12 doubles, five home runs and 33 RBI.
The league's top individual honors went to Georgia Southern outfielder Marie Fogle, who is predicted to be player of the year, while the Eagles' Allie Miles is the preseason pitcher of the year.
Chattanooga opens the season on Feb. 10 in Clermont, Fla., for the Dot Richardson's National Collegiate Invitational. UTC opens against Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M starting at 11 a.m. in The Lady Mocs also face North Carolina, North Florida and UCF during the three-day event.
The home opener for the Lady Mocs is set for Feb. 24 at Frost Stadium against Valparaiso and Niagara beginning at 1:15 p.m., as apart of the Frost Classic. Ball State, Belmont, Cleveland State, Dayton, East Tennessee State, Purdue, Tennessee Tech, UT Martin and Troy are also participating in the tournament played at Warner Park.
2012 Southern Conference Preseason Poll
1. Chattanooga (8) 64
2. College of Charleston 50
3. Georgia Southern (1) 48
4. Appalachian State 44
5. UNCG 39
6. Elon 32
7. Furman 22
8. Samford 17
9. Western Carolina 8
Preseason Player of the Year
Marie Fogle, Outfield, Georgia Southern
Preseason Pitcher of the Year
Allie Miles, Georgia Southern
Preseason First-Team All-Conference
P Stephanie Saylors, College of Charleston
P Allie Miles, Georgia Southern
C Katelyn Bedwell, UNCG
1B Alex Emeterio, UNCG
2B Sara Poteat, Chattanooga
SS Aisha Figueroa, UNCG
3B Jessie Homesley, Furman
OF Allie Cashion, Appalachian State
OF Marie Fogle, Georgia Southern
OF Tomeka Watson, Elon
DP Vivian Morimoto, Chattanooga
UT Meghan Smith, Appalachian State
Preseason Second-Team All-Conference
P Erin O'Shea, Elon
P Michelle Fuzzard, Chattanooga
C Kaitlyn Piazolla, Elon
1B Kasey Tydingco, Chattanooga
2B Hanna Ennis, Georgia Southern
SS Lizzy Vaughn, College of Charleston
3B Kelsey Hodgson, College of Charleston
OF Carly Corthell, College of Charleston
OF Carleigh Nester, Elon
OF Stephanie Field, Furman
DP Lauren Collier, Furman
UT Michelle Fuzzard, Chattanooga
Information provided by UTC Sports Information and GoMocs.com.
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