SUWANEE, Ga.—Based on exclusive voting by the head coaches of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC), Birmingham-Southern College edged out Southwestern University by a single vote as the team to beat in the race for the 2012 conference softball title.
Head coach Kimball Cassady's Panthers received five of the 10 coaches' first-place votes followed by Southwestern University who received four. Trinity University received the final first-place vote.
Birmingham-Southern finished atop the East Division a season ago while posting a 25-9 overall record and 13-3 mark in league play in Cassady's first season at the helm. The Panthers, however, were not eligible for postseason play as the program was in its last season of reclassification from NCAA Division I to Division III.
This season, Birmingham-Southern is led by a pair of returning first-team all-conference selections, senior shortstop Ashley Bice and junior outfielder Danielle Rucker. Bice led the Panthers batting .455 on the season with 45 hits, 32 RBIs and five home runs. Rucker was second on the team in batting, hitting .416 with 47 hits, 25 RBIs and seven doubles.
As for the division races, Southwestern received four of the five first-place votes while tallying 24 points to narrowly beat out Trinity (21 points, one first-place vote) as the preseason favorite to win the West. Hendrix College, with 13 points, was voted third followed closely by Austin College (11 points) and first-year SCAC member University of Dallas (six points).
In the East, preseason favorite Birmingham-Southern garnered all five first-place votes (25 points). Millsaps College, who is returning to the East after competing in the SCAC West a season ago, was voted second with 17 points. Rounding out the rest of the East Division is Rhodes College (16 points), Centre College (12 points) and Sewanee: University of the South (5 points).
One thing that is certain, the SCAC will crown a new champion in 2012. In its last season as a member of the conference, DePauw University claimed its third SCAC softball title in the last four years as Haley Buchanan's three-run homer, her first hit of the tournament, lifted the Tigers to a 3-2 win over Trinity in the championship game.
To view the entire 2012 SCAC Softball predicted order of finish, click here.