The Thunder received votes totaling 55 points to finish nine points behind preseason-favorite Alma. The poll is voted on by the conference's coaches, who cannot vote for their own team. Trine won a share of its fifth-consecutive conference championship and won its second NCAA Regional title last year. The Thunder enter the season ranked No. 19 in the nation by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
Leading the team's returners is All-MIAA First Team member Kaylee Fox (Vermilion, Ohio / Edison). The first baseman slugged a conference-leading 13 home runs and knocked in 40 runs to rank second in the MIAA. The junior is already tied for second in team history in home runs with 29 in her career.
The team returns four additional starters, including Angola Regional Most Outstanding Player Catherine Porter (Canton, Mich. / Plymouth Canton) and NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic All-Tournament Team member Erica Robles (Long Beach, Calif. / Lakewood). Porter is the team's lone senior. She has started 89 games in her career and owns a .407 on-base percentage. Robles enjoyed a breakout season last year, seeing time at two defensive positions and batting .377 with 11 steals.
Sophomore Lainey McCue (Westlake, Ohio / Westlake) will shift from second base to third this year. As a freshman, McCue batted .347 with two homers and 30 RBIs. Outfielder Emily White (Fortville, Ind. / Mount Vernon) started all 47 games last year and batted .271 in her first season as a starter.
Kate Saupe (Farwell, Mich. / Farwell) is Trine's lone returner who saw time in the circle last year. The sophomore worked to a 3.10 ERA in 38.1 innings last year.
The Thunder will welcome seven newcomers to this season's roster. Trine figures to see significant contributions from its new players, including in the pitching circle.
Trine opens its season in tournament play Saturday, Mar. 4 at Transylvania. The Thunder face DePauw and the host Pioneers on the opening day of the two-day, four-game tournament. Trine will also face Wartburg at the tournament. The team will face its typical challenging non-conference slate, with three games against preseason Top 25 teams. CLICK HERE to see the schedule.
The complete results of the MIAA Preseason Poll are listed below.
MIAA Preseason Softball Poll
Place. Team, Points (First-Place votes)
1. Alma, 64 (8)
2. Trine, 55
3. Hope, 50 (1)
4. Calvin, 39
5. Saint Mary's, 37
6. Kalamazoo, 27
7. Adrian, 25
8. Olivet, 18
9. Adrian, 9