Rio softball earns votes in preseason Top 25

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The University of Rio Grande was the only school from the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to receive recognition in the 2016 NAIA Softball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll released by the national office.

The RedStorm received 13 points in the balloting of a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and the Association of Independent Institutions, good enough for the equivalent of 36th place.

Rio Grande won the KIAC Tournament in 2015, earning the program’s second all-time appearance in the national tournament. The RedStorm went 1-2 in tourney play and finished with a record of 32-16 under then-head coach Amber Bowman.

Former Jackson (OH) High School coach Chris Hammond takes over this season after Bowman left for an NCAA Division I assistant coaching position and inherits a roster which has 17 returnees, including seven starters.

Two-time defending national champion Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) grabbed the No. 1 ranking, collecting all 18 first-place votes and 498 total points for its fourth all-time top position.

Lindsey Wilson, last year’s runner-up, checked in with 482 points and the No. 2 ranking, while Oregon Tech, LSU Alexandria and Central Methodist (Mo.) round out the top five. LSU Alexandria has now been in the top 10 in 20-straight polls dating back to 2014.

Four newcomers join the Preseason Top 25 – No. 18 Vanguard (Calif.), No. 23 Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.), No. 24 Indiana Wesleyan and No. 25 St. Francis (Ill.). Lindenwood-Belleville and St. Francis are each mentioned for the first time in school history.

Sixth-ranked Oklahoma City leads all active schools with 112 straight rankings, falling no lower than 18th during that stretch, which dates back to start of 2004 season. No. 9 William Carey (Miss.) is second with 75-consecutive mentions.

The first regular season poll will be released on March 22.

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing