By Ryan Vermont:
The college softball season is upon us and with that comes preseason predictions.
Today, the 2017 Mountain West Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll was released and to not much surprise, Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State were the top three teams by a large margin.
All nine head coaches in the conference were polled and for back-to-back years the same three teams were predicted to finish atop the conference.
Fresno State (four 1st place votes, 59 points), won its second ever conference title last season and enters the 2017 campaign with a new head coach and 5 returning starters.
The Aztecs of San Diego State (three 1st place votes, 57 points) finished third in the Mountain West last season and return seven members of their first nine.
Predicted to finished third this year are the Spartans (two 1st place votes, 55 points), who finished second in the Mountain West with a 17-7 record in conference. SJSU has only four returning members of its starting lineup, but two of them are all-conference players.
The Spartans All-MW outfielder, junior Brittany Abacherli, is back after hitting .351 with 12 home runs and 49 runs batted a year ago as well as All-MW second team infielder, sophomore Madison Aurin who logged a .344 batting average in her first college season as well hitting 10 home runs and 41 RBIs.
The team also returns three of its top four pitchers from last season, seniors Emily Rogers, Colette Riggs and Katelyn Linford.
The four point differential between the first and third place teams is the thinnest margin for the preseason poll since San Jose State joined the Mountain West four years ago. The closest teams to the big-three in the conference are Utah State (33 points), University of Nevada (32 points) and Colorado State and University of Nevada Las Vegas (both with 27 points).
The official opening day of the 2017 season as well as SJSU’s first game is on Feb. 9.
The Spartans will travel to Tempe, Arizona to take part in the Kajikawa Classic where they will play six games in three days.
It all begins with a game against Creighton University at 3:00 p.m. MT.