To show just how much balance there is in the MIAA when it comes to softball, the league’s coaches voted three different ties in the 2009 preseason poll that was released on Thursday.

To show just how much balance there is in the MIAA when it comes to softball, the league’s coaches voted three different ties in the 2009 preseason poll that was released on Thursday.
The Pittsburg State Gorillas, coming off a fourth-place finish in the conference a year ago, was placed in a tie with Missouri Western for sixth.
Other ties included conference newcomer Nebraska-Omaha tied with defending regular-season and tournament champion Emporia State for the league’s top spot and Northwest Missouri State tied with Washburn for fourth.
“That just shows you how even the softball is with all of those ties,” said PSU head coach Brad Horky.
The Hornets, NCAA Division II runner-up last season, picked up five of a possible 10 first-place votes (coaches are not allowed to vote for their school), while the Mavericks collected four top votes.
“I personally voted UNO first just because of depth,” Horky said. “As the year’s go on, they are going to continue to be a factor. It is Emporia’s title until someone takes it away from them.”
The Central Missouri Jennies scooped up the two remaining first-place votes and finished third in the poll with 84 points.
“In softball, I talked to two of the coaches,” Horky said. “It doesn’t matter where you are ranked at because everything is so even.”
Truman was eighth in the poll with 36 points, and was followed by two schools sporting new head coaches for 2009.
Fort Hays State, with Julie Lemaire now in the dugout, placed ninth with 29 points. Missouri Southern, now led by Bill Gray, was five points back with 24. Southwest Baptist rounds out the list with 10 points.
Despite the losses of MIAA first-team outfielder Tera Swartslander and second-team pitcher Stephanie Moore, the Gorillas sport a solid nucleus of returners, highlighted by returning first-teamer Jessica Jones and second-team utility player Tiffany Swanson.
In addition, Pitt State will also have honorable mention returners in infielder Maria Bernal, Lori Lockhart and catcher Lindsay Birchfield.
On top of all that, Horky said the Gorillas — who defeated four teams that qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament a year ago — also have a solid recruiting class headlined by junior transfer Erin DeStefano and Carl Junction (Mo.) freshman Amanda DeCastro.
“We’ve had our best recruiting class and we are better, especially offensively,” Horky said. “But, you don’t know until you play.
“Sixth doesn’t bother us,” Horky said. “This league is just even.”
The Gorillas will open the 2009 season at the Texas Women’s Invitational where they will take on Texas Women’s and No. 3-ranked St. Edward’s on Feb. 13.

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140

2009 MIAA Softball Preseason Coaches Poll
School    Pts.
1. Emporia State (5)    94
(tie) Nebraska-Omaha (4)    94
3. Central Missouri (2)    84
4. NW Missouri State    66
(tie) Washburn    66
6. Missouri Western    51
(tie) Pittsburg State    51
8. Truman    36
9. Fort Hays State    29
10. Missouri Southern    24
11. Southwest Baptist    10