ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University softball team has been picked to finish ninth in the 2007 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Coaches’ Poll, announced by the league office. For the second straight season, BSU will be starting with a new head coach as former assistant Shane Veenker is taking the reins for the 2007 season.
The league coaches chose BSU ninth with 29 points, four less than last season, and seven less than eighth-place Northern State. With the addition of the University of Mary (N.D.) and Upper Iowa University, the NSIC has expanded to a 10-team league. Bemidji State finished 2006 in sixth place in the NSIC with a record of 3-11, 16-22 overall.
After winning the regular season title in 2006, Southwest Minnesota State has been picked at the top of the conference, receiving seven of the 10 first-place votes. With 88 points, SMSU was picked four points ahead of Winona State, who received the other three first-place votes.
Last season’s NSIC Tournament Champions, Concordia-St. Paul, was picked third with 69 points, while Minnesota State, Moorhead was chosen fourth. Newcomers, Mary and Upper Iowa, were picked fifth and sixth, respectively, in their inaugural NSIC campaign.
Also released by the NSIC today, sophomore shortstop Bridget Smith (Burnsville, Minn.) and sophomore pitcher Allison Willard (Hutchinson, Minn.) were named 2007 NSIC Players to Watch.
In her NSIC First Team All-Conference freshman season, Smith, who is a two-sport student-athlete, started all 38 games and was second on the team with a .328 batting average. She was also second on the team in runs (14), hits (38), and RBI (15). On the defensive side, Smith helped turn four double plays and finished the season with a .948 fielding percentage. Smith, also plays basketball for Bemidji State.
On the mound, Willard was Bemidji State’s top hurler notching seven wins and a 3.95 earned run average. She notched 49 strikeouts in 92.1 innings pitched and held opponents to a team-low .241 batting average. Willard gave up just one home run on the season while pitching nine complete games and collecting two shutouts.
Bemidji State also returns 2006 NSIC All-Conference Honorable Mention selection Jamie Docken (Jr., OF, Owatonna, Minn.). Docken, who was the only other player to start all 38 games, led last season’s squad with a .331 batting average and 40 hits. She also led the team in RBI (17), total bases (50), doubles (7) and stolen bases (4). Docken also finished the season with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.
Bemidji State will open the 2007 season on March 17-18, with a five-game road trip to Emporia, Kan. Bemidji State will take on Northwest Missouri State, Truman State, and Missouri Western State on St. Patrick’s Day. The next day they will play Washburn and host Emporia State before heading home. The team is scheduled to play the first of seven home dates on April 5th against Wisconsin-Superior. BSU will kick off NSIC regular season play at the NSIC Crossover in St. Paul, Minnesota on the campus of Concordia-St. Paul.
2007 NSIC Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. SW Minnesota State (7) 88
2. Winona State (3) 84
3. Concordia-St. Paul 69
4. MSU Moorhead 66
5. Upper Iowa 54
6. University of Mary 51
7. Wayne State 45
8. Northern State 36
9. Bemidji State 29
10. Minnesota-Crookston 18
-First place votes in ( )