LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Trine softball team is ranked No. 19 in the nation in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III Preseason Poll, released today.
The Thunder received 49 votes to finish in a three-way tie with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Trine concluded the 2016 season ranked No. 22 after claiming its second NCAA Regional title and finishing with a 33-14 overall record. The Thunder won a share of its fifth-consecutive Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association title. The team also finished as the runner-up in the NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic.
Trine will face a challenging schedule, with three non-conference matchups against ranked opponents. The Thunder face national runner-up and preseason No. 3 Messiah, No. 8 Luther and No. 24 Cortland. All three matchups come at the Rebel Spring Games in Kissimmee, Fla. The team will also host No. 12 Alma in conference play April 23. Non-conference opponents DePauw and Illinois Wesleyan are receiving votes in the poll.
CLICK HERE to view NFCA Division III Preseason Top 25.
This year's edition of the Thunder return one All-MIAA performer. All-MIAA first baseman Kaylee Fox (Vermilion, Ohio / Edison) returns after crushing a team-high 13 homers and knocking in 40 runs last spring. Fox's 29 career homers are tied for third in program history.
Other key returners include NFCA Leadoff Classic All-Tournament honoree Erica Robles (Long Beach, Calif. / Lakewood), Angola Regional Most Outstanding Player Catherine Porter (Canton, Mich. / Plymouth Canton), outfielder Emily White (Fortville, Ind. / Mount Vernon), infielder Lainey McCue (Westlake, Ohio / Westlake) and pitcher Kate Saupe (Farwell, Mich. / Farwell).
The Thunder have added seven newcomers to this year's roster, which features just one senior.
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.