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American Southwest Conference releases its baseball and softball preseason polls

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ABILENE, TX -

As the calendar gets closer to February, that means spring sports are right around the corner and this week, the American Southwest Conference released its baseball and softball preseason rankings.

HSU Baseball:

Hardin-Simmons' baseball team has been picked third in the American Southwest Conference preseason poll of head coaches, sports information directors and select media.

Defending champion UT Tyler was the preseason favorite with 15 first-place votes and 329 poll points. Concordia was second with 303 points and seven first-place votes. HSU and East Texas Baptist tied for third with 292 points. HSU had four first-place votes and ETBU had two. UT Dallas was fifth with 220 points and two first-place votes.

McMurry, Sul Ross State, LeTourneau, Howard Payne, Mary Hardin-Baylor, Louisiana College and Ozarks rounded out the poll. Belhaven is ineligible for the postseason, but unlike other sports their games count in the league standings.

HSU senior center fielder Zack de Luna and senior relief pitcher Blake Northrop were named to the preseason hitter and pitcher watch list.

The Cowboys are coming off a 29-18 season that saw them advance to the ASC Championship Series a year ago. HSU returns six starters off that team as well as most of the pitching staff. HSU will open the season on Feb. 10 against Texas Lutheran at Air Hog Stadium in Grand Prairie.

McMurry Baseball:

McMurry University was tabbed sixth in the 12-team league prognostication.

The War Hawks (21-22, 14-10 ASC in 2016) - which will play a full ASC slate but are not eligible for the ASC or NCAA post-season while reclassifying - received a total of 191 points in the voting. UT Tyler was picked first, followed by Concordia-Texas in second. Hardin-Simmons and East Texas Baptist were tied for third, while UT Dallas was ahead of McM in fourth place.

Additionally, the ASC released its 2017 pre-season "watch list" for baseball, which included a pair of War Hawks among those players singled out. Junior infielder/pitcher Tyler Jenkins and sophomore relief pitcher Juan Valadez comprised the tandem recognized from McMurry's roster.

Jenkins (Abilene, Texas) led the War Hawks' batsmen with a .378 average (51-135). Jenkins also topped the team in doubles (9), triples (2), home runs (9), RBI (38), runs scored (3), slugging percentage (.674), walks (28) and on-base average (.491). On the mound, the right-handed Jenkins was 3-1 with a 3.18 earned run average. Jenkins had 20 strikeouts and six walks, appearing in 14 games and a .286 opponent batting average against.

Valadez, also a right-hander, had a team-best ERA of 2.05 in 26.1 innings pitched. Valadez appeared in 16 contests with 27 strikeouts and 14 walks, tying an McM season record with six saves in 2016. He had the lowest opponent batting average against of .204 for his freshman campaign.

2017 will be the 21 st season of baseball competition in the ASC. McMurry will open its season on February 10 at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas. The War Hawks play their first home games two days later when WBU and McM tangle again in a Feb. 12 doubleheader, with the scene switching to Walt Driggers Field for the rematch.

Preseason Poll

1.

UT Tyler (15)

329

32-19 (15-9)

2.

Concordia Texas (7)

303

28-15 (19-5)

3.

East Texas Baptist (2)

292

31-14 (18-6)

Hardin-Simmons (4)

292

29-18 (17-7)

5.

UT Dallas (2)

220

24-20 (10-14)

6.

McMurry%

191

21-22 (14-10)

7.

Sul Ross State

174

19-24 (11-13)

8.

LeTourneau

144

15-22 (11-13)

9.

Howard Payne

133

19-21 (9-12)

10.

Mary Hardin-Baylor

99

11-28 (6-18)

11.

Louisiana College

93

13-25 (8-16)

12.

Univ. of Ozarks

53

14-26 (5-19)

Belhaven#

20-18 (10-11)

HSU Softball:

Hardin-Simmons' softball team was picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll of head coaches, sports information directors and media.

Defending national champion UT Tyler was picked to win the league with 18 first-place votes and 277 poll points. Defending ASC champion East Texas Baptist was picked second followed by UT Dallas, Mary Hardin-Baylor, Louisiana College and LeTourneau.

HSU was followed by Howard Payne, Concordia, Ozarks and Sul Ross State.

The Cowgirls return a veteran team that includes seven starters from a team that went 16-21 a year ago.

Senior catcher Lauren Williams, senior first baseman Alexis Vines and freshman pitcher Lexie Allen were named to the ASC player to watch list.

Rank

Team (1st place votes)

Pts.

2016 Record (ASC)

1.

UT Tyler (18)

277

49-5 (29-0)

2.

East Texas Baptist (8)

267

35-10 (24-5)

3.

UT Dallas

228

25-20 (18-12)

4.

Mary Hardin-Baylor

194

20-21 (16-14)

5.

Louisiana College

183

18-23 (15-15)

6.

LeTourneau

158

20-22 (17-13)

7.

Hardin-Simmons

136

16-21 (12-18)

8.

Howard Payne

108

16-22 (12-18)

9.

Concordia Texas

73

8-32 (5-25)

10.

Univ. of Ozarks

67

11-25 (11-19)

11.

Sul Ross State

48

7-31 (5-25)

Belhaven#

36-9

- Information provided by HSU and McMurry Athletics

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