MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State softball team has been picked as the preseason favorite to win both the 2013 Mid-American Conference West Division title and the 2013 MAC Tournament as voted on by the league's 12 head coaches and released today by the conference office.
Winners of three of the past four MAC regular season championships (2009, 2010 and 2012), the Ball State softball team returns 12 letterwinners and seven position starters from last season's squad which posted a 40-15 (17-3 MAC) record.
Leading the way for the Cardinals is 2012 MAC Player of the Year and First Team All-MAC selection Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) who finished last season ranked in the top 40 nationally in runs per game (fifth), doubles per game (10th), home runs per game (17th), home runs (19th), triples (28th), slugging percentage (37th) and RBI per game (37th).
Other All-MAC players returning to the Ball State lineup this season include second-team selections Amanda Carpenter (Santee, Calif./Santana), Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) and Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan).
The Cardinals picked up nine of the 12 votes to win the MAC West Division and were followed by Central Michigan (2), Western Michigan (1), Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois and Toledo.
Bowling Green is the favorite to claim the league's East Division with seven first-place votes, followed by Ohio (3), Kent State (1), Miami (1), Akron and Buffalo.
In the MAC Tournament projections, the Cardinals grabbed six of the 12 votes to win the event, with Bowling Green, Central Michigan and Ohio also receiving at least one tally.
The Ball State softball program opens the 2013 season Saturday, Feb. 16, with games versus IUPUI (10:30 a.m.) and UT-Martin (1 p.m.) at the KSU Classic hosted by Kennesaw State in Woodstock, Ga.
MAC East Division
1. Bowling Green (7)
2. Ohio (3)
3. Kent State (1)
4. Miami (1)
MAC West Division
1. Ball State (9)
2. Central Michigan (2)
3. Western Michigan (1)
4. Eastern Michigan
5. Northern Illinois
Predicted MAC Tournament Champion: Ball State (6)
(Also receiving votes: Bowling Green, Central Michigan and Ohio)