AUGUSTA, GA – Francis Marion University has been selected to finish seventh in the race for the 2012 Peach Belt Conference softball crown according to the PBC’s annual preseason coaches’ poll.
North Georgia College & State University was tabbed as the preseason favorite, receiving eight of a possible 10 first-place votes to finish with 98 points. Armstrong Atlantic State University was second with 88 points (including three first-place vote), followed by Flagler College (77), Augusta State University (73), Columbus State University (71), USC Aiken (55), Francis Marion (44), Georgia College (36), UNC Pembroke (31), Lander University (18), and Georgia Southwestern State University (14).
Francis Marion welcomes back 12 letterwinners, including five position starters, the designated hitter, and one starting pitcher, from the 2011 squad that finished 24-21-1. Leading the returnees is All-Region and two-time All-Conference center fielder Destinea Schneider (.352, 28 runs, 22-25 SBs) and two-time All-Conference second baseman Ashley Jaramillo (.293, 3 HRs, 28 RBI). Schneider ranked 47th nationally last season in stolen bases per game, and is 33-of-40 in stolen base attempts over the past two seasons with a .414 on-base percentage. Jaramillo has started 148 of 149 games during her three-year career at FMU and has tallied a .314 average, 13 home runs, and 103 runs batted in.
Right-handed pitcher Kayla Ellingsen (11-8, 2.16 ERA) returns on the mound.
FMU opens its season Feb. 4-5 with the inaugural Swamp Fox Classic at the Freedom Florence Recreational Complex. Francis Marion will play at both 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. on each day.
This year’s 52-game schedule includes 11 home doubleheaders and two home mini-tournaments.
The 2012 PBC Tournament will be played in Columbus, Ga., April 21-22.
Coaches were not permitted to rank their own teams.
Peach Belt Conference Softball
2012 Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. North Georgia (8) 98
2. Armstrong (3) 88
3. Flagler 77
4. Augusta State 73
5. Columbus State 71
6. USC Aiken 55
7. Francis Marion 44
8. Georgia College 36
9. UNC Pembroke 31
10. Lander 18
11. Ga. Southwestern 14