Butler Ties For Third In Horizon League Softball Poll

Butler Ties For Third In Horizon League Softball Poll

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Butler, coming off a school-record 36-19 campaign, finished in a tie for third in the annual preseason poll of Horizon League softball coaches.  The Bulldogs received 43 points in the poll to tie with Wright State, behind preseason favorite Cleveland State and UIC.

The Bulldogs, under new head coach Scott Hall, return six position starters and their top three pitchers from last year’s successful squad.  Leading that group is sophomore right-handed pitcher Jenny Esparza, who was named first team All-Horizon League and was picked to the league All-Newcomer Team a year ago.  Esparza set a Butler single season record with 17 victories a year ago, and she shattered the school record for strikeouts with 272.

Also back is junior Erin Falkenberry, who earned second team All-League recognition after leading the Bulldogs in hitting with a .342 batting average.  Sophomore Meaghan Sullivan, who batted .278 while starting 45 games at second base, returns after earning Horizon League All-Newcomer honors in 2010.

Other Butler starters returning this season are senior Erin Jackson and juniors Lauren McNulty, Jessica Huey and Mallory Winters.  Hall also can call on returning pitchers Jennifer Chasteen and Breanna Fisher.

Cleveland State and UIC each received four first place votes in the poll, and the Vikings edged the Flames by a single point, 58-57, for the top spot in the poll.  Defending Horizon League champion Wright State received the remaining first place vote from the coaches.

Valparaiso, third in last year’s Horizon League Tournament, was tabbed fifth in the coaches’ poll with 39 points, followed by Loyola (31), Green Bay (28), Youngstown State (17) and Detroit (9).

Butler will open the 2011 campaign on Feb. 18 at the Bulldog Round-Robin in Starkville, Miss.  The Bulldogs will face Southern Illinois, Louisiana Tech and Mississippi Stat in the three-day tournament.