St. Louis, Mo., January 29, 2014 – The Washington University in St. Louis softball team is ranked No. 17 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Preseason Division III Top-25 Poll, as announced by the organization Wednesday. The Bears are ranked in the preseason poll for the first time since 2011.
Washington University has a wealth of experience in 2014 with eight starters and 13 letterwinners returning from last year's squad that posted a 31-14 record and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in the last 12 years. The Bears also placed second in the University Athletic Association (UAA) with a 5-3 mark.
"The core of our program is returning and were starters a year ago," said ninth-year head coach Leticia Pineda-Boutté. "It's also nice to know we have a veteran pitching staff that gained valuable experience a year ago."
A second-team all-UAA and third-team all-region honoree, Berg batted .318 with seven doubles, nine home runs and 41 RBIs. She will serve as the Bears' starting catcher in 2014. Neal, a first-team all-UAA and second-team all-region selection, started all 45 games and hit .349 with 15 doubles, eight home runs and 55 RBIs. Neal will see time at first base along with Berg.
Junior third baseman Adrienne White anchors an experienced infield, which returns all four starters. White will move back to third base after starting all 45 games a year ago at shortstop. She hit a career-best .381 with two home runs and 32 RBIs in 2013.
Junior shortstop Alyssa Wilson returns after missing last season with an injury. She started 40 games in 2012 hitting .274 with nine RBIs. Junior Paige Biles, who hit .331 a year ago with 15 stolen bases, moves to second base after splitting time at first and third a year ago. Sophomore Brooke Hofer hit .354 with 25 RBIs in her rookie season, and will see time on the right side of the infield and as a designated player.
Ingell has the most experience in the outfield with 128 career starts. She hit .374 with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 45 starts a year ago, and is a three-time all-UAA and all-Midwest region selection.
Junior Sydney Caldwell (.227, 10 RBIs) returns in the outfield after making 29 starts a year ago, while freshmen Kenzie James and Janet Taylor expect to compete for the final starting spot in the outfield.
Pineda-Boutté returns all four pitchers from a year ago - Neal (13-7, 3.22 ERA), Hofer (4-2, 3.82 ERA) and sophomores Amanda Kalupa (1-0, 3.82 ERA) and Annie Pitkin (13-5, 3.28 ERA). Hofer emerged on the mound in the postseason recording a 1-1 record with a 1.38 ERA in 20 1/3 innings pitched.
"I think the future is bright for this program after ending 2013 with an appearance in the NCAA Tournament," said Pineda-Boutté. "Our team gained valuable experience from last year's postseason appearance that will carry into this season."
Pineda-Boutté has guided Washington U. to a 252-91-1 (.738) overall record in eight seasons, including eight-straight seasons of 25 or more wins. She has led the Bears to four UAA titles and seven NCAA Tournament appearances.
Washington University opens the season with four games on Saturday-Sunday, March 1-2, at the Hendrix College Warrior Spring Fling in Conway, Ark. The Bears will face four teams this season ranked in the preseason top-25 poll (No. 6 Central College, No. 12 Emory University (twice), No. 15 Augustana College (twice), No. 24 Coe College).