When the Horizon League softball preseason poll was announced earlier this week, it wasn’t the number one that came before Wright State’s name that jumped out at coach Lynn Curylo as much as the “(1)” that followed.
“We only received one first-place vote,” Curylo said. “The way I’m looking at it is for us to end up ranked first with just one first-place vote, the rest of the coaches in the league had to have put us second or third. That means the other coaches in the league are saying we’re going to be tough to beat this year.”
Defending regular-season champion Wisconsin-Green Bay garnered three first-place votes from the eight coaches in the league, while Valparaiso and Youngstown State each received two. But the Raiders tallied 40 points to assume the role as preseason favorite, followed by Green Bay (38), Valpo (37), YSU (31), Cleveland State (29), Illinois-Chicago (27), Oakland (15) and Detroit (7).
WSU finished second to Green Bay last year, but the Raiders only graduated three seniors, including two starters, from that team.
“The majority are coming back and our infield, if it all plays out the way it should, everyone should be playing the same position they played the year before, and that’s exciting,” Curylo said. “In the outfield, two of the three will be playing where they played last season.”
It eventually could be all three when right fielder Hanna Floyd recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Senior center fielder Jess Gorman was the lone WSU player picked for the preseason all-league team after hitting .349 and slugging .632 to earn first-team honors last year as a junior.
The biggest hole to fill will be in the circle with the departure of Krystian DeWitt, the school’s all-time leader in wins, starts, innings pitched, strikeouts and complete games.
Her likely replacement will be junior Montana Wear, who started 21 of the 54 games last year with 34 appearances overall.
“We’ve been working her for this very role,” Curylo said. “Krystian obviously was our main starter, but we gave Montana the ball in some pretty key situations last season so that she would be ready to step into the role as our ace.”
But Curylo added that she’s not counting out Ashley Sharp, a freshman from West Chester.
The team opens the season next Friday at the Hillenbrand Invitational in Tuscon, Ariz., where the Raiders will face host Arizona.
Stucke stars: Senior forward Breanna Stucke was named the Horizon League Women’s Basketball Player of the Week on Monday.
The Tippecanoe High graduate scored a career-high 24 points in a 108-89 victory at Oakland on Jan. 29. Stucke made 9 of 13 shots, including 3 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc, and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. She also had four assists, no turnovers and was 3 of 3 from the free-throw line.