BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — Eastern Kentucky has been selected to win the 2019 Ohio Valley Conference crown as voted on by the league’s head softball coaches and sports information directors. The Colonels earned 10 first-place votes and 230 points. Jacksonville State picked up 11 first-place votes and is selected to finish second with 226 points while Austin Peay earned the three remaining first-place vote and 204 points to be predicted to place third. SIUE earned 167 points to be selected to finish fourth while Southeast Missouri is picked to place fifth with 160 points. Rounding out the poll are Eastern Illinois (143), UT Martin (121), Belmont (99), Murray State (85), Morehead State (63), Tennessee Tech (61) and Tennessee State (23).
Eastern Kentucky posted a 45-21 overall mark while going 19-3 in the OVC en route to its third regular-season title. The Colonels earned the top spot in the Conference Tournament and fell to Jacksonville State in the championship game. Jane Worthington, who was named the 2019 OVC Coach of the Year, is entering her 27th season at the helm of EKU and will have 14 student-athletes returning from last year’s team. Among the returnees are senior second baseman/outfielder Destinee Lizzmore and junior pitcher Mollie Paulick. Lizzmore was named to the All-OVC First Team and All-Newcomer team after ranking second in the league with 60 doubles last year and fourth with 70 hits. Paulick was also named to the All-OVC First team last year. She tossed 11 complete games with a 23-8 record. Her 23 wins ranked first in the OVC.
Jacksonville State went 35-25 overall and 16-6 in the OVC to finish third last year. The Gamecocks were third in the OVC Championship and went on to beat No. 1 EKU to win its third straight tournament title. Jana McGinnis enters her 26th season as the head coach of Jacksonville State and will have two First Team All-OVC selections back from last year. Senior outfielder is back this season after ranking among league leaders in batting average (.363), home runs (11) and RBI (42). Junior pitcher Alex Jimmerson is also back this year. She went 8-6 with four strikeouts in the circle in 2018. At the plate, Jimmerson hit .283 with 11 doubles.
Austin Peay finished second last year with a 35-19 overall mark and a 17-4 league record. The Governors will be under the new direction of first-year head coach Kassie Stanfill. She comes to APSU after spending the past two seasons as an assistant at Louisville. Stanfill will have the 2018 OVC Freshman of the Year and the Pitcher of the Year in Bailey Shorter and Morgan Rackel, respectively. Shorter, a sophomore outfielder, hit .319 with 53 hits, eight doubles, five home runs and 25 RBI. A senior pitcher, Rackel led the league with a 1.41 ERA last season. She went 22-7 in the circle with 204 strikeouts.
Eight different OVC teams have won a regular-season championship with Jacksonville State, leading the way with seven titles each. The regular-season champion has gone on to win the league tournament title 15 times since the inception of the championship in 1994. Last year, Eastern Kentucky won its third OVC regular-season title while Jacksonville State captured its third straight tournament title.
2019 OVC SOFTBALL PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
(as voted on by the league’s head softball coaches and sports information directors)
- Eastern Kentucky (10 first-place votes) – 230
- Jacksonville State (11 first-place votes) – 226
- Austin Peay (Three first-place votes) – 204
- SIUE – 167
- Southeast Missouri – 160
- Eastern Illinois – 143
- UT Martin – 121
- Belmont – 99
- Murray State – 85
- Morehead State – 63
- Tennessee Tech – 61
- Tennessee State – 23
(Schools were not allowed to rank their own team. 11 points awarded for a first-place vote, 10 for second, etc.)