East Texas Baptist Athletics

MARSHALL, Texas -- Defending national champion East Texas Baptist is predicted to finish third this season in the American Southwest Conference East Division, finishing just behind rivals Texas-Tyler and Louisiana College in the 2011 ASC Preseason Softball Poll released Thursday by the conference office.

The team was selected as a result of voting by the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media.

ETBU (40-12 in 2010) won the 2010 national title by winning its final eight games of the NCAA Tournament, including a four-game sweep at the national finals in Eau Claire, Wisc. But less than a month earlier the Tigers were in danger of missing the ASC Tournament for the first time before managing to qualify for the postseason on the final day of the regular season.

The competitive nature of the ASC East – which includes four teams that have been ranked in the NFCA Top 25 poll over the last two years, with three being ranked No. 1 -- was brought out again the preseason voting. Defending ASC East champion Texas-Tyler has been tabbed as the early preseason favorite to repeat, followed by Louisiana College – the 2010 ASC Tournament champion – in second place.

ETBU was picked third, receiving 119 points in the voting and five first-place votes. UT Tyler (six first-place votes), Louisiana College (nine first-place votes) and ETBU were separated by just seven points in the voting. Mississippi College, which finished fourth in the division last year but still was invited to the NCAA Tournament, was fourth in the preseason voting with 86 points. The Lady Choctaws received the final first-place vote.

LeTourneau was picked to finish fifth, with 56 points, followed by Texas-Dallas (53 points) and Ozarks (24 points).

UT Tyler sophomore outfielder Joey Cronin was voted the ASC East Preseason Player of the Year, and Louisiana College senior Rene Schwartzenburg was voted the Preseason Pitcher of the Year.