Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference 

GREENWOOD, Ind. – Transylvania University has been selected once again as the favorite to win the 2011 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference softball title in a vote of league coaches. The Pioneers claimed 80 total points and eight first-place votes in the Coaches’ Preseason Poll.

Bluffton University placed second in the poll with 71 total points and the final first-place vote. Anderson University finished third in the poll with 59 total points and was followed by Manchester College with 53 points. Defiance College (48), Franklin College (34), Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (29), College of Mount St. Joseph (22), and Hanover College (9) rounded out the poll.

Transylvania finished the 2010 season as the conference champion and will be looking for the school’s seventh conference title this spring. The Pioneers were 35-11 overall and 14-2 in conference play. Transy claimed the HCAC Tournament title with a 6-2 win against Manchester and ended the season with a 4-0 loss to Trine in the NCAA regional.

The Pioneers return four All-HCAC first team members from last season’s team, including the HCAC’s Most Valuable Player. Sophomore Megan Mitchell returns to play third base after earning All-American honors as a freshman. Mitchell posted a .492 batting average and added a school record 17 home runs and 60 RBI. She also had a team-high 49 runs with a slugging percentage of .977, while reaching base at a .588 clip.

On the mound for Transy, senior Kendra DeArk returns after a solid junior campaign. DeArk finished 22-5 last season with a 1.70 earned run average. The senior pitched 17 complete games and struck out a league-best 163 batters in 169.0 innings of work.

Bluffton finished second in the conference standings last season with an 11-5 record. The Beavers were 18-22 overall last spring and fell to Manchester 11-4 in the HCAC tournament semifinals. Key players for Bluffton this season will be first team All-HCAC member Emily Manahan and second team All-HCAC pitcher Stevie Cuttitta. Manahan, a junior infielder, led the squad with a .343 average at the plate last spring and added 18 runs, six doubles, and 16 RBI. Cuttitta led the Beavers pitching staff as a freshman, posting a 7-6 record with 35 strikeouts in 108.1 innings of work.

Anderson finished just behind Bluffton in the conference standings with a 10-6 record. The Ravens were 18-22 overall and dropped both games at the conference tournament. AU returns one first team All-HCAC selection to their lineup. Sophomore Natalie Moorhouse (Albion, Ind./Central Nobel) will play second base for the Ravens this spring and hit .347 with 16 runs, nine doubles, four home runs, and a team-high 24 RBI. Junior pitcher Monica Crowe (Muncie, Ind./West Del) returns after earning honorable mention All-HCAC honors as a sophomore. Crowe notched an 8-11 record with 15 complete games, three saves, and 149 strikeouts in 133.2 innings of work.