RUSSELLVILLE, ARK. - After the most successful season in school history, the East Central University softball team has been picked to finish first in the 2016 Great American Conference Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league's head coaches.
The Tigers finished 2015 with a 34-16 overall record and a 25-8 mark in the GAC for second place. ECU went on to claim the 2015 GAC tournament championship and earned a trip the NCAA Central Regional, where they advanced to the finals.
The Tigers finished in the preseason poll with 113 points and six of the 12 first-place votes, with Henderson State coming in second with 104 points and five first-place votes. Southern Arkansas was third with 98 points and the final first-place vote.
Southeastern finished fourth (90), Arkansas Tech fifth (89), Harding sixth (71), Southern Nazarene seventh (61), Arkansas-Monticello eighth (60), Northwestern ninth (32), Southwestern 10th (28th), Ouachita 11th (26) and Oklahoma Baptist 12th (20).
ECU returns 11 players and loses nine from the 2015 season, with those 11 including an all-American, academic all-American, two all-region selections, four All-GAC honorees and four GAC All-Tournament selections.
Seniors Taylor Davis and Autumn Suydam account for the majority of those honors. Davis was an NFCA Second Team All-America, Daktronics Third Team All-America, All-GAC First Team and GAC All-Tournament Team selection. Suydam was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America Second Team, an NFCA All-Central Region First Team pick, All-GAC Honorable Mention and GAC All-Tournament team selection.
The Tigers will have an early start to the season and a strong test right out of the gates when they face Central Oklahoma, Saturday, Jan. 30 at Tiger Field at noon. The Bronchos were one of the four teams at the 2015 NCAA Central Region with ECU.