Midwestern State is picked to finish third in the race for the Lone Star Conference championship according to the league's annual preseason poll of coaches, sports information directors and selected media released Wednesday afternoon.
Defending national champion West Texas A&M is tabbed to repeat as league champs as the Lady Buffs collected 21 of the 23 first-place votes for a total of 205 points.
WT senior outfielder Renee Erwin (.459, 20 2B, 6 3B, 18 HR, 75 RBI) and senior pitcher Rita Hokianga (29-3, 2.11 ERA) garnered preseason player and pitcher of the year honors, respectively after helping the Lady Buffs to a 60-7 mark last season.
Angelo State picked up one first-place vote and 174 points followed by MSU (146), Texas Woman's (135), Cameron (117), Tarleton State (89), Texas A&M-Commerce (64, one first-place vote), Texas A&M-Kingsville (58) and Eastern New Mexico (47).
Midwestern returns eight starters and 13 letter winners off of last season's 31-24 squad which led NCAA Division II in home runs per game (1.72) on the way to the South Central Region finals.
Junior outfielder Katelyn Vinson, a first-team NFCA All American in 2013, led MSU with a .400 batting while clubbing nine doubles and 13 homers with 56 RBIs.
Senior third baseman Kelley Schaefer, a first-team Daktronics and NFCA All American in 2013, returns after another stellar season at the plate hitting .396 with 13 doubles, 14 homers and 53 RBIs, while senior shortstop Katy Vandewater, who crushed 10 homers in eight postseason games including long balls in six consecutive contest, finished the season hitting .374 with 20 homers and 61 RBIs.
Senior outfielder Haley Howerton (.362, 11 2B, 22 SB), sophomore pitcher/outfielder Erin Knox (.342, 8 2B, 2 HR, 14 RBI), sophomore designated player Baylee Voigt (.258, 9 HR, 26 RBI) and junior second baseman Shelby Carter (.199, 7 HR, 30 RBIs) are also returning starters for Midwestern State.