ORONO, Maine -- The University of Maine softball team has been selected to finish fifth in the 2014 America East preseason poll, as announced by the conference on Friday afternoon. The Black Bears received 18 votes in the poll, just one vote out of fourth place.
Albany, the reigning 2013 regular season champions, were selected first in the poll with 34 votes and four first place tallies. Stony Brook, last season's league tournament winner and NCAA representative, received a pair of first place votes and 31 total nods in second. Following the Seawolves was Binghamton with 28 marks and one first place vote. Hartford was selected fourth with 19 votes, just one vote ahead of Maine (18). UMBC (10) and newcomer UMass Lowell (7) rounded out the seven team field.
Maine will look to build off an 8-39 overall mark and 4-14 league mark as it returns 10 letterwinners, seven positions starters and three pitchers to the 2014 squad. The Black Bears will look towards all-league catcher EmJ Fogel (Vienna, Va.) for offensive leadership a year after the junior hit .305 with 10 RBI, seven doubles and 15 runs scored. Senior all-conference selection Jean Stevens (Albany, Ore.) led the league with 13 home runs to go along with 38 RBI and a .258 average. Maine will return a solid core of pitching with redshirt senior Hannah Hill (Fryeburg, Maine), junior Alexis Bogdanovich (Sourth Portland, Maine) and senior Kylie Sparks (Kirkland, Wash.). The Black Bears will also look for immediate impact from their eight newcomers.
Head coach Lynn Coutts enters her third season with the Black Bears who begin their season on Friday, Feb. 14 against St. Bonaventure.
The four-team America East Championship will take place May 8-10 at the site of the top seed with the winner of the tournament receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Softball Championship, where America East teams have won six games and advanced to two regional final games since 2007.
2014 America East Softball Preseason Poll
1. Albany (4) 34
2. Stony Brook (2) 31
3. Binghamton (1) 28
4. Hartford 19
5. Maine 18
6. UMBC 10
7. UMass Lowell 7