KANSAS CITY, MO. - After wrapping up their 2014 campaign in the MIAA Tournament, UCM softball has been chosen fourth in the conference preseason poll, voted on by the league's coaches.

The Jennies finished 2014 27-23 overall and 14-12 in the MIAA, earning the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament.

This year's Jennies softball team returns 13 from that 2014 playoff team including all three starting pitchers and five starters from the everyday lineup. Senior Jakki Prater returns after being named First Team All-MIAA as a pitcher/utility player. Prater mashed a UCM record 21 home runs and drove in a career-best 60 runs to tie the single-season record. She also added 15 wins in the circle while leading the staff with a 3.17 ERA.

Also coming back for their senior seasons are pitchers Katie Shockley and Jessica Wilkes. Shockey led all pitchers with 22 starts, compiling an 11-5 record and 3.23 ERA. She led the Jennies with 97 strikeouts in just 125.2 innings pitched. Wilkes also returns after making 13 starts in her second season as a Jennie. The Eastern Michigan transfer has an 8-9 record and 4.34 ERA in her two seasons at UCM.

In addition to Prater's presence in the lineup, the Jennies will look to junior Ali Jo Rogers and sophomore Lauren Mabe to provide a punch. Rogers sparks the offense with her speed on the bases. The middle infielder led the Jennies with 21 stolen bases and has 40 in her career. Mabe finished second on the team in 2014 slugging 10 home runs and 33 RBI while batting .336. She also locked down first base for the Jennies, starting there in 47 of 50 games.

Amanda Nally is the only returning senior among the position players. She's also the only upperclassman among the UCM outfielders. Last year Nally hit .299 with 16 runs scored, 18 RBI and 12 extra-base hits while making 20 starts in the outfield.

Defending conference regular-season champions Emporia State sit a top the conference poll. They recieved 12-of-14 first-place votes and tallied 168 points. Closely behind are Central Oklahoma, who recieved two first-place votes and totaled 156 points, and 2014 conference tournament champions Missouri Western with 147 points. The Jennies follow with 119 points and Fort Hays State rounds out the top-five with 113 points.

UCM's season gets underway Feb. 13-15 at the University of Arkansas-Monticello Softball Classic in Bentonville, Ark. The Jennies play their first games in Warrensburg, Mar. 6 against conference rival Fort Hays State.

(Courtesy of UCM Athletics)

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