Softball Coaches Predict Good Tide

Once upon a time, the Southeastern Conference was practically a non-entity in the national women's softball picture. Now it's reached the point that an SEC team can be picked second in the nation and not be selected in the top two to win the SEC championship.

This year's SEC pre-season prediction by vote of the league's coaches has Alabama, named in at least one pre-season poll as number two in the nation, as the team to win the SEC Western Division. But the Crimson Tide didn't get a vote as the favorite to win the league title.

Prior to the start of practice, Alabama Softball Coach Patrick Murphy said he thought the SEC Eastern Division would be a battle between four teams -- Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky. The Gators got six votes to win the SEC championship and Tennessee got five. There are only 11 SEC softball teams.

Alabama was a runaway winner to win the SEC Western Division. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams. So with 10 coaches voting and a "1" for first, Bama received 10 points, basically unanimous, to win the West.

The Tide has won the regular season championship the past two years.

Prior to the season, Murphy said that Auburn and LSU returned the most pitchers. But, he added, "I'm pretty happy with the ones we have."

The Florida Gators were predicted to win the title with six first place votes while Tennessee closely followed with five first place votes. The Gators outdistanced the Lady Vols in the eastern division by one point in the voting.

Points for the poll were awarded on a 1-2-3-4-5 basis for the eastern division and on a 1-2-3-4-5-6 basis for the western division. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.

The league will begin softball action February 9. Conference play begins March 7, while the 2012 SEC Softball Tournament will be held May 10-12, at Alabama's Rhoads Stadium. Alabama opens play the weekend of February 10 at the South Alabama Classic in Mobile.

Here is the pre-season SEC coaches' vote:

Conference Champion: Florida (6), Tennessee (5)

Eastern Division:

1. Florida (14 points)

2. Tennessee (15 points)

3. Kentucky (32 points)

4. Georgia (35 points)

5. South Carolina (48 points)

Western Division:

1. Alabama (10 points)

2. LSU (19 points)

3. Auburn (28 points)

4. Mississippi State (40 points)

5. Arkansas (46 points)

6. Ole Miss (54 points)

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