Selected as the number two team in the Horizon League pre-season coaches poll, the Flames under the direction of second-year coach Michelle Venturella head to the Sunshine State this Friday to face North Florida, Southern Illinois, UMass, Florida International and North Carolina State in the weekend-long Combat Classic hosted by Florida International.
Returning all but two of their 2009 starters and finishing their last season atop the Horizon League standings, UIC looks to make good on the shaky start that they faced last season in which they went 2-11 through the end of February. They improved to 27-26 overall and 16-4 Horizon League by season's end.
For 2010 five newcomers join an already well-rounded staff that includes Brooke Frydendall, who led the team with a .361 batting average, Melinda Macias, who led the ladies with 32 RBIs and pitcher Ashley Hewett who contributed not only 158 Ks and a 14-8 record, but also did well at the plate batting .336 and bringing in 25 runs. She's the reason UIC led the league in batters looking at strikeouts with 97 last season, that's 26 more than any other team.
Stephanie Chavez, a team leader and force behind the plate will also be returning as well as Carly DeMarco who managed to steal 19 bases on 21 tries in 2009.
The Flames last faced UMass in a 10-5 loss in 2007, and Southern Illinois in 2006 for a 5-2 loss. Next weekend the Flames head to UNLV to participate in the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic.
2010 Horizon League Preseason Softball Coaches Poll:
1. Cleveland State (7) 63
2. UIC (1) 57
3. Wright State (1) 46
4. Butler 38
4. Loyola 38
6. Valparaiso 37
7. Green Bay 22
8. Youngstown State 15
9. Detroit 8
First place vote totals are in parentheses.