Softball third in league poll

The Butler softball team’s 2010 campaign helped the Bulldogs to a strong ranking in this year’s Horizon League preseason poll.

The program-best 36-19 record, posted by the Bulldogs last season, earned them a third- place tie with Wright State.

According to a press release from Butler Athletics,  the Bulldogs and the Raiders both received 43 points. Preseason favorite Cleveland State and UIC finished ahead of Butler in the poll.

The Bulldogs will be led by new head coach Scott Hall this season, while returning six starting position players and three top pitchers.

Sophomore pitcher Jenny Esparza is one of those. The right-hander was named First Team All-Horizon League and given a spot on the All-Newcomer Team last season.

Esparza set two school records during her freshman season, recording a single-season record 17 wins and striking out 272 batters.

Junior first baseman Erin Falkenberry, who was named Second Team All-Horizon League, will also be returning this season. Her .342 batting average was a team-best last season.

Seniors Erin Jackson and Jennifer Chasteen, juniors Lauren McNulty, Jessica Huey, Mallory Winters and Breanna Fisher and sophomore Meaghan Sullivan are the other returning starters this season.

Butler will open its season Feb. 18 in Starkville, Miss. against Southern Illinois.