SOFTBALL/BASEBALL

Coaches pick UAM softball to finish third, baseball fourth

MONTICELLO — The University of Arkansas at Monticello softball team has been selected to finish third in the 2014 Great American Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, while the baseball team has earned a fourth place prediction following its conference tournament runner-up finish this past May.

The Blossoms earned 75 poll points and two first place votes to fall behind defending champion Southeastern Oklahoma State as the preseason favorite with 97 points and seven first place votes and East Central in second with 87 points and two first place votes.

The UAM baseball squad earned 63 poll points for its fourth place prediction. Defending conference champion Southern Arkansas took the top spot in the poll with 100 points and 10 of the 11 first place votes. Arkansas Tech earned the other first place vote and 88 poll points for a second place prediction. Southwestern Oklahoma State closes out the top three with 78 points.

Both teams open the 2014 season on Feb. 1. The Blossoms open up at home against Christian Brothers, while the Weevils are at Minute Maid Park that weekend for the Houston Astros Winter Invitational.

Coaches pick SAU to win GAC

SEARCY — Southern Arkansas — the two-time Great American Conference baseball regular-season and tournament champions — will enter the 2014 season as the overwhelming favorite to win a third straight title following a vote of the league’s head coaches, the conference office announced on Tuesday.

The Muleriders, ranked No. 13 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason poll, garnered 10 of the 11 first-place votes. They posted a 42-17 record in 2013 and advanced to the regional tournament for a sixth straight year. While they must replace several key cogs including Player of the Year David Harris, they do return Freshman of the Year Timothy Buchanan. He posted a 10-1 record with a 3.31 ERA. Offensively, they bring back four starters that hit at least .290.

Tech looks to finish runner-up

RUSSELLVILLE — The Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys baseball team has been picked to finish second in the Great American Conference this season by the league’s head coaches, announced by the league office earlier today.

Arkansas Tech claimed the final first-place vote and finished second in the preseason poll with 88 points, as Southern Arkansas took first with 100 points and ten first-place votes. Southwestern Oklahoma was picked third with 78 points, followed by Arkansas-Monticello and Henderson State.

Tech looks to build off last season’s squad as it welcomes back five position starters, including seniors James Sharp, Zac Johnson, Jay Johnson, Sage Boehner, and pitcher Ryan Taylor.

Coaches choose Suns to finish fourth

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark.—The Arkansas Tech Golden Suns softball team has been picked to finish fourth in the Great American Conference this season by the league’s head coaches, announced by the league office earlier today.

Tech grabbed the fourth spot in the 11-team field with 70 points. Southeastern Oklahoma was picked to finish first in the conference, earning 97 points and seven first-place votes. East Central and Arkansas-Monticello followed with 87 and 75 points respectively, both grabbing two first-place votes.

The Golden Suns enter the season under second-year head coach Kristina McSweeney. McSweeney made an immediate impact last season when she took over a 16-win team from 2012 and won 26 games in her first season last year. Tech finished third in the GAC last season with a 26-21 overall record and a 19-15 mark in the GAC.

BASKETBALL

Women’s

Lady Bisons climb to No. 6

SEARCY — For the seventh straight week, the Harding women’s basketball team has been ranked in the Division II. The Lady Bisons continue to climb in the poll as they were ranked sixth in the latest USA TODAY Sports Coaches’ Poll released on Tuesday. It’s the highest Harding have been ranked since joining the NCAA in 1997.

Harding cracked the top 10 in the poll last week as they were ranked eighth. The Lady Bisons have also been ranked 12th, 15th and 19th.

The Lady Bisons have started their season with a 15-0 overall record and are 7-0 in the Great American Conference. It is the first time in school history Harding has started 15-0.

Harding is one of only six teams in the top 25 that is still undefeated. They are all ranked in the top six.

The Lady Bisons will be looking to continue their winning streak on Thursday as they host Southern Arkansas in GAC action at the Rhodes Field House.

Men’s

Harding calms Savage Storm in OT

SEARCY - Harding sophomore Jacob Gibson hit the game-winning layup and freshman Will Francis scored a career-high 32 points to lead the Bisons (7-6, 4-3) to an 88-86 overtime victory over Southeastern Oklahoma (4-8, 2-5) on Monday in Great American Conference action at Rhodes Field House.

The game was originally scheduled for Dec. 7 but poor weather conditions forced the game to be moved to Monday.

Hayden Johnson scored 15 points before fouling out in regulation, Gibson added 13 points, and Blake McNair scored 10. Senior Weston Jameson did not score but had nine assists and four steals, playing 44 minutes.

Harding will play its fourth game in a week Thursday when it hosts Southern Arkansas at 7:30 p.m.