The nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh softball team is projected to place third in the 2018 WIAC standings in a preseason poll conducted by the league's head coaches and sports information directors.
UW-Oshkosh, ranked 23rd in the NCAA Division III by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, is off to 7-3 start this season after compiling a 33-13 record while reaching the Super Regional round of the national postseason a year ago.
Reigning WIAC regular season and tournament champion UW-Whitewater is listed atop the league's preseason poll.
Following the Warhawks in the WIAC poll are UW-La Crosse in second, UW-Oshkosh third, UW-Eau Claire fourth, UW-Stout fifth, UW-Platteville sixth, UW-River Falls seventh and UW-Stevens Point eighth.
UW-Whitewater (37-9 overall record in 2017) clinched its 11th WIAC regular season title with a 14-0 record last season before defeating UW-La Crosse in the league's postseason championship game.
UW-La Crosse (30-16 overall record in 2017) went 10-4 in conference play last year to finish second in the standings. UW-Oshkosh placed third with a 9-5 record while UW-Eau Claire (27-11) was fourth at 8-6, UW-Stout (18-24) fifth at 5-9, UW-Platteville (11-25) sixth at 4-10, and UW-River Falls (11-24) and UW-Stevens Point (12-24) seventh at 3-11.
Last season UW-Oshkosh won a regional championship for the first time since 1988. The Titans' most successful season in nearly three decades concluded with the program's first appearance in the Super Regional. UW-Oshkosh won all three of its games at the La Crosse Regional, including two victories over host UW-La Crosse, before suffering a pair of setbacks by three total runs to Trine University (Ind.) at the Angola (Ind.) Super Regional.
UW-Oshkosh returned its entire starting lineup and 13 letter winners overall from last year's squad that set a WIAC record with 87 doubles and finished 20th in the nation with a .971 fielding percentage.
UW-Oshkosh fifth-year head coach Scott Beyer owns a 119-52 record. His .696 winning percentage at UW-Oshkosh tops the school record book and ranks sixth in WIAC history.
Beyer welcomed back four All-WIAC players, including 2017 first team selections Erika Berry and Menting. Both players received All-Great Lakes Region honors for the second time last season.
Berry, a senior third baseman, matched a Division III record last year with four doubles in a game and tied a program mark with five hits in one contest. She headed into her final season with a .343 career batting average.
Menting, a junior catcher, has led the Titans during both of her two seasons in batting average, hits, home runs, runs batted in, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The 2016 WIAC Co-Position Player of the Year had a .403 career batting average with 12 home runs and a .663 slugging percentage over her first two seasons.
Dudek hit .307 and produced a .959 fielding percentage while Krol had a .324 batting average with three home runs and 31 runs batted in.
Through 10 games this season, UW-Oshkosh is batting .364 and averaging more than seven runs per contest.
UW-Whitewater returned seven starting position players and three starting pitchers, including Bella Matthias, the 2017 WIAC Pitcher of the Year. She led the league with 18 wins, 133 strikeouts and 10 shutouts.
UW-La Crosse brings back 12 letter winners from last year's squad that made the fifth NCAA appearance in school history.
UW-Eau Claire's overall victory count a year ago was its highest since 2013 while UW-Stout brings back seven starting position players from 2017. UW-Platteville's four WIAC victories last season were its most since 2014.
UW-Oshkosh, seeking its fourth WIAC title and first since 2007, has won at least 20 games each of the past 14 seasons. The streak includes 36 victories in 2007, 33 last year, 32 in 2008 and 30 in 2015.
UW-Oshkosh starts its WIAC schedule with a home doubleheader against UW-Stout on April 7. The Titans will play 11 more non-conference contests before their doubleheader with the Blue Devils, including Sunday's (March 18) games in Clermont, Fla., against Clarkson University (N.Y.) and Worcester Stat University (Mass.).