College softball: Jackrabbits named favorites in Summit League Preseason Coaches’ poll


SIOUX FALLS — The South Dakota State softball team is expected to again contend for a conference championship as the 2024 season is slated to begin for the Jackrabbits on Thursday. With the season nearing its start, the Summit League released its Preseason Coaches’ Poll Tuesday and SDSU sat atop the list.

South Dakota State received four of a possible seven first-place votes from the conference’s head coaches. The Jackrabbits’ 34 points accumulated narrowly outpaced Omaha, which earned 33 points and the remaining first-place tallies.

SDSU is the reigning Summit League regular season champion following a 17-0 run against its conference opponents in 2023. Omaha defeated the Jackrabbits in The Summit League Tournament championship in Brookings last May to earn the conference’s NCAA Tournament bid.

Following the Jackrabbits and Mavericks in the preseason poll were South Dakota (24 points), North Dakota State (22), North Dakota (14), Kansas City (10) and St. Thomas (10).

Along with the Preseason Coaches’ Poll announced Tuesday, the Summit League also released its Players to Watch list for the 2024 season. SDSU’s recipients were seniors Jocelyn Carrillo and Tori Kniesche.

Carrillo and Kniesche were both All-Summit League First Team performers a season ago, while Kniesche claimed Summit League Pitcher of the Year accolades for the second time in her college career. Carrillo has a lifetime batting average of .324 across 179 games played while starting in 168 of them. Her career totals include 24 home runs, 106 RBIs, 33 doubles and 97 runs scored. Kniesche is SDSU’s program record holder in wins (63), shutouts (30) and strikeouts (715). She also owns a current SDSU-best ERA of 1.52.

The Jackrabbits travel to Fresno, Calif., to compete in the Fresno State Kickoff Classic this weekend. SDSU begins play on Thursday at 8 p.m. CST by facing the host Fresno State Bulldogs.