Saturday, January 26, 2013

Softball: Sooners Ranked No. 2 in USA Today Poll

NORMAN, Okla. - Coming off an appearance in the Women's College World Series Championship Finals, the University of Oklahoma softball team enters the 2013 season as the No. 2 team in the country according to the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Preseason Poll, announced Tuesday.

The No. 2 ranking matches Oklahoma's highest preseason ranking in school history, as OU also started the 2001 season as the second-ranked team in the country. It's the 12th time under head coach Patty Gasso that the Sooners have started the year in the top 10 and the sixth time the team has started in the top five.

The Sooners, who finished with a 54-10 record overall and  19-5 mark in the Big 12 a year ago, earned five of the 31 possible first-place votes.

Oklahoma is one of only two programs to be ranked every week of the National Fastpitch Coaches' Association Coaches' poll. The Sooners entered the rankings at No. 16 in the first poll on January 24, 1995 and have not dropped out since - 258 straight weeks.

Defending national champion Alabama captured 21 of the 31 first-place votes to grab the No. 1 ranking. California, which received one first-place vote, is ranked third, while Arizona State and Oregon round out the top five.

The Sooners are one of four Big 12 teams represented in the poll. Texas sits at No. 7, while Baylor is No. 24 and Texas Tech is receiving votes.

All told, 16 of the Sooners' opponents find themselves in the preseason Top 25, led by No. 5 Oregon. In addition to the Ducks, OU is also scheduled to face Georgia (9), Louisiana Lafayette (11), Arizona (13), Washington (16), Louisville (18), Stanford (21) and Florida State (25).

Fellow opponents Houston, Kentucky, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Oregon State are all receiving votes.

Oklahoma returns 13 letterwinners from the 2012 squad, including USA Softball Player of the Year and All-American senior Keilani Ricketts. Fellow senior Jessica Shults and sophomore Lauren Chamberlain also return from All-American seasons.

In addition, the Sooners boast an incoming freshman class with seven players, all of which hail from the state of Oklahoma.

The 2013 season begins on Friday, Feb. 8, against No. 21 Stanford at the Kajikawa Classic in Phoenix, Ariz.

/// SoonerSports PR
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