Five Pac-12 softball teams ranked in NFCA preseason poll
Five Pac-12 softball teams were ranked in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association's preseason poll released today. Led by OREGON at No. 2, the Pac-12 also saw UCLA place in the top 10 at seventh. WASHINGTON came in at No. 11, while ARIZONA is 14th and ARIZONA STATE is 16th.
The Pac-12 has the most impressive legacy in collegiate softball, with at least one team in the top two in 14 of 16 preseason pollings dating back to the debut of the NFCA Preseason Poll in 1995. There have also been at least four league teams ranked in every preseason poll, with at least five every year since 1997. The Pac-12 has claimed 23 of a possible 33 national titles, and all nine league teams have made an appearance in the Women's College World Series.
The Ducks were a mere five points behind defending NCAA champion and No. 1-overall Florida, receiving eight first-place votes for 694 points. Oregon returns stellar pitcher Cheridan Hawkins, a junior lefty who posted a 1.66 ERA and was a first team NFCA All-American in 2014, as well as second team All-American outfielder Janie Takeda.
The Bruins landed the No. 1 recruting class for 2015 that will add to UCLA's already solid roster. Ally Carda, the 2014 Pac-12 Softball Player of the Year and a first team All-American, is back for her senior year after leading the league in on-base percentage and also recording a 1.90 ERA on the mound. Senior Stephany LaRosa also returns after earning first team All-America honors in 2014.
Senior Kylee Lahners headlines the Husky offense as she comes back for her final season at UW after receiving third team All-America honors last year. UW's senior class enters 2015 with a 121-51 record (.703) in their first three seasons at Washington, and includes second base player Kelli Suguro and pitcher Kasey Stanchek.
The Cats return a powerful offensive lineup that includes first team All-American Hallie Wilson, who led the league in runs scored last year with 73. She'll be joined by the 2014 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in sophomore Katiyana Mauga, as well as the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year in Kellie Fox. The trio, along with senior catcher Chelsea Goodacre, led the Pac-12 with the top four slugging percentages last year.
Arizona State has a standout senior class on defense, anchored by catcher Amber Freeman, first base player Bethany Kemp, third base player Haley Steele, and outfielder Elizabeth Caporuscio. Freeman was also one of ASU's top offensive performers in 2014, ranking sixth in the Pac-12 in hits as well as eighth in batting average.