Six Pac-12 softball teams ranked in NFCA preseason poll
SAN FRANCISCO - Six Pac-12 softball teams were ranked in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association's preseason poll, released today. Led by OREGON at No. 6, the Pac-12 also saw UCLA place in the top 10 at seventh. ARIZONA came in at No. 13, followed by WASHINGTON at No. 20, CALIFORNIA at No. 21 and ARIZONA STATE at No. 22. Additionally, Utah received votes in the polling.
The Pac-12 has the most impressive legacy in collegiate softball, with at least four league teams ranked in every preseason poll and at least five every year since 1997. The Pac-12 has claimed 23 of a possible 34 national titles, and all nine league teams have made an appearance in the Women's College World Series.
The 2016 Pac-12 softball season begins Thursday, Feb. 11, with all nine teams in action on Friday, Feb. 12. For more information, including a complete schedule, visit www.pac-12.com.
The Ducks collected 666 points for sixth place in the polling. Oregon returns two-time Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Cheridan Hawkins, a senior lefty who posted a 1.64 ERA and was a first team NFCA All-American in 2014 and 2015, as well as second team All-American infielder Jenna Lilley.
Senior Allexis Bennett returns for her senior campaign for UCLA after earning first team All-America honors in 2014 and 2015. The Bruins also return second team All-American Delaney Spaulding, a junior who led the league in slugging, runs and total bases last year.
The Wildcats welcome back All West Region honoree outfielder Kaityana Mauga for her junior season. Mauna earned third team NFCA All-America honors after totaling 26 home runs to lead the Pac-12 and rank third nationally. The ‘Cats additionally will lean on junior infielder Mo Mercado, a two-time NFCA All-Region performer.
Junior Ali Aguilar and senior Courtney Gano headlines the Washington core. Aguilar, an NFCA All-Pacific Region first teamer and All-Pac-12 first team honoree led the league with 23 doubles in 2015. Gano returns for her senior year after driving home a team-best 59 RBI on a .324 batting average last season.
California returns NFCA All-Region infielder Kylie Reed, as well as All-Pac-12 selections in sophomore utility player Jazmyn Jackson and Kobie Pettis. The entire Golden Bears’ pitching staff returns, including junior Katie Sutherland-Finch, who led the Bears in the circle with 34 starts in 41 appearances.
Arizona State returns Chelsea Goodacre for her junior season, the Sun Devils top overall returning offensive player. ASU also returns a pair of NCAA All-West Region third team honorees in pitcher Breanna Macha and catcher Sashel Palacios.
Utah, under the direction of reigning Pac-12 Coach of the Year Amy Hogue, received votes in the preseason poll. Following a 36-19 record and an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, the Utes will look to capitalize on that momentum with junior infielder Hannah Flippen and senior infielder Kristen Stewart.
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