The National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s preseason poll was released Tuesday, and Texas’ spring schedule is loaded with ranked teams.
Defending national champion Oklahoma, coming off a 57-8 season, took the top spot. The Sooners and Longhorns have a three-game series slated for April 7-9 at McCombs Field. Baylor also represented the Big 12 in the poll, coming in at No. 21. The Bears (45-14) close the regular season against Texas with a game on May 5 in Waco and two more in Austin May 6-7.
Both Baylor and Oklahoma have been ranked in each of the last five polls. Oklahoma State and Texas also received votes, but failed to crack the top 25.
In all, the Longhorns (38-16) will play nine ranked teams, including eighth-ranked UCLA (March 12 in Los Angeles); No. 10 Arizona (March 3-5 in Tucson, Ariz.); No. 13 Washington, No. 15 Tennessee, No. 17 Missouri and No. 22 Notre Dame at the Mary Nutter Classic in California Feb. 23-26; and two games against No. 16 Minnesota in the season-opening Texas Classic on Feb. 10-12 at McCombs Field..
There also are games against three teams that received votes in the poll — South Carolina, Arizona State and Cal State-Fullerton.
And we should know a lot about how good this Texas team is when Randi Rupp and Texas State visit McCombs Field on March 1.
In case you were wondering, Texas hasn’t been ranked in the preseason poll since 2013, when the Longhorns were No. 3.
Let’s play in some dirt.
Double plays: The poll tells a story about where the power lies among conferences — the South.
The SEC had the most teams in the preseason top 25 with nine, including four in the top 10 (No. 2 Auburn, Florida and LSU tied at No. 4 and No. 7 Alabama). Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas A&M and Kentucky all were ranked in the top 20.
The Pac 12 had the second most teams ranked, with three in the top 10 (No. 8 UCLA, No. 9 Oregon and No. 10 Arizona). Washington and Utah also represented the conference in the top 20.
The Big 12, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference each had two teams ranked, but only the Big Ten had both crack the top 20 (No. 6 Michigan and No. 16 Minnesota).
Conferences also represented in the poll were Conference USA (No. 23 Florida Atlantic), Sun Belt (No. 11 Louisiana Lafayette), Colonial Athletic Association (No. 14 James Madison), Mountain West (No. 24 Fresno State) and American Athletic Conference (No. 25 South Florida).
First pitch: Ever wondered what it looked like inside the Texas locker room? Fans have a chance to tour the facilities, discuss situational plays and behind-the-scenes information with coach Connie Clark and meet the team on Saturday at McCombs Field. The annual “First Pitch” event will begin at 2:45 p.m. and end with an autograph session at 3:50 p.m.
Free parking is available in lots 109, 110, 113, 114, 115 and 119. Admission is free. Free snacks and drinks will be provided.
Extra bases: Texas Charge general manager Scott Smith is putting together a roster filled with former Longhorns, but a familiar Central Texas high school star also will be joining the team in San Marcos.
Former Pflugerville standout Haley Outon was acquired last week by the Charge, who will play their home games at Texas State’s Bobcat Stadium this summer. Outon was playing for the Akron Racers and became a free agent after the 2016 season.
Outon, who played college softball at Houston, joins Texas exes Mandy Ogle, Nadia Taylor, Lindsey Stephens and Bre’jae Washington on the roster. Outon and Ogle (from New Braunfels Canyon) both played high school softball in Central Texas.
The Charge could add more Longhorns in the upcoming National Pro Fastpitch college draft; they have the fifth and sixth picks.
Know your Longhorns: Each week we’ll take a look at a player or coach on the Texas roster. This week it’s first-year assistant coach Tripp MacKay.
He replaces Corrie Hill, who spent 11 years overseeing Texas’ offense.
MacKay, who served as the director of player development for Scrap Yard Sports in Houston in 2016, spent eight seasons as an assistant coach at Oklahoma, where he coached the NCAA’s all-time home run leader Lauren Chamberlain, who had 95 in her career. Other notable players coached by MacKay include two-time USA Softball national collegiate player of the year Kellani Rickets and All-American Shelby Pendley.
MacKay was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1996 and spent the majority of his playing career in the minor leagues.
In 2013, MacKay’s offense at Oklahoma was one of the best in the nation en route to the Sooners’ national championship. Oklahoma led the country in runs scored per game (7.8) and slugging percentage (.582) while ranked in the top 10 in batting average (.333), home runs per game (1.54) and doubles per game (1.57).
Trivia: Last week, we asked who were the two current players to wear jersey numbers that no UT softball player has worn before and what are their numbers. The answer: Paige von Sprecken, who wears No. 77, and Kelli Hanzel, who wears No. 30.
This week’s question involves the NFCA preseason poll: Who was the only other Big 12 team outside of Baylor and Oklahoma to be ranked in the NFCA preseason top 25 in the last five years? For bonus points, what was the year and ranking?
(Hint: The answer is in this blog.) If you still can’t figure it out, check back next week for the answer.
As always, swing for the fences.
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