5 Thoughts On Preseason Softball Poll
The 2018 college softball season is now less than two weeks away.
On Tuesday, to help get you ready, the preseason USA Today/NFCA Division I top 25 poll was released.
Now, granted, polls are fun, but they really mean nothing.
That being said, like most other, I have my own thoughts on the way the 32 coaches voting in the poll, including one from each conference, voted.
5 Thoughts On The Preseason College Softball Poll:
1)---Oklahoma Should Be #1: Can the Sooners three-peat? A better question would be; why wouldn't you pick them to do so? Last year was supposed to be a little bit of a "rebuilding year" for Oklahoma, and by their standards it was. They entered NCAA Regional play as only the #10-seed, and lost their first game to North Dakota St., before putting it all together, defeating Florida in the College World Series Championship Series, to win their second-straight national title. Oklahoma, who finished 61-9 a season ago, lost only one senior from that team, and return pitchers Paige Lowery and Paige Parker, the 2017 Big XII Player of the Year, along with Shay Knighten, one of many offensive weapons. This year's Oklahoma team may be better than that of last year, and that's scary.
2)---Florida Should Be #2: Again; why not? The Gators faced Oklahoma in the WCWS Championship Series last year, and combined, the two programs have won the last five national championships. Remember last year's epic 17-inning classic between Oklahoma and Florida? Florida, who went 58-10 last season, returns most of their roster, including Kelly Barnhill, the Player of the Year in 2017. The Gators are the favorites to win a loaded SEC, and a legitimate contender to win it all.
3)---Who Has The Best Chance Of Beating Oklahoma And/Or Florida?: If somebody other than Oklahoma or Florida doesn't win it al this year, who has the best chance? My guess would be Oregon. The Ducks went 54-8 last season, and qualified for the WCWS. They lost shortstop Nikki Udria, who hit a .394 last season, to go along with 10 home runs and 52 runs batted in. Big loss, without question. But they replace Udrina with Louisiana transfer DJ Sanders, one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball national player of the year award in 2017, after belting 29 homers and driving home 82 runs. The Ducks return their top three pitchers, and talented hitters to surround Sanders with. Look for them to make a return trip to Oklahoma City, and be a be the biggest threat to keep an Oklahoma/Florida rematch from taking place.
4)---Louisiana Is Right Where I Thought They'd Be: The Cajuns are #22 in the poll, and that's pretty much where I thought they would be. The program is one of the most respected in the nation, and has been to an NCAA Regional every year, with the exception of one, since 1989. Still, there are questions. They a new coaching staff, and lost the likes of Alex Stewart, DJ Sanders, and Aleah Craighton. Still, I think they're going to be really good. They're going to hit, and my guess is that at least one of the group of pitchers steps up. Texas St., who features pitcher Randi Rupp, is a big threat to the Cajuns, and a legitimate top 25 team (#26 in the poll). Still, with the likes of returnees like Kara Gremillion, Kelli Martinez, and Lexie Comeaux, along with promising newcomers like Alissa Dalton and Brittany Holland, UL should finish atop the Sun Belt Conference standings, yet again. Right now, I'd consider the Cajuns a regional team. But if some players step up, and some questions are answered, then they can certainly achieve even more.
5)---Tennessee Should Be Higher: The Volunteers are #12 in the poll, and quite frankly, I think that's too low. Tennessee went 48-12 last season, and returns their top two pitchers and 7 of their 9 offensive starters from a season ago. Florida, Texas A&M, LSU, and Alabama are all SEC schools ranked ahead of Tennessee, and yet the Vols went a combined 8-6 against those schools last season, and have most of their starters coming back. I think Tennessee is a top ten team.