Tide Softball No. 1 In Preseason Poll

Last season, Alabama's softball team won the national championship at the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. This week, the Amateur Softball Association of America and USA Softball, announced in Oklahoma City that the Crimson Tide of Coach Patrick Murphy is number one in the preseason poll from ESPN.com and USA Softball.

At last season's WCWS, Alabama had to overcome two rain delays and an early three-run deficit to Oklahoma to win the national championship, the first ever in softball by a Southeastern Conference team. Jackie Traina, a pitcher from Naples, Fla., who returns for her junior season this year, was Most Outstanding Player in the Crimson Tide victory. In this year's preseason poll, Bama received 13 of 20 first place votes. The other seven went to the Sooners.

Alabama leads four SEC teams in the preseason top 10 and six SEC teams in the top 25. Tennessee is fifth, Missouri seventh, Georgia eighth, LSU 12th, and Florida 15th. Kentucky and Mississippi State also received votes.

Six of the schools in the pre-season Top 8 participated in the 2012 WCWS with seventh ranked Missouri and eighth ranked Georgia being the exceptions. Missouri saw their season come to an end at the hands of now-No. 12 LSU, while Georgia fell to now-No. 5 Tennessee at the Knoxville Super Regional in 2012.

California starts the season at No. 3 with Arizona State, Oregon, Texas and South Florida claiming 4, 6, 9 and 10, respectively . No. 10 South Florida finished the 2012 season at No. 8 following their program's first WCWS appearance, while LSU, who ended the 2012 season at No. 6, comes in at No. 12 this week.

The Pacific 12 Conference (Pac-12) and SEC lead the way with seven teams ranked in the pre-season Top 25, while the Big 12 boasts four squads in the first poll. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Big East have two teams representing their conferences, while the Big 10 Conference, Big West Conference, Colonial Athletic Association and Sun Belt Conference each had one team among the Top 25.

Of the teams ranked in the pre-season poll, four squads had athletes on the 2012 USA Softball Women's National Team. Alabama is represented by Traina, Keilani Ricketts (San Jose, Calif.) and Jessica Shults (Valencia, Calif.) play for Oklahoma, Lauren Gibson (Pasadena, Md.) plays for Tennessee and Chelsea Thomas (Pleasantville, Iowa) plays for Missouri.

The ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll is in its 11th year. Starting Feb. 12, regular season polls will be released for 14 consecutive Tuesdays with the final poll of the season to be released on June 11 following the WCWS. The first of 14 USA Softball Collegiate Players of the Week will also be announced on Feb. 12 with a new player chosen each Tuesday of the regular season.

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