Alabama Softball Pre-Season No. 6

Alabama seemed to have national championship talent last season, but it didn't work out that way for the Crimson Tide softball team of Coach Patrick Murphy. Bama missed making it to the Women's College World Series in hopes of defending its 2012 title and was 10th in the final balloting.

The first National Fastpitch Coaches Association Poll of 2014 has been released by USA Today and Alabama is at number six. The top ten teams in the pre-season poll al finished last season in the top ten, although the order has changed. The Crimson Tide's four-spot jump from 10th to sixth was the largest.

Last season's runner-up Tennessee is the preseason favorite, earning 729 points. Defending national champion Oklahoma earned 17 first-place votes, the most of any team, but fell just short of the Lady Vols as the Sooners sit at the No. 2 spot. Washington, Florida, Michigan, Alabama, Arizona State, Oregon, Nebraska and Texas round out the rest of the top ten.

The SEC had the most teams of any conference in the rankings with eight selections including No. 1 Tennessee, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Alabama, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 12 Kentucky, No. 14 Missouri, No. 17 LSU and No. 23 Georgia.

Alabama's 2014 schedule includes seven teams on the list. Out-of-conference opponents include No. 15 Florida State, No. 20 South Alabama and No. 21 UAB. Of the eight ranked SEC opponents, Alabama will play conference series against No. 4 Florida, No. 14 Missouri, No. 17 LSU and No. 23 Georgia.

Alabama is one of only two teams in the nation that returns three NFCA All-Americans from last season, along with seventh-ranked Arizona State. The Tide welcomes back senior pitcher Jackie Traina, senior infielder Kaila Hunt and sophomore outfielder Haylie McCleney.

The Crimson Tide opens its season on Friday, Feb. 7 at the Troy Subway Invitational. There, Alabama will play five games over three days against Kennesaw State, North Florida, Northwestern State, Middle Tennessee State and Troy.

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