NORMAN, Okla. The University of Oklahoma softball team was picked to finish fourth by the Big 12 coaches in the annual preseason poll, which was released by the league office on Thursday. The Sooners received 55 total votes while Texas A&M was tabbed the league favorite with 76 total points.
Head coach Patty Gasso, the winningest coach in Big 12 history, returns four starters from last year’s Oklahoma squad that finished second in the conference standings last season. Headlining the Sooner lineup in 2006 are returning All-Americans Kristin Vesely, a senior, and junior Norrelle Dickson. Oklahoma has a tough task in replacing last year’s four-player senior class that combined for 11 All-Big 12, seven All-Midwest Region and four All-America honors during their careers.
The defending Big 12 champion Texas A&M Aggies sit at the top of the preseason poll with the return of sophomore pitcher Amanda Scarborough, the 2005 Big 12 Player and Freshman of the Year, and three other first-team All-Big 12 honorees.
The Texas Longhorns, who finished in third behind Oklahoma in 2005, fell just one vote shy of Texas A&M and were chosen second heading into the 2006 season. UT returns three-time Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Cat Osterman who led Texas to its fourth postseason Big 12 title last year. Following Texas was Baylor in the No. 3 spot.
Oklahoma was followed by Nebraska at No. 5, Missouri at No. 6 and Kansas at No. 7. Rounding out the final three were Texas Tech (No. 8), Oklahoma State (No. 9) and Iowa State (No. 10).
The conference poll was based on a vote by each of the 10 conference head coaches who were not allowed to cast a vote for their own team in the process.
Both national preseason softball polls will be released next week -- the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 on Tuesday and the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association rankings on Wednesday.
Oklahoma will kick off the 2006 season with its annual preseason banquet at the J.D. McCarty Center on Friday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets ($20) are still available for the ceremony that will begin at 6:30 p.m. For tickets please call Shelly Harmon at (405) 325-8361.
The Sooners will start the season against Washington in the UNLV Alexis Resort Kickoff Classic on Feb. 10 in Las Vegas, Nev. OU will host its home opener with a doubleheader against Central Arkansas on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
Big 12 Coaches Preseason Poll
Rank/School (First Place Votes)
Points 1. Texas A&M (4)
76 2. Texas (6)
75 3. Baylor
61 4. Oklahoma
55 5. Nebraska
49 6. Missouri
43 7. Kansas
32 8. Texas Tech
28 9. Oklahoma State
22 10. Iowa State