NORMAN — Winner of the last six regular season Big 12 championships, Oklahoma softball is the pick to win the 2018 league race in a poll of conference head coaches released Thursday. Each of the other six head coaches slotted the Sooners in the top spot. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.
This marks the sixth straight year and ninth in the last 10 that OU has topped the Big 12's preseason poll. The Sooners received 36 points in this year's poll and were followed by Baylor, which received the other first-place vote, at 31 points, Texas (24 points), Oklahoma State (23 points), Kansas (12 points), Iowa State (11 points) and Texas Tech (10 points).
Oklahoma returns all nine of its 2017 All-Big 12 honorees from a squad that went 61-9 overall, 17-1 in the Big 12 and won its second straight national title. Returning first-team All-Big 12 selections are junior infielder Shay Knighten, senior pitcher Paige Lowary, sophomore utility player Nicole Mendes (unanimous pick) and senior pitcher Paige Parker. Returning second-team All-Big 12 honorees are junior outfielder Falepolima Aviu, junior infielder Caleigh Clifton, senior outfielder Nicole Pendley and junior infielder Sydney Romero. Mendes and pitcher Mariah Lopez were members of the 2017 Big 12 All-Freshman Team.
Knighten was named 2017 Big 12 Player of the Year, Parker was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Year for the third time, and Patty Gasso was named Big 12 Coach of the Year for the 10th time.
The Sooners, who won their final 11 games last year and 38 of their last 40, begin the 2018 season Feb. 9 when they take on Weber State (3:30 p.m. CT) and Grand Canyon (6:30 p.m. CT) in the GCU Kickoff Tournament in Phoenix. OU will also play Montana and University of the Pacific in the event, as well as Grand Canyon a second time.
OU's home opener will be Friday, March 2 against Missouri State.