TEMPE – The Arizona State University softball team will begin the 2014 season ranked No. 7 in the nation following the release of the USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Top 25 rankings on Tuesday.
ASU is coming off a 2013 campaign that saw the Sun Devils finish 50-12 overall and second in the Pac-12 Conference. Last year’s squad advanced to its third straight WCWS appearance and the 11th WCWS showing in program history.
The Sun Devils have advanced to the WCWS is seven of the last eight season, winning two national championship in that span (2008 and 2011). No other Division I program has advanced to more than five WCWS appearances in that time.
Last season’s national runner-up will start the 2014 campaign at No. 1 as the Tennessee Lady Vols (52-12) received seven first-place votes and totaled 729 points to hold down the top spot. Oklahoma, Washington, Florida, Michigan and Alabama take up the remaining spots ahead of the Sun Devils.
Six Pac-12 institutions are ranked in the preseason Top 25 with No. 8 Oregon, No. 16 UCLA, No. 22 Stanford and No. 24 Cal joining ASU and UW. ASU is scheduled to take on No. 2 Oklahoma on Friday, Feb. 14 at 6 p.m. MT as part of the Littlewood Classic.
In June, the Sun Devils named Craig Nicholson as the program’s newest head coach. Nicholson, the head coach at Ball State for the past seven seasons, amassed a 241-162 record with the Cardinals and five MAC Titles and holds a 964-252 career record. Nicholson replaces Clint Myers, who accepted a similar position at Auburn on June 14. On top of coaching at Ball State, Nicholson was the associate head coach for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) in 2008 and helped the team to a NPF title.
Among the returnees are three All-Americans, including the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year and First Team All-American catcher Amber Freeman. Freeman will catch for two-time All-American Dallas Escobedo, who enters her senior season on pace to make a long-standing impression in the record books and is just 27 wins shy (91) of the all-time program record held by Katie Burkhart (118).
Behind Escobedo is a whole cast of characters that will look to help the program to a third World Series title in the past decade, including 2013 Second Team All-American shortstop Cheyenne Coyle. Coyle matched the ASU school record with 20 home runs last season and is a key part of a supporting cast that includes 2012 All-American outfielder Alix Johnson and five other returning Pac-12 All-Conference players this season.
The 2014 schedule features 39 scheduled home contests at Farrington Stadium, including matchups against the defending WCWS Champions, Oklahoma, on Feb. 14. The home Pac-12 schedule includes series against Stanford, Arizona, Utah and UCLA. Last season, ASU fans enjoyed 43 home games and only three home losses as the Sun Devils historically enjoy an immense home field advantage.
ASU’s home heavy 2014 schedule provides a great opportunity for fans to experience the new-look Farrington Stadium, now complete with solar panels that continue ASU’s trend toward becoming one the nation’s greenest campuses while also providing fans with a penumbra that will come in handy during the latter months of the season.
The ASU season gets underway at home against Creighton on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 5 p.m. MT as part of the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. Season tickets, mini packs, group tickets, tournament day and session passes and non-conference single game tickets are now on sale through the Sun Devil Ticket Office. Single game tickets for conference games will go on sale on Feb. 20. For more information on tickets, contact the Ticket Office at 480-727-0000 or visiting this link.