Texas softball opens season at No. 6 national ranking

Nathan Han

With only nine days left until the softball season kicks off, Texas softball earned a No. 6 ranking in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association rankings. 

The No. 6 ranking is the highest preseason ranking for the Longhorns since being ranked at No. 4 in the 2006 preseason.

The Longhorns ended last season ranked No. 11 in head coach Mike White’s first year. And from that team, three All-American standouts are returning — senior pitcher Miranda Elish, junior second baseman Janae Jefferson and sophomore pitcher Shealyn O’Leary. 

Jefferson, along with junior catcher Mary Iakopo, earned 2020 Preseason Second-Team All-American honors. 

For the team as a whole, 11 players are returning for the Longhorns, who contributed 75% of the starts and 90% of the hits during last year’s 46-17 season. This record contributed to the Longhorns’ rise in the polls, along with their five freshmen and one transfer addition.

Texas will find out how formidable its returning team is at the end of February with back-to-back tests against No. 4 UCLA on Feb. 27 and No. 1 Washington on Feb. 28.

Texas was the second-highest ranked Big 12 team, preceded only by No. 3 Oklahoma. The next-highest ranked Big 12 team after Texas, No. 13 Oklahoma State, finished No. 6 last year.

Aside from getting back to the NCAA tournament, Texas’ primary goal will be capturing a conference championship. According to many other preseason polls, it’s not a far-fetched idea. Texas was slotted at No. 6 by Division 1 Softball, No. 7 by FloSoftball and No. 10 by Softball America.

Texas opens its 2020 season with a doubleheader on Feb. 6 against Wichita State and Maryland at the Red & Charline McCombs Field.