Missouri softball voted No. 5 in preseason rankings

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | 5:54 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Missouri softball team will begin their final season in the Big 12 Conference ranked at No. 5 in the Softball Collegiate Top 25. This is the highest the Tigers, the defending Big 12 champions, have ever been ranked in the preseason.

The ranking comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that the Tigers were selected as the favorite to win the Big 12 in a poll of the conference's coaches.

Five other Big 12 teams were ranked in the Softball Top 25 including Oklahoma at No. 6 and Baylor, the team that eliminated Missouri from the College World Series last season, at No. 7.

The Tigers, led by two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year Ehren Earleywine, return 11 letterwinners from last year’s team including All-Big 12 selections Chelsea Thomas, junior outfielder Nicole Hudson, junior shortstop Jenna Marston and senior first baseman/outfielder Ashley Fleming. Thomas, a junior pitcher, and Fleming are also All-Americans.

Reigning national champion Arizona State received 19 of the 20 first-place votes in the Softball poll. Florida was the only other team to receive a first-place vote.

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