BATON ROUGE – The LSU softball team will begin the 2014 season ranked No. 17 in the national rankings as the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) released its Top 25 preseason poll on Tuesday.
LSU is slated to take the field 19 times against Top 25 competition during the 2014 campaign which includes 14 games versus seven teams that appeared in the 2013 NCAA Super Regional round and 2013 Women’s College World Series.
The Tigers are one of eight SEC programs ranked among the Top 25. LSU is joined by No. 1 Tennessee, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Alabama, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 12 Kentucky, No. 14 Missouri, and No. 23 Georgia.
Non-conference ranked opponents on LSU’s 2014 schedule include the defending national champion and No. 2 Oklahoma along with No. 3 Washington, No. 8 Oregon, No. 10 Texas, No. 20 South Alabama and No. 22 Stanford.
The Tigers also will square off with Hofstra, Long Beach State and Auburn who are listed among the receiving votes portion of the poll.
Andrews was an NFCA Third-Team All-American selection and All-SEC First-Team pick whereas Bell claimed All-SEC Second-Team, NFCA All-South Region First-Team and SEC Freshman of the Year honors.
Andrews turned in a team-leading .359 batting average with two homers and 32 RBIs from the leadoff spot. Her 71 hits were ninth on the SEC leaderboard, and LSU posted a 27-3 record when Andrews scored a run last season.
Bell compiled a .347 hitting clip, blasted a team-leading 12 home runs and drove home 50 RBIs. The homer and RBI marks were ranked third and eighth in program history for a single season.
Ashley Czechner heads into her senior season after she racked up 12-1 record in 2013. The South Carolina native defeated three Top 25 teams last season and amassed a career-high 15 strikeouts versus Central Connecticut State at the 2013 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional.
Jacee Blades, an All-SEC Second Team performer, completed her junior season with a .354 batting average and became the 32nd player in program history to over 100 career hits.
Simone Heyward came away with a .333 hitting ration and was successful in 16 of her 18 stolen base attempts. She scored the game-tying or game-winning run during all three games of LSU’s sweep over No. 4 Alabama.
The Tigers are 16 days away from 2014 opening night and playing host to No. 10 Texas. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 6 from Tiger Park. LSU welcomes Central Arkansas, Minnesota, Murray State, Oklahoma State and SIU-Edwardsville for the Tiger Classic. The three-day tournament runs from Feb. 7-9.
Season tickets can be purchased for $75 at www.LSUtix.net for a banner home schedule that features 15 games versus 2013 NCAA Tournament teams. LSU squares off with two more 2013 Women’s College World Series opponents in Florida (March 14-16) and national runner-up Tennessee (April 4-6) in addition to NCAA Tournament participants Georgia (April 11-13) and Mississippi State (May 2-4) for three-game SEC series at Tiger Park.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger softball, visit www.lsusports.net/softball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball along with @lsusoftball and @bethtorina on Twitter and @lsusb on Instagram.
USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll (Preseason 2014)
7. Arizona State
11. Texas A&M
15. Florida State
20. South Alabama
25. South Florida
Also receiving votes: Hawai'i (86), Arizona (45), Arkansas (28), Hofstra (27), Tulsa (23), Wisconsin (21), N.C. State (16), Auburn (10), Long Beach State (8), Notre Dame (8), Virginia Tech (8), Houston (6), BYU (5), Oregon State (3), North Carolina (2), Western Kentucky (1).