AUSTIN, Texas —The Texas softball team received three first-place votes and was picked to finished second in the Big 12 in 2021 in a vote of the conference’s coaches.
Texas, which finished the abbreviated 2020 season ranked with a 24-3 record and ranked atop the final Softball America polland No. 3 in the final ncaa.com ranking, was edged out for the top spot in the preseason Big 12 poll by Oklahoma, which was predicted for the 12th time in the last 13 seasons to win the conference. The Sooners received 34 points and four first-place votes, edging the Longhorns by one overall point and one first-place vote.
The preseason poll was released five days after Texas pitcher Miranda Elish, last year’s NCAA Player of the Year, opted out of the 2021 season over concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic.
Oklahoma State (26 points) was picked third, followed by Baylor (21 points), Texas Tech (14 points), Iowa State (13 points) and Kansas (six points).
UT is a fixture in the top end of the conference’s preseason poll, earning a spot among the top three for 11 consecutive seasons. The Longhorns have won four regular-season titles (in 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2010), the second-highest total among the seven Big 12 schools that field softball programs; Texas never was picked by conference coaches in any of the seasons in which it ended up claiming the regular-season crown.
UT welcomes back 15 letter-winners from last year’s team, including 2020 Softball America Shortened Season All-America second baseman junior Janae Jefferson (.554 avg., 41 hits, six doubles, 10 stolen bases), sophomore pitcher Shea O'Leary (6-0, 1.97 earned run average, four complete games, three solo shutouts, 33 strikeouts) and junior catcher/infielder Mary Iakopo(.361 avg., 10 extra-base hits, 25 runs batted in), senior outfielder Kaitlyn Washington (.457 avg., seven extra-base hits, 11 RBI) and junior utility player Lauren Burke (.453 avg., 12 doubles, four home runs, 20 RBI). The Horns also added eight players, including six freshmen and a pair of transfers: pitcher Molly Jacobsen (Ole Miss) and former Texas Tech utility player Brianna Cantu.
2021 Big 12 Softball Preseason Poll
1. Oklahoma (34, four first-place votes)
2. Texas (33, three first-place votes)
3. Oklahoma State (26)
4. Baylor (21)
5. Texas Tech (14)
6. Iowa State (13)
7. Kansas (6)