(Photo: ASU Athletics)
The Arizona State Sun Devils will enter the 2014 season as the No. 7 ranked team in the nation according to the USA Today/NFCA Preseason Top 25 rankings that were released today.
The Sun Devils are one of six Pac-12 teams that will the season in the Top 25 as they are joined by No. 4 Washington, No. 8 Oregon, No. 16 UCLA, No. 22 Stanford, and No. 24 California. Both Washington and Arizona State advanced to the Women’s College World Series last year as Arizona State lost its first two games and Washington lost to the eventual national champion, Oklahoma Sooners.
The Sun Devils look to win their first national title since 2011 and advance to the WCWS for the eighth time in nine years. They return all but one starter from last year including one of the best pitcher-catcher duos in the nation in Dallas Escobedo and Amber Freeman. Freeman was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year last year after a breakout campaign that helped her earn a spot on the USA Softball Women’s National Team. Freeman finished the season with a .361 average, 18 home runs and 61 RBIs. Escobedo was named an All-American for the second straight season after finishing the 2013 season with a 30-6 record and 325 strikeouts. She needs 27 wins to tie Katie Burkhart for the program’s career record.
Arizona State will have a new face in the dugout as Craig Nicholson takes over as head coach for Clint Myers, who took the head coaching job at Auburn. Nicholson comes over to Tempe after spending the last seven years at Ball State where he won five MAC titles and had a record of 241-162.
The Sun Devils open the season on Feb. 6 when they host Creighton at 5:00 MT as part of the Kajikawa Classic.
You can reach Julian Lopez on Twitter @juliansdayoff22 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org