Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Razorbacks open season in softball coaches' poll
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas will open the 2021 season ranked No. 18 by softball coaches.
The Razorbacks are among nine SEC teams ranked in the NFCA Coaches' Poll that was released Tuesday. It is the third consecutive season Arkansas has been ranked in the preseason poll.
Last season Arkansas was ranked No. 24 in the preseason and rose to No. 19 by the time the season was suspended in March. Arkansas was 19-6 overall and 1-2 in SEC play at the time of last season's suspension.
The Razorbacks return all but one player — starting center fielder Sydney Parr — from last season's team, including All-SEC pitchers Mary Haff and Autumn Storms. Other notable returning players are outfielder Hannah McEwen, who had a team-best .418 batting average last season; shortstop Braxton Burnside, who batted .392 with 5 home runs and 20 RBI; and catcher Kayla Green, who batted .375 and earned an SEC player of the week award.
In addition to Arkansas, SEC teams ranked in this year's preseason poll are: LSU (5), Florida (7), Alabama (8), Kentucky (13), Georgia (14), South Carolina (19), Mississippi State (20) and Missouri (23).
Arkansas' schedule includes three games against six ranked SEC teams — at South Carolina, Georgia and LSU, and at home against Alabama, Mississippi State and Missouri. The Razorbacks are also scheduled to play a game against No. 11 Oklahoma State on opening weekend in Monroe, La.
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