Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball will start the 2017 season ranked No. 11 in both of the major national polls.
The Ragin’ Cajuns received the national ranking in the preseason editions of both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 polls which were unveiled on Tuesday.
Louisiana was preseason ranked in the USA Today/NFCA poll for the 14th straight season (2004-17). The Ragin’ Cajuns have now been ranked in every preseason version of the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, which debuted in 2006.
The Ragin’ Cajuns received 444 points in the NFCA poll and were just 22 points shy of the Top 10 (No. 10 Arizona, 466 points). In the USA Softball poll, the squad was a mere 11 points from the Top 10.
“It’s always an honor to be recognized by your peers as one of the best programs in the country,” Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball head coach Michael Lotief said. “In every preseason there are hopes, high expectations and predictions…we as a team have our own too.”
Louisiana has an active streak of 55 consecutive weeks ranked in the national polls dating back to April 2013 and has finished ranked in one of the national polls each of the past nine seasons (2008-16) and 24 times in the past 27 seasons (1990-2016).
The Ragin’ Cajuns have finished inside the Top 15 of the final polls each of the past five seasons (2012-16) – the second-longest period in program history trailing only eight straight seasons from 1990-97.
The Ragin’ Cajuns return two NFCA All-Americans (Aleah Craighton, Alex Stewart), five starters in the lineup and the entire pitching staff from last season’s squad which collected the program’s fifth consecutive NCAA Super Regionals appearance.
The core group of returnees include career .360-hitter Haley Hayden, home run threats Aleah Craighton and DJ Sanders, who both clubbed 18 home runs last season, and Kara Gremillion, who finished the 2016 season as one of the team’s hottest hitters (hit .457 in May).
2016 All-American and Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year Alex Stewart (29-6, 1.94 ERA) returns as the team’s lead pitcher. Also returning from the 2016 pitching staff are veterans Victoria Brown, Macey Smith and Kylee Jo Trahan, as well as sophomore Alison Deville and redshirt freshman Summer Ellyson.
Louisiana opens the 2017 season on Friday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. vs. DePaul in the 31st Annual Louisiana Classics at Lamson Park. It will mark the beginning of a season-opening 23-game homestand at Lamson Park that runs through March 7 and includes three tournaments, a Top 25 weekend series against No. 7 Alabama (Feb. 17-19) and a midweek doubleheader with No. 21 Baylor (March 7).
Season tickets remain on sale and can be purchased via phone at (337) 265-2357, online at RaginCajuns.com using Account Manager or by visiting the Cajundome Box Office in-person Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.