The USC Beaufort softball team holds the highest preseason ranking in its three-year history as the Sand Sharks were tabbed the No. 12 team in the nation in the NAIA Softball Coaches' Preseason Top 25 on Tuesday.
It's the second straight year the Sand Sharks have been ranked in the preseason poll after checking in at No. 21 a year ago. The Sand Sharks ended the 2013 campaign with a No. 11 ranking after going 43-6 and capturing the Sun Conference regular-season and tournament titles before falling one win short of the 10-team NAIA National Championship tournament.
Former assistant coach Laura Heberling took over the head coaching role in the offseason and added Danny Rubino, an experienced coach with an expertise as a hitting instructor and strong recruiting connections throughout the Southeast, to round out her staff.
USCB returns seven starting position players and a number of key reserves, as well as its top three pitchers. The Sand Sharks also added four freshmen who are expected to play key roles and compete for starting spots.
The Sand Sharks previously were picked to repeat as Sun Conference champions by the league's coaches.
USCB opens the season at home with a doubleheader against St. Andrews (N.C.) on Feb. 1. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.