The 2013 softball season ended with Kentucky earning a school-record 41 wins, hosting an NCAA Regional for the first time in school history and a top-14 final ranking in both collegiate polls.
With aspirations of hosting an NCAA Super Regional and advancing to the Women's College World Series this year, Kentucky opens its 2014 campaign Thursday with five games over three days. The Cats take on Santa Clara at noon as part of the Mizuno Invitational in Long Beach, Calif. They will then play host Long Beach State at 2:30 p.m.
UK will travel to Cal State Fullerton for another doubleheader on Friday, taking on Loyola Marymount at 1:30 p.m. then second-ranked Oklahoma at 6:30 p.m. The Cats will end the weekend at noon on Saturday against George Washington back in Long Beach.
Kentucky begins 2014 with its highest pre-season rankings ever. UK is ranked 14th nationally in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and 12th in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll.
The Cats return 15 letterwinners from last year's team, including senior Lauren Cumbess and junior Griffin Joiner, each of whom started every game last season and have been voted team captains for the season.