After finishing the season ranked in the top five after earning the program’s fourth berth in the Women’s College World Series, the LSU softball team is ranked third in the preseason USA Today/NFCA and ESPN/USA softball polls.

The Tigers, who finished the year ranked fourth in both polls after going 52-14 overall and earning a third-place finish in Oklahoma City, returns 16 letter-winners and nine starters to the fold with the season a little more than two weeks away.

This is the 10th time the Tigers have been slotted in the preseason top 10 by the NFCA and the fifth time being selected by USA Softball.

The early ranking is the highest to start the year in program history, besting the 2002 ranking that had the Tigers fourth by the NFCA and seventh by USA Softball in 2007 and 2008.

LSU opens the season with the Tiger Classic beginning 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12, against Ohio State at Tiger Park.

In the NFCA poll, Florida earned 26 first-place votes to open the year at No. 1, while Michigan also earned two first-place votes and is just ahead of LSU at No. 2 with 755 points to the Tigers’ 711.

Southeastern Conference members Auburn and Alabama sit in fourth place and fifth place with one first-place vote each.

In the other poll, LSU earned 446 points with two first-place votes as the Gators and Wolverines were also ranked first and second.

The top three teams were the only ones to receive first-place votes, as Oregon is the next highest without one in fourth, followed by Alabama in fifth place.

The same five teams ranked in the top 10 of the NFCA poll dot the USA Softball poll in Florida, LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee, with nine total SEC teams making the initial list.