COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Head Coach Jo Evans will call the Texas A&M softball team to its first practice of the regular season Monday at 1:30 p.m.
"Our players and staff are excited to get back on the field," Evans said. "We have had a long layoff and it will feel great to work out as a team again. We only have three-and-a-half weeks before we open the season, so we will be working hard to hit the ground running. We were fortunate to have a new playing surface installed that is the same soil the majority of the SEC teams use, so it will be a different look and feel, but it will be a positive change."
The Aggies will begin the 2012 season where the 2011 season began and ended, in Tempe, Ariz. A&M will open the season at the Kajikawa Classic, facing BYU and Stanford in a Feb. 10 doubleheader.
The team will face one of its most challenging schedules this season. Of the Aggies' 31 opponents in 2012, 19 were NCAA Tournament contenders last season: 13 finished in the NFCA national top 25 poll, 11 finished in the top 20 and 7 finished in the top 10. The Super Regional round was the final stop for four of the Aggies' 2012 opponents last season and six, including national runner-up Florida, played all the way to the Women's College World Series (WCWS).
A&M will play 56 games throughout the regular season, with 27 in front of a home crowd at the Aggie Softball Complex. The Aggies will also host three tournaments this season, beginning with the Aggie Classic on Feb. 17-19. The Texas A&M Invitational (March 2-4) and the Aggie Invitational (March 8-11) will take place on consecutive weekends.
In their final Big 12 season, the Aggies will host No. 6 Missouri, No. 7 Oklahoma and Kansas in three-game conference home stands. A&M will also host No. 4 Baylor in two-of-three games and No. 20 Texas in one game.
After graduating five seniors in 2011, the Aggies return 14 letterwinners to the diamond, including eight of last season's starting lineup. Both of A&M's starting pitchers - 2011 All-American Mel Dumezich and Lindsey Sisk - will return to the circle and are joined by freshman hurlers Lauren Ainsley, Kayla Klein and Sara Mireles. The Aggies have also added a freshman outfielder in Brittany Clopton and a freshman utility player in Lauren Tamayo. Georgetown transfer, sophomore Jenna Stark, also graces the 2012 roster.
Two-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and senior Natalie Villarreal will fill her second-base position for a final season, while All-College Station Regional selections Amber Garza, Meagan May and Dumezich will return to play for the Aggies.
The Aggies hosted and swept the 2011 NCAA College Station Regional before traveling to Tempe for the program's fourth-ever NCAA Super Regional appearance. A&M fell in two games to host school and eventual national champion Arizona State, ending the season with a 44-15 record - the team's seventh 40-win season with Evans at the helm.
The Aggies finished the season with a No. 14 NFCA national ranking. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com.