It’s here! Softball season has arrived! And while it will be a good month or so — March 8 to be exact — before we can actually see the Tigers in person in CoMo, the Tigers are kicking things off at the NFCA Division 1 Leadoff Classic in the Sunshine State and taking on five teams in three days. Might as well jump right in, eh?
So as not to just repeat the same “How to Watch”, I’ll just mention it up top here. All of the games can be streamed for free on GameChanger. Per NFCA’s Instagram,
NFCA Official Sponsor GameChanger will be livestreaming every tournament game, and two fields will feature expanded coverage with announcers and additional camera angles. GameChanger will run video livestreams for all 40 contests (six fields), through their newly updated GameChanger app. Viewers can watch on their phone, tablet or via web browser for free. Tournament Central | Download GameChanger App
2022 RECORD: 38-22, 12-11 (7th in SEC)
PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 8th in SEC
RANKING: #23 (ESPN.com/USA Softball), #26 (NFCA), NR (D1 Softball), NR (Softball America)
- D1 Softball Top 80 Freshmen Names to Know: Cierra Harrison, P
- Jenna Laird: 2023 USA Softball Collegiate POY Watchlist, 2023 Preseason All-SEC, no. 14 on D1 Softball SEC Power Rankings, No. 8 SS in D1 Softball Top 100
- When we last saw our Tigers, the 15th-seeded team was defeated in Game 6 of the Columbia Regional, shut out by the Arizona Wildcats for two straight days. You can read my recap of the sad day here. And if you’re looking for the moments that defined Mizzou’s 2022 season, look no further than here!
- Graduate Departures: A LOT of production, including— First Team All-SEC Kim Wert, the All-Time HR leader | First Team All-SEC Brooke Wilmes, the all-time extra base hits and doubles leader | Gold Glove outfielder Casidy Chaumont | catcher Hatti Moore, the heart and soul of the team
- Additions: 5 freshmen from the state of Missouri and two transfers, from Texas Tech (Payton Jackson) and South Carolina (Maddie Gallagher), respectively. Of the freshmen, I’ll talk more about Harrison below, but both Katie Chester and Kayley Lenger could compete for playing time early after solid fall ball performances.
- Pitching: The pitching staff recorded its best ever ERA (2.81, including 1.00 ERA in the postseason), and brings back co-aces in Laurin ‘Specs’ Krings and Jordan Weber. Per 6-4-3 Charts, Jo held right-handed hitters to a .162 BA and .604 OPS and held all hitters to a .202 BA with runners in scoring position, while Krings held right-handed hitters to a .203 BAA and .650 OPS according to 6-4-3. She also had a 27.5% strikeout rate and 8% walk rate, and with runners in scoring position, had a 28.8% strikeout rate. Per Anderson, Specs put in a ton of work in the offseason and is displaying better body awareness.
- HCLA is carrying a A TON of pitchers on staff, the most in her career. Megan Schumacher also returns as a reliever and has looked “very fluid,” per reports.
- The most highly touted of the new pitchers (there are three) is Cierra Harrison, the 16th ranked prospect in the country, who was 20-7 with a 1.03 ERA with 369 strikeouts in 176.1 innings last season. From the D1 Softball Fall Report:
“She has the ‘It’ factor, meaning if you’ve ever seen that pitcher when the ball comes out of her hand and she is already walking off the field because she knows it’s a strikeout,” Anderson said… She reminds me a lot of Odicci Alexander. Granted, she is still a freshman. But when you see a kid walk off the field once the ball leaves her hand, it’s like ‘Dang. She knows.’”
- Offense: The Tigers hit 86 home runs last season, which ranks second all-time, but the focus this season is more to put the ball in play and not strike out as much as Mizzou struggled to score runs in SEC play.
- Defense: The Tigers had their second best all-time fielding percentage last season (.976) and have two of their infield positions locked up: Laird at SS and Daly at 3B. Otherwise, it’s up for grabs. Catcher could be any number of players, including JuCo All-American Addie Lange, who sat out last season, Megan Moll, or Julia Crenshaw. In the black and gold game last weekend, Crenshaw played SS, 2B and caught 3 innings, but Coach Anderson said to KTGR afterwards that she will likely start the season at 2B.
- Staff: Mizzou welcomes in new hitting coach Jeff Cottrill from Oklahoma State, after a tremendously successful tenure with the Cowgirls where he helped take them to three consecutive trips to the WCWS. In 2021, Oklahoma State finished in the top ten nationally in home runs (93, sixth), doubles (88, eighth), runs (356, eighth), hits (488, 10th) and slugging percentage (.556, 10th). In 2022, the Cowgirls again had six hitters bat over .300 while three batters finished with double-digit homers with one All-American performer.
- Since joining the SEC, the Tigers haven’t missed an NCAA tournament, and Coach Larissa Anderson has led the Tigers to back-to-back seasons of at least 38 wins for the first time since 2015-2016 (during EE’s tenure).
- On the competition: “It’s gonna show us exactly where we are right now in terms of practice and preparation and what we need to work on,” Anderson said. “You can take as many ground balls as you want inside on turf and you can face your own pitchers, but until you face another opponent you really don’t know where you’re at.”
WHEN: Friday 2/10 at 3pm
2022 RECORD: 47-22, 12-6 (3rd in Big XII)
RANKING: #9 (ESPN.com/USA Softball), #6 (NFCA), #14 (D1 Softball), #9 (Softball America),
PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 3rd in Big XII
Between April 2000 and February 2017, these two teams played 31 times. Texas is in the slight lead with 16 wins to MU’s 15. In their last match, on Feb 23, 2017, Texas won 10-3 at the Mary Nutter Classic.
The University of Texas softball program itself has a storied history, making six WCWS appearances, seven NCAA Super Regional trips, and 22 NCAA Regional appearances. UT has finished with a record of .500 or better for the last 18 years.
LIVE STATS: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/broadcast/?id=459109
2022 TOP PERFORMERS:
- D1 Softball Top 80 Freshmen Names to Know: Reese Atwood, C; Leighann Good, INF; Viviana Martinez, INF
- Mia Scott: D1 Softball Big 12 Power Rankings no. 8; no. 7 third baseman in D1 Softball Top 100; USA Softball 2023 Top 50 Watch List
- 2022 Big 12 All-Freshman Team honorees: Mia Scott, Sophia Simpson, Katie Cimusz
- All-Conference honors: Mia Scott (Preseason 2023, 2nd team 2022); Alyssa Washington (2nd Team 2022); Mac Morgan (3rd Team PAC-12 2022)
- 2022 NFCA Second Team All-Central Region honors: Mia Scott (2nd Team)
- When we last saw them, Texas beat 13-seed UW and 4-seed Arkansas en route to the WCWS. In the World Series, they eliminated both Arizona and Oklahoma State to get the national title game for the first time in program history. They became the first team in history to qualify for the championship series as an unseeded school. But will they be back? Per D1 Softball, “surprising” WCWS teams often struggle in the sequel, but the media guide says differently. In its five seasons following a WCWS appearance, the team is a combined 194-94.
- Per the media guide, Texas has a 26-0 record in season-opening games dating back to 1997. During that stretch, they’ve registered 17 shutouts and outscored their opponents, 173-13.
- DEPARTURES: Despite the departure of Hailey Dolcini, who was the B12 all-time hits leader, .407 hitter Janae Jefferson, and two-time All-Big First Team XII honoree Mary Iakopo, the Longhorns have enough talent to do some damage.
- ADDITIONS: Baylea Brandon (UTIL, LSU); Mac Morgan (P, ASU); Reese Atwood (C, 1B)— no. 1 catcher, no. 5 overall per Extra Inning Softball’s 2022 Extra Elite 100; Leighann Goode (SS/2B)— no. 17 overall, no. 3 INF in Extra Innings; Viviana Martinez (SS/2B) — no. 1 INF, no. 3 overall in Extra Innings. Morgan (AZ State) isn’t as polished as Dolcini — who is? — but has a lot of talent.
- NAMES TO WATCH: Courtney Day, 1B/DP, who was one of the powerhouses of the Longhorns’ lineup last year. She smashed three homers in consecutive games in Oklahoma City against Arizona and OK State (twice). Originally a pitcher in 2020 and 2021, she’s molded herself into a home run hitter. JJ Smith and Mia Scott had big moments in May despite just being freshmen last season, so keep an eye on their development.
- FUN FACT: RS-Fr. OF Ashton Mahoney is from Liberty, MO; Sr. OF Lou Gilbert is from Kansas City, MO
- STAFF: Per texassports.com, Mike White, after an 8-year stint building Oregon into a powerhouse, took over at Texas in 2018. He holds a 595-167-2 overall record and has led his teams to at least an NCAA Super Regional berth in all 12 possible chances during his career as a head coach (no 2020 NCAA Tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic). He needs only 5 wins to eclipse the 600 career wins mark.
WHEN: Friday, 2/10 at 5:30pm
2022 RECORD: 30-22, 15-7 in A-10
PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 1st in Atlantic 10
Mizzou and Fordham have only faced off twice in their history, in February 2014 and March 2015, and MU won both games. When they last faced on March 13, 2015, Mizzou won 7-5. Both matchups took place at neutral sites.
LIVE STATS: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/broadcast/?id=459110
2022 TOP PERFORMERS:
- All-Atlantic 10 Conference honorees: Bailey Enoch (First Team Defense, and A-10 Championship Most Outstanding Player); Allie Clark (All-Rookie Team); Sydney Wells (All-Rookie team); Devon Miller (2021 Rookie of the Year)
- When we saw the Rams, they had earned their 9th league title and their 10th NCAA Regional appearance. In the Stillwater Regional, they lost 5-3 to North Texas (an opponent Mizzou will see later in the season) in the elimination game after losing to Oklahoma State (we’ll see them later, too) in the opening round.
- They are projected to win the A10 conference for the second time in the last five years and have won the league title 9 times (2011, 2013-19, 2022).
- GRADUATED: .315 career hitter and all-times steals leader Brianna Pinto | power hitter Rachel Hubertus, who had 40 HR, .599 SLG% and 124 RBI in her career | pitcher Makenzie McGrath, who had a 22-12 record and 3.32 ERA in 231.2 IP.
- ADDITIONS: The Rams added five freshmen in the summer, including the 5’10 RHP Holly Beeman. Of Beeman, Coach Inouye said, “Holly has a lot of upside to her as a pitcher with her smooth mechanics and strong pitching frame. She is a solid addition to our pitching staff. She has a good presence about her, velocity, and a nice variety of pitches.”
- Watch for Bailey Enoch, who’s an excellent two-way player, excelling on both the mound and on the offensive end.
- STAFF: Melissa Inouye is in her fifth season at the helm of the Rams and the first of her contract extension. She has a 103-78 record at Fordham and a 215-251 record in her career, which spans 9 years. She was a former assistant under long-time head coach Bridget Orchard and has led Fordham to seven consecutive A-10 championships.
WHEN: Saturday, 2/11 at 3pm
2022 RECORD: 45-13, 19-4 in Big 10
RANKING: #8 (ESPN.com/USA Softball), #8 (NFCA), #7 (D1 Softball), #6 (Softball America),
PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 1st, Big Ten
2022 TOP PERFORMERS:
A more recent opponent of the Tigers, Mizzou and NW played just last March where NW won 9-6 in10 innings in whatever will ever be referred to as “The Blackout Game” and the longest day of this softball reporter’s life. MU and NW have met 5 times since 2007, and Mizzou has only managed to win one of those games.
- D1 Softball Preseason Big Ten player rankings: No. 1 Danielle Williams | No. 9 Jordyn Rudd | No. 17 Skyler Shellmyer
- D1 Softball Top 80 Freshmen to Watch: Bridget Donahey, INF
- 2022 Johnny Bench Award, Rawlings Gold Glove recipient, Softball America’s DPOY: Jordyn Rudd
- USA Softball Player of the Year Watch List: Jordyn Rudd, Danielle Williams
- All-Big Ten honorees: Rudd (1st Team), Williams (Pitcher of Year), Hannah Cady (1st Team), Nikki Cuchran (1st Team), Maeve Nelson (2nd Team), Shellmyer (2nd Team), Grace Nieto (Freshman team)
- Last season, Northwestern reached the WCWS for the first time since 2007 (and 6th overall), and while Rachel Lewis, the Cats’ home run leader, may be gone, there’s plenty of offensive firepower left for the Wildcats. 8 of their 9 starters from 2022 return, including their entire infield.
- Mizzou is one of 17 teams the Wildcats will face this season who made last year’s NCAA Tournament, including 5 who hosted a Regional, and 9 that finished the season ranked in the Top-25.
- ADDITIONS: The Wildcats are welcoming in a transfer in DePauw pitcher Cami Henry, who posted a 71-18 career record with 709 career strikeouts and a 1.71 ERA over 536 innings. They also added three freshmen in Bridget Donahey, Kelsey Nader and Kansas Robinson.
- PITCHING: Danielle Williams, the All-American, D1 Softball Preseason Pitcher of the Year and Pitching Triple Crown winner (ERA/K/Wins), is worth all the hype (clearly). Per D1 Softball’s Fall Report and in partnership with 6-4-3 Charts, Williams averaged 9.29 K per 7 innings. Her 32.1% strikeout rate is almost two times the average of all pitchers in Division I. By postseason’s end, she had amassed 31 wins, which was the second time in her career she’d gotten 30+. In the postseason, mind you, she went 5-0 and started each of their Wildcats’ games. She threw 26 complete games the entire season, including an 11-inning masterpiece in the NCAA Tournament. However, the Cats will need to lessen her innings load and will need the help of Sydney Supple, Lauren Boyd and Lauren Curry, who combined for 80.1 innings of work. Boyd, for what it’s worth, might have gotten more play, but an injury cut short her season a year ago.
- OFFENSE: Watch out for Angela Zedak, who had a great fall, hitting five home runs in six games. She’ll likely be in the outfield. Shellmyer, Cuchran and Nieto give the ‘Cats some of most proven “pop” in a lineup in the country. Cuchran is coming off a career-year, and is only 34 hits away from breaking into the top 10 in program history. Cady hit .382 in conference play, leading all Big Ten infielders.
- STAFF: Kate and Caryl Drohan have been with the program since the early 2000s, with Kate taking over at the helm in 2001. Caryl arrived in 2002 from Hofstra (Coach Anderson’s former school) and serves as the associate head coach. They’re also identical twins!
WHEN: Saturday, 2/11 at 5:30pm
2022 RECORD: 27-25, 10-14 (8th place, ACC)
PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 7th place
2022 TOP PERFORMERS:
It does not appear that these teams have ever met in competition, surprisingly.
In Louisville’s history, they’ve made 14 NCAA appearances (2004-16, 2021), and have won six conference championships (for 3 different conferences)
- Taylor Roby: NFCA All-Southeast Region Second Team (2022, 2021); Third Team All-ACC (2022); First Team All-ACC (2021)
- Korbe Otis: ACC All-Freshman Team (2022)
- Daisy Hess: NFCA All-South Region Third Team (2022)
- Sarah Gordon: Gatorade HS Softball Player of the Year, South Carolina
- Louisville found itself out of the NCAA Tournament last year, and despite wins over Arkansas and Clemson, they went 3-8 down the stretch and were left out. Louisville hasn’t made a Regional final appearance since 2019 and will attempt to get back in without the services of All-American OF Carmyn Greenwood (.400 BA, 54 R, 18 2B, 14HR, 52 RBI) and 2021 NFCA All-Region catcher Kendall Smith (.309 BA, 9 HR, 40 RBI) who graduated. They also lost Jenna Servi (.283 BA, 25 R), who is no longer in the sport.
- RETURNERS: OUCH! Louisville experienced its share of injuries last season, losing three starters to season-ending injuries. Makayla Hurst (.292 BA, 9 HR, 25 RBI) was sidelined for the entire 2022 season. Easton Lotus (.276 BA, 14 R) started 22 games at 2B last year before a season-ending ACL injury.
- ADDITIONS: Auburn transfer Paige Geraghty played in a mostly pinch runner role at Auburn in her two years (think like a Kendal Cook), but Georgia State transfer SS Daisy Hess can likely be counted on for extra bases due to her offensive capabilities and speed on the basepaths. Freshman Sarah Gordon will likely be the starting catcher after a good fall. Coach Aprile told D1 Softball she’s been very vocal, which is an excellent trait for a catcher to have.
- PITCHING: Two of the new freshmen are pitchers — Alyssa Zabala (RHP) and Cassie Grizzard (LHP) — and both got a lot of play in the fall to see how they could fit in the Cardinals’ rotation, but Louisville’s pitching prowess revolves around Roby. Per the D1 Softball Fall Report she pitched double the innings of anyone else. Gabby Holloway, who tore her bicep midway through last season, will also be back.
- WATCH FOR: Graduate student Taylor Roby, who’s both an accomplished hitter and pitcher.
- STAFF: Holly Aprile is entering her fifth season as UofL’s head coach and has amassed 93 wins in her tenure thus far (including the COVID season). She arrived in 2018 after spending 10 seasons at Pitt where she was the 2018 ACC Coach of the Year.
WHEN: Sunday, 2/12 at 11:30am
2022 RECORD: 20-30, 16-8 SWAC
PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 1st in Western Division, SWAC
PVAMU and Mizzou have faced off exactly one other time in their reported history, in a 9-0 win at a neutral site in February 2004.
2022 TOP PERFORMERS:
- 2023 SWAC Preseason All-Conference: OF Audrey Garcia (1st Team); C Biviana Figueroa (1st Team); 3B Jaylyn Davis (1st Team); P Cailin Massey (2nd Team)
- Biviana Figueroa: SWAC Hitter of the Year, Newcomer of the Year (2022)
- Audrey Garcia: SWAC First Team Outfielder (2022)
- 2022 SWAC All-Tournament Team: Jerrica Rojas; Cailin Massey; Biviana Figueroa (also MVP)
- When we last saw them, the Southwestern Athletic Conference champions went to Norman for the NCAA Tournament. They lost to eventual National Champion Oklahoma in the first game, and to Minnesota in the elimination game.
- After an 0-19 start to last season, they turned things around once conference play started. The Panthers eventually beat out Alabama State 9-1 in the SWAC championship finale to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.
- Head Coach Vernon Bland, a Chicago native, is in his 12th season at the helm of the HBCU, and is the program’s all-time winningest coach with 183 wins, to go with two SWAC Championships, and two SWAC Coach of the Year recipients. Covid wreaked havoc on his program in both 2020 (16 games) and 2021 (32 games), but in 2019 he led the team to a 30-17 record.