Ranking the best NCAA softball players
We already know there will be a new player of the year in college softball, even if her reign will be shorter than typical.
Instead of a third straight season as the top player in college football, UCLA’s Rachel Garcia is competing for Team USA this year. Bubba Nickles of UCLA and Dejah Mulipola of Arizona have joined her, putting their college careers on hold for the upcoming season. When you factor in the normal matriculation of last year’s seniors, including Taran Alvelo, Kelly Barnhill, and Sydney Romero, you have a recipe for a spring of change.
Not that there aren’t any big names in collegiate softball. The top players in college softball are ready to go, whether they’re pursuing home run records, returning from redshirt seasons, or prepping for Olympic experiences with teams hoping to deny Team USA from winning gold.
When Danielle Lawrie led the Huskies to national championship victory a decade ago, she did so with an Olympic pitcher and a foreign passport. Plain will now strive to win an NCAA championship before guiding Australia to Tokyo in reverse order. Plain takes over the No. 1 spot while Garcia is out training with Team USA. Although she isn’t the two-way danger Garcia is (few players are), the 6-foot Australian and UCLA’s ace had nearly identical pitching numbers last season. Plain, who is only a junior, has already pitched in the Women’s College World Series for roughly 35 innings. She’s prepared for everything that the year 2020 has to offer.
Bates is one of the most entertaining players to watch in recent memory. She appears to be having as much fun with the game as anyone in recent memory. But forget about the viral highlights and charisma. She’s also as good as anyone who has come through the pipeline in recent years as an all-around shortstop. She had the seventh best on-base percentage in the Pac-12 and was one of only five players in the conference with double-digit steals with a.460 on-base percentage. Even if mistakes and assists are pathetically insufficient defensive measurements, when a shortstop racks up 111 assists while committing only two errors, they tell something.
With 29 home runs in 2019, Jessie Harper leads all Division I softball players and could break Lauren Chamberlain’s NCAA record this season. Athletics at the University of Arizona
She has 66 career home runs, which is 11 more than any other Division I player. But it’s who she’s after that might be one of the season’s biggest stories. Harper is 29 home runs behind Lauren Chamberlain, the NCAA’s all-time home run leader. And that’s the same number of home runs she hit for the Wildcats last season. Passing Katiyana Mauga for the Arizona and Pac-12 records would be a nice consolation prize; she needs 27 home runs to accomplish it. Her power alone would put her in the top ten, but her ability to hit home runs while simultaneously playing a solid shortstop makes her even more astounding.
Juarez’s first season in Oklahoma didn’t finish the way she or the Sooners had hoped in the final set versus UCLA, but she delivered as promised. She went 28-4 with a 1.39 ERA last season after going 26-6 with a 1.22 ERA as a sophomore at Arizona State. Few pitchers can match that, and no one in the strikeout department can match her. She’s the only pitcher in a major conference with at least 100 innings pitched and at least 10 hitters struck out every seven innings. Despite Mariah Lopez’s departure to Arizona, Oklahoma’s depth should prevent Juarez from pitching more than 200 innings
Alyson Habetz, Alabama’s associate coach and first base coach, was about the only person in Tuscaloosa who saw more first base last season than Hemphill. Hemphill made pitchers’ lives difficult, whether jogging past the base after one of her 26 home runs or staying around there thanks to a.524 on-base percentage. The home runs tied the SEC single-season record and set an Alabama single-season record, which is no minor feat when Kelly Kretschman is alum. She was also at her best when it counted, hitting 13-for-28 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in Alabama’s final ten games, which included games against Arizona, Arizona State, Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas.