Breaking down the 2024 college softball season: POY picks, storylines to watch and WCWS sleepers

Breaking down the 2024 college softball season: POY picks, storylines to watch and WCWS sleepers

طوبیٰ Tooba 4 months ago 0 3

The first half of the 2024 college softball season was full of excitement.

Oklahoma saw its 71-game winning streak come to an end at the beginning of the month. However, the team has since gotten back on track, winning 13 straight.

Also, as we gear up to say goodbye to the Pac-12 conference, Stanford, Washington, UCLA, Cal, Oregon and Arizona are making sure to go out with a bang. These programs rank among the best in the nation in this week’s Softball Collegiate poll.

We asked our college softball experts which teams have impressed the most and which still have a lot to prove. They also made midseason player of the year picks, shared the storylines they will be watching as the season rolls on and named sleeper teams that could make a deep run in the Women’s College World Series.

Jump to:
Top teams | Most to prove
POY pick | Big storylines
WCWS sleepers

Breaking down the 2024 college softball season: POY picks, storylines to watch and WCWS sleepers

Which team has impressed you the most so far?

Jenny Dalton-Hill: LSU. A great team requires defense, pitching and run production that perform together. A championship team requires a team to overcompensate in one area when another isn’t clicking. The Tigers have been impressive, but the toughest part of their schedule is ahead of them. They have stumbled recently with losses to Ole Miss and Missouri in their past two weekends.

Amanda Scarborough: Oklahoma State. With ace Kelly Maxwell transferring to Oklahoma, new hitting and pitching coaches and essentially a new face at every defensive position, there were several question marks about this team. Despite being very young, this team competes. The Cowgirls are swinging the bat well, and returner Ivy Rosenberry has had a breakout year, adding depth to their staff.

Michele Smith: LSU. At the beginning of the season, I picked the Tigers to be one of my eight teams to make the WCWS. I believed they were going to be very good, and their start to the season was incredible. LSU is proving just how good it is and the potential the team possesses to make a deep run this year in the SEC and the NCAA postseason.

Madison Shipman: Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have wins over Louisiana, UCF, Clemson, Arkansas and Texas A&M. This is a program that seems to get better year after year. This season, Mississippi State is led offensively by Madisyn Kennedy, who has already hit 12 home runs. Pitchers Josey Marron and Aspen Wesley have done a nice job in the circle for the Bulldogs.

Which team has the most to prove as the season goes on?

Dalton-Hill: I was expecting a more dominant year for Clemson. With losses to five SEC schools and a loss in their first ACC series against NC State, a midweek loss to South Carolina, and another ACC loss to Virginia, the Tigers’ bats need to start getting hot. This is a team I had slated in the preseason to make it to the WCWS. While we are now at midseason, seeding is something you have to pay attention to. Knowing Clemson had to face No. 1 Oklahoma last season in the Super Regionals because of its No. 16 seed, now is the time to turn it on to take control of where it lands in the postseason.

Scarborough: Arizona. As one of the teams with the most history in our sport and coming off a year when they didn’t make the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats have something to prove, especially in the last year of the Pac-12. The month of March has been a challenge for them with a difficult nonconference schedule leading into Pac-12 play. This team has so much talent in its lineup from the top to bottom and has a chance to prove the rest of the season that it is not the same team from the first weeks of March.



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Smith: UCLA. This is a program with always-high expectations and sometimes unfairly so. The Bruins got off to a very slow start., but they seem to be figuring it out and righting the ship. I think if they can have a good Pac-12 season, we’ll see them competitive going into the postseason where they will need to forget last season when they lost two games at home and were bumped from the Los Angeles Regional.

Shipman: When I see this question, I think about a team that had a lot of expectations coming into the season. For me, that’s Georgia. This is a team that returned its top two pitchers with the most innings pitched last year in Madison Kerpics and Shelby Walters. They also added transfer lefty, Lilli Backes. There’s no shortage of offense in Georgia’s lineup between Jayda Kearney, Sara Mosley and Sydney Kuma. The Bulldogs are a team with tons of experience and high expectations in 2024.

Who is your Player of the Year pick as of now and why?

Dalton-Hill: I’m still a big fan of Clemson pitcher Valerie Cagle. Performing under pressure and expectations is so difficult. She isn’t putting up the numbers she had a year ago, but I think she is a strong candidate. It will take better plate discipline and emotional stamina while being a better leader for her team to help them rally behind her.

Scarborough: Stanford pitcher NiJaree Canady. The Cardinal have one of the hardest schedules in the nation, and she is given the ball in Stanford’s toughest matchups, yet she still has an ERA of 0.59. The most earned runs she has given up in a game this year is three! And that only happened once against Utah. She is special and incredibly dominant.

Smith: Texas’ Reese Atwood. She is such a good leader, hitter and catcher for the Longhorns. Atwood is fun to watch, super competitive and fiery. She is one tough hitter to retire with a nation-leading 52 RBIs.

Shipman: Oklahoma’s Tiare Jennings. She has moved over to shortstop for the Sooners this year, and she has been incredibly productive up at the plate. Jennings already has 41 RBIs on the season with an on-base plus slugging (OPS) over 1.400 and only six strikeouts. She consistently has quality at-bats to help the Sooners score runs.

What is the biggest storyline to watch over the rest of the season?

Dalton-Hill: Will the teams in the Pac-12 be able to rally and push more teams into the postseason? As of now, six of the nine are ranked in the top 25. It has been known as the ‘conference of champions,’ but this will be their final opportunity to reclaim that.

Scarborough: I still think it’s watching the final season of the Pac-12 unfold each week. Who will get to be the last Pac-12 regular-season champs? Will UCLA find a way? Will Stanford with Canady? Will it be Washington with Ruby Meylan? Will it be a sleeper who makes a run in April? So many unknowns as we watch this historic conference come to a close.

Smith: Oklahoma looks beatable this year. I think there are a couple of programs that will have ultra-competitive series with the Sooners, and that is a good thing for our sport. OU is good at learning as they go, so each loss, should those occur, will make the team stronger in the postseason as it tries to make history by winning four consecutive national championships in a row.

Shipman: Outside of OU’s possible four-peat and the last year of the Pac-12, I think the growing parity in our game continues to be a storyline. It seems like every weekend there is a major upset. Teams like Charlotte, FGCU, South Alabama and Cal State Fullerton are all teams with wins over top-25 teams. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. The game doesn’t know who’s “supposed” to win!

Which sleeper team (outside of the current top 10 rankings) do you think has the best chance to have a deep run in the WCWS?

Dalton-Hill: I never count No. 18 Florida State out. It always takes the Seminoles time in the beginning of a season to establish their offensive approach, and this year is no different. Their pitching staff is allowing too many runs at the moment, but this group and their coaches never panic, and they have the potential again to make a run.

Scarborough: It’s so hard to choose just one! But No. 12 Virginia Tech is an underestimated team. The Hokies are one of the best at home run-hitting (67 on the season) and scoring teams, and they have been building each of the last few years.

Smith: I believe that No. 16 Missouri, No. 14 Texas A&M and No. 21 Cal could all do damage in the postseason! They are teams to watch for sure!



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Shipman: There are a few teams that come to mind, but Texas A&M is my sleeper pick. Lefty pitcher, Emiley Kennedy, has looked really strong for the Aggies in the circle. Their offense can do damage with a good mix of power and speed.

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