2022 Power Five Softball Predictions
It's never too early to predict college softball regular season and tournament champions. The parity that has become apparent in college softball has been one of the biggest talking points in the sport in recent memory.
But, will it be the heavyweights that will reign at the top of their conferences once again in 2022? We will certainly find out. Before then, however, here are our predictions.
The most dominant program over the last decade in college softball has been Oklahoma, the 2021 NCAA champions. The Sooners, who have captured four of their five national championships in program history in the past 10 years, have appeared in the WCWS championship series six times and have won the Big 12 nine seasons in a row dating back to 2012.
It can be hard to picture a program dethroning Oklahoma, as seven of its eight starters from last year's historic offense will be back in Norman this season, including National Player of the Year Jocelyn Alo and National Freshman of the Year Tiare Jennings. During the offseason, Oklahoma also added Alyssa Brito, one of the biggest names in the transfer portal.
If there's one concern head coach Patty Gasso and staff may have it is the depth and experience the team will have in the circle. However, incoming freshman and National Gatorade Player of the Year Jordyn Bahl and sophomore Nicole May will look to solve that problem. In 2021, May recorded wins against rivals Texas and Oklahoma State and also pitched a complete game in game one of the Sooners' super regional win over Washington.
With the return of a prolific offense and the addition of Bahl, Oklahoma looks to be the heavy favorite to win both the conference's regular season and tournament in the spring.
Last season, Arkansas was the first SEC program outside of Alabama and Florida since 2007 to capture at least a share of the conference title. The Razorbacks look to be toward the top half of the conference once more with redshirt seniors Mary Haff and Danielle Gibson returning and the addition of transfer K.B. Sides from Alabama. However, the tale of Alabama and Florida being the dominant forces in the conference looks to live on for the 2022 season.
Alabama still possesses what may be the strongest pitching staff in the country, led by Montana Fouts and Lexi Kilfoyl. Fouts and Kilfoyl will also be accompanied by a top recruiting class this season and big-time transfer Ally Shipman from Tennessee.
We expect Alabama to win the regular season and to see Florida become the second program in SEC softball history to host the conference tournament and come out as the victors.
UCLA and Washington look to be the favorites in the Pac-12 in 2022. The coming year could make it three consecutive seasons that either the Bruins or the Huskies claim the Pac-12 title.
Both UCLA and Washington retain some of the most dominant pitchers in the country with redshirt junior Megan Faraimo and Olympian Gabbie Plain returning.
We expect UCLA to win the Pac-12 in 2022 due to quality returners like Faraimo, redshirt sophomore Maya Brady, redshirt senior Bri Perez and redshirt junior Kelli Godin.
Heads were certainly turned during the 2021 season when second-year program Clemson captured the ACC's regular-season title. The Tigers may very well make some noise for a second straight year, as six of their nine starters will return, including their biggest star in current redshirt sophomore Valerie Cagle.
Duke also made some serious noise as the upstart Cinderella story of the ACC Tournament, which the Blue Devils won for the first time in program history in 2021.
While Florida State did not perform as well as it typically does during last year's regular season, the Seminoles certainly made up for it in the postseason. They advanced to the WCWS championship series and came one win away from capturing the program's second national championship.
With redshirt junior Kathryn Sandercock and redshirt senior Danielle Watson leading the way in the circle in 2022, we expect Florida State to once again reign supreme in the ACC.
Michigan ran away with the Big Ten title in 2021, and the Wolverines have a strong case to three-peat as regular-season champions because of their pitching duo in rising senior Alex Storako and graduate student Meghan Beaubien. Along with Storako and Beaubien, head coach Carol Hutchins will have seven of eight position players return in 2022, highlighted by 2021 Big Ten Player of the Year Lexie Blair.
If there's going to be a team to give Michigan a scare in 2022, it will probably be Northwestern. Northwestern carries 2019 Freshman of the Year Danielle Williams, who is arguably the best pitcher in the conference outside of Storako and Beaubien.
While Northwestern will be tough in 2022, we expect Michigan to run away with the Big Ten's crowns next spring.