2023 Power Five Softball Predictions
With the college softball season inching closer by the day and fall practices now in full swing, anticipation for the 2023 campaign is building.
In 2022, we saw five seeded teams fall in their own regional at the Division I level and half of the teams hosting supers were upset. Will the upsets continue in 2023 or will the perennial powerhouses reign supreme?
Here’s who we think will be victorious in each of the Power Five conferences this coming season.
If you’re new to college softball, we’ll tell you why the Sooners will capture their 11th consecutive conference title in 2023.
Oklahoma is loaded. The Sooners have the deepest pitching staff in the country, returning Jordy Bahl (22-1, 1.09 ERA), Nicole May (15-1, 1.30 ERA) and now featuring former Michigan All-American Alex Storako (25-8, 1.71 ERA).
It’s impossible to replace NCAA home run queen Jocelyn Alo, but Patty Gasso owned the transfer portal this offseason to help fill the void. The Sooners added the 2022 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Cydney Sanders, 2022 All-Pac-12 selection Alynah Torres and former Texas A&M slugger Haley Lee. Those three players combined for 52 home runs last season.
Oklahoma brings back Team USA members Kinzie Hansen, Tiare Jennings and Grace Lyons along with Jayda Coleman and Rylie Boone, who each batted over .400 last season.
UCLA looks to have the best battery in college softball entering the season with Megan Faraimo (24-5, 1.98 ERA) and Arizona transfer Sharlize Palacios. Faraimo and Palacios competed alongside each other while representing the United States this past summer.
Last season, Palacios tallied 64 RBIs, mashed 20 home runs and carried a .326 batting average.
Palacios isn’t the only impact transfer the Bruins recruited over the summer, as former Arizona Wildcat Janelle Meoño and former Oregon Duck Brooke Yanez return home to Southern California.
Meoño is one of the top leadoff hitters in the country, being named the Pac-12 batting champion in 2021. With the addition of Meoño, the Bruins now have three Pac-12 batting champions in their lineup—Aaliyah Jordan in 2018 and Kelli Godin in 2019.
Yanez looks to return to prominent form after missing last season due to injury, and doing so will allow head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez to have two All-American pitchers on staff.
If Yanez and Faraimo aren't enough in the circle, UCLA brings in one of the top freshmen pitchers in the country and No. 6 overall recruit Taylor Tinsley.
On top of Tinsley, the Bruins bring in Jordan Woolery and Megan Grant, who are both top 20 recruits in the 2022 class.
Aside from Jordan and Godin, the UCLA lineup returns proven contributors Maya Brady, Savannah Pola and Alyssa Garcia.
The 2023 season looks to be another historic season in the making for Northwestern because of its returning talent, including five super seniors.
The biggest returner for the Wildcats is no other than Danielle Williams (31-8, 1.55 ERA). In 2022, the southpaw propelled Northwestern to its first Women’s College World Series appearance since 2007. While doing so, she earned herself the unanimous Big Ten Pitcher of the Year accolade and was named an All-American.
The other super seniors include SA's 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Jordyn Rudd, Nikki Cuchran, Skyler Shellmyer and Maeve Nelson. Grace Nieto will also bring WCWS experience to the lineup after starting as a freshman last season.
2023 NCAA Division I Preseason All-Americans
SA's 2023 NCAA Preseason All-Americans include the most elite Division I softball players at the start of the season.
In 2022, Virginia Tech claimed its third ACC regular-season title behind the arm of ACC Pitcher of the Year and All-American Keely Rochard. Despite Rochard’s departure due to graduation, the Hokies are still top contenders for the ACC title in 2023. Head coach Pete D’Amour still has an elite arm returning to the circle in Emma Lemley, the 2022 ACC Freshman of the Year. The offense returns its five highest batting averages, who all hit over .320, including Emma Ritter, Meredith Slaw, Cameron Fagan, Morgan Overaitis and Bre Peck. Peck led the Hokies last year with 11 home runs and Slaw recorded a team high 41 RBIs.
While Virginia Tech looks to go back-to-back, they’ll have to best a Florida State team with a chip on its shoulder after failing to make super regionals as the No. 2 national seed in 2022.
Despite the return of Lemley, Virginia Tech will have to battle it out in a very competitive conference to repeat in 2023.
The SEC has had the most parity within the Power Five in recent years. And what makes the SEC title race so difficult to predict is that while each title contender returns key pieces, they also each have big questions to answer.
Take Alabama, for instance. The Crimson Tide return Montana Fouts (24-8, 2.10 ERA) for her final year of eligibility in 2023. The offense also returns its two batting average leaders from last year, Ally Shipman (.350) and Ashley Prange (.333), as well as team home run leader Bailey Dowling (10). But who will pitch behind Fouts with Lexi Kilfoyl having transferred to Oklahoma State?
Additionally, Arkansas will have last year’s SEC Pitcher of the Year Chenise Delce back in Fayetteville this spring. Big bopper Hannah Gammill returns (.374 batting average, 18 home runs and 51 RBIs) as well. The Razorbacks also picked up two key transfers in 2022 in Kristina Foreman and Cylie Halvorson.
Florida also returns a hefty lineup. The Gators feature Team USA member Charla Echols, All-American Skylar Wallace, team batting average leader from a season ago Kendra Falby (.398) and Regan Walsh, who tallied 50 RBIs as a freshman last year.
Although each team has big questions to answer entering the 2023 season, we see Alabama peaking at the right time led by the experienced and proven Fouts.