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Five Bold Predictions For The 2023 College Softball Season

clemson photo by clemson athletics.jpg
(Photo by Clemson Athletics)

The start of the 2023 Division I softball season is just days away. And after a 2022 Division I season that was definitely one to remember, we fully expect 2023 to be just as exciting. Last year, softball fans got to see new teams in the WCWS, and even nationally-ranked teams get upset in regionals and super regionals.

Every college softball campaign is different, since teams and players change from year to year. But this season, we have some bold predictions to offer college softball fans before the first pitch of the year is thrown.

See below for our five predictions about the 2023 Division I softball season.

Clemson advances to first WCWS

Clemson will play only its fourth season of college softball in 2023, and the Tigers hope to pick up right where they left off in 2022. The Tigers reached super regionals in 2022 with the help of ace Valerie Cagle, who returns to the circle this spring. Cagle led the pitching rotation with 16 wins and ended the season with a 1.92 ERA, while also being one of the team's top offensive performers. Millie Thompson is also coming off of a stellar year in the circle. Thompson led the ACC in both strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.11) and fewest walks allowed per seven innings (1.06). Head coach John Rittman welcomes back his top hitter McKenzie Clark as well. Now with multiple seasons under their belts and key leaders in their lineup returning, we believe the Tigers have a good shot at reaching Oklahoma City this June.

Chenise Delce becomes frontrunner for National Pitcher of the Year

Coming off an outstanding 2022 season, Chenise Delce is expected to continue her dominance in Arkansas’ pitching rotation. The 2022 SEC Pitcher of the Year was also named the SEC Tournament MVP and an All-American nearly one year ago. She had the second-most wins in SEC-play, while also holding opposing batters to a .207 average. Going into her redshirt senior season, Delce has firmly established herself in arguably the best conference in college softball. The Razorbacks won the SEC title in 2022 after a wild tournament with plenty of early upsets and reached super regionals, where they fell to eventual national runner-up Texas. Expect Arkansas to pick up right where it left off in 2022, and for Delce to have her name in talks for the National Pitcher of the Year award.

Northwestern returns to WCWS

Northwestern had a tremendous year in 2022 and made its long-awaited return to the Women's College World Series, surprising many people in the softball world. The 2023 season looks like it will be another promising one for head coach Kate Drohan and her team, with five seniors from last year taking an extra year of NCAA eligibility and returning for the Wildcats. Northwestern controlled the circle last year with Danielle Williams, the unanimous Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and a First-Team All-American. Also returning is Jordyn Rudd, our 2022 Defensive Player of the Year. With the Wildcats returning nearly all of their star power from last spring, they are set up to have another memorable season.

Michigan succeeds with new head coach

It's the first time in nearly four decades that Carol Hutchins won't be leading the way for Michigan during a college softball season. The NCAA all-time wins leader is now retired and Bonnie Tholl is the leader of the Wolverines after many years coaching alongside Hutchins.

Michigan finished the 2022 season with a 38-18 record and was knocked out by UCF in the Orlando Regional. The Wolverines return two of their top hitters from last season: Lexie Blair and Audrey LeClair. Blair is a former Big Ten Player of the Year and LeClair was an All–Big Ten selection last year. We expect Michigan to stay in contention for the Big Ten title with a new look and coach in 2023.

Virginia Tech captures ACC title

The ACC has become one of the most competitive softball conferences in the country, with multiple teams making deep runs in the NCAA Tournament in recent years. Virginia Tech captured its second regular-season ACC title in four years and hosted its first super regional in school history before being knocked out by Florida last spring. Despite losing ACC Pitcher of the Year and All-American Keely Rochard to graduation, the Hokies still return the 2022 ACC Freshman of the Year, pitcher Emma Lemley. Head coach Pete D’Amour will still have elite arms in his rotation on top of a stellar offense. It won’t be an easy road, but we expect the Hokies to have great success in 2023.

valerie cagle photo by clemson athletics.jpg

2023 NCAA Player Of The Year: Clemson's Valerie Cagle

Clemson's Valerie Cagle is Softball America's NCAA Player of the Year for the 2023 college softball season.

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