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Five Notable College Players Returning For Their Fifth Year

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(Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

During the 2021 college softball season, UCLA’s Rachel Garcia, Alabama’s Bailey Hemphill, Arizona’s Jessie Harper and Washington’s Sis Bates were among several fifth-year seniors who made a statement with their extra year of NCAA eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Garcia won the Honda Sports Award for a second time, Hemphill was named the SEC’s Player of the Year, Harper moved into second place all-time for career home runs and Bates won the Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Year award for a third time.

Below are five players who will look to follow in the footsteps of Garcia, Hemphill, Harper and Bates by dominating their opponents with their fifth year of eligibility during the upcoming 2022 college softball season.

Jocelyn Alo

Oklahoma

Alo was the best player in college softball in 2021, and she led the Sooners to a fifth national championship. She was also the nation’s home run leader with 34, which was accompanied by a .475 batting average and 89 RBI.

What makes Alo’s final season wearing crimson and cream intriguing is the high probability for her to become the new NCAA home run queen. Alo has 85 career long balls and needs only 11 more to top former Oklahoma Sooner Lauren Chamberlain for the all-time NCAA record. Barring injuries and unforeseen circumstances, it feels almost inevitable that the Hau'ula, Hawaii native will accomplish this feat, as her only college softball season with less than 10 home runs came during the shortened 2020 campaign when she blasted eight dingers.

Keely Rochard

Virginia Tech

Rochard was the ACC's Pitcher of the Year in 2021 and a first-team All-American. She fanned the second most hitters in the nation with 348 strikeouts, which was one less than the nation’s strikeout leader, Alabama’s Montana Fouts.

Rochard pitched 17 shutouts and posted a 1.38 ERA for the 2021 season. The Williamsburg, Va. native’s ERA was fifth best among pitchers who threw at least 200 innings.

Rochard and Virginia Tech were only one win away from making it to the Women’s College World Series in 2021.

Gabbie Plain

Washington

The 2021 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year will look to be one of the nation’s best strikeouts pitchers once more in 2022. Not only did Plain tally the third-most strikeouts in the nation last season, but she also posted a 1.45 ERA.

Plain will return to Seattle with the rare experience of having played in the Olympics, where she represented Australia at the Tokyo Games. Washington’s last pitcher to compete in the Olympics during her collegiate career was Danielle Lawrie, who competed in the 2008 Olympics representing Canada and then helped the Huskies capture their first and only national title in program history. It will be interesting to see if Plain can follow in Lawrie's footsteps in 2022.

Janae Jefferson

Texas

When Mike White took the head coaching position at Texas in 2019, former Longhorn head coach Connie Clark told him that he was getting a special talent in Janae Jefferson. Clark’s words have proven true, as Jefferson has received multiple All-American honors throughout her career.

Jefferson has posted at least a .400 batting average in her last three seasons and north of a .500 on-base percentage the past two years. The four-year starter for the Longhorns had 25 multi-hit games this past season.

Hannah Adams

Florida

Adams has been a staple in Florida’s lineup since her freshman year and flourished, once again, in 2021. She made a name for herself right out of the gate during her freshman year when she did not make an error all season. In her college career, she's only made 11 total errors.

The Hoschton, Ga. native’s offensive game has grown throughout her career, improving from a .276 batting average in 2018 to a .356 batting average with 10 home runs in 2021.

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