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Five Pitching Staffs To Watch In 2021

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(Photo by Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Long gone are the days in college softball when one pitcher could hurl inning after inning throughout a season to lead her team to the Women's College World Series. Most successful programs now have two, if not three, ace-type pitchers who can compete and win against top programs.

We expect this trend to continue in college softball in 2021 and beyond. Below are five Division I pitching staffs that could take the country by storm this season.

UCLA

2020 Pitching Standouts:
Faraimo: 13-1, 0.85 ERA, 149 Ks
Azevedo: 8-0, 1.74 ERA, 43 Ks
Sosa: 4-0, 1.50 ERA, 29 Ks
Garcia (2019): 29-1, 1.14 ERA, 286 Ks

With Rachel Garcia redshirting for the 2020 season, many wondered how UCLA would fare. But with the emergence of Megan Faraimo as the Bruins' ace last year, UCLA cruised. Bruins fans cannot wait to see what will happen now that Garcia has returned to college for the 2021 season. The strong combo of Garcia and Faraimo ensures UCLA will be able to make a strong run at a national title, while also allowing for a split of innings between at least two pitchers on staff in an attempt to limit fatigue at the end of the season. With Azevedo and Sosa, who tossed a perfect game in her last start of 2020, UCLA has a staff of pitchers that can win against anyone and limit even the strongest of offenses in 2021.

LSU

2020 Pitching Standouts:
Wickersham: 5-1, 0.40 ERA, 31 Ks
Kilponen: 6-1, 0.58 ERA, 49 Ks
Gorsuch: 4-1, 1.15 ERA, 42 Ks
Sunseri: 6-0, 1.20 ERA, 26 Ks

Strong pitching is nothing new at LSU, as it seems Beth Torina has had a strong staff of arms from the moment she took over the program. During the 2020 season, LSU’s staff was young, but strong, and led the nation in earned run average. A true staff, each pitcher on LSU’s roster does something different from the woman next to her. Wickersham, who emerged as the ace, spins the ball and has strong vertical break, while Kilponen provided the heat and overpowered hitters later in games. With every pitcher returning for the 2021 season, and the addition of some young pitching talent, look for LSU to lead the nation in ERA again and disperse innings evenly between a staff of talented pitchers.

Oklahoma State

2020 Pitching Standouts:
Eberle: 10-1, 0.46 ERA, 68 Ks
Maxwell: 6-3, 1.51 ERA, 57 Ks
Simunek: 3-1, 2.40 ERA, 26 Ks

Transfer pitchers have brought Oklahoma State great success in the last two seasons. After the graduation of do-it-all superstar Sam Show, there was a huge question mark lingering over the team’s pitching staff for 2020. Cue the transfer of Carrie Eberle. Eberle dominated during the shortened 2020 season for the Cowgirls and will be returning for the 2021 season after being granted another year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eberle proved she can go toe-to-toe with any team in the country, and Maxwell fired two no-hitters during the shortened season. This right-hand, left-hand duo, and the solid pitching of Logan Simunek, promises success in the 2021 season for the Cowgirls.

Texas

2020 Pitching Standouts:
Elish: 11-3, 1.25 ERA, 96 Ks
O’Leary: 6-0, 1.97 ERA, 33 Ks
Day: 5-0, 1.00 ERA, 22 Ks
Jacobsen (transfer from Ole Miss): 5-6, 3.42 ERA, 64 Ks

Strong pitching is part of Texas head coach Mike White’s game. At all levels, White has developed great talent in the circle. And there is no shortage of talent in the circle in Austin this year. Anchored by the ultra-competitive Miranda Elish, Texas has emerged as one of the top teams in the nation in White’s short time as the program's head coach. Elish and O’Leary shouldered most of the pitching load in the 2020 season, but the Longhorns have announced the transfer of a proven winner: Molly Jacobsen. Jacobsen deals from the left side and will provide the Longhorns with a different look that should round out the staff nicely. Elish’s competitive nature is enough to carry any team, but her talent and tenacity combined with O’Leary’s experience and Jacobsen’s spin will challenge every team in the Big 12 and the rest of the country.

Washington

2020 Pitching Standouts:
Plain: 10-2, 2.76 ERA, 94 Ks
Lynch: 4-0, 3.03 ERA, 41 Ks
Nelson: 3-0, 2.65 ERA, 20 Ks
Moore: 6-0, 2.05 ERA, 35 Ks

The departure of flame-thrower Taran Alvelo placed Gabbie Plain firmly in the spotlight for the 2020 season. While Plain may not have been at her sharpest, she had a staff behind her that picked her up and carried their team during the 2020 season. Kelley Lynch strongly delivered on both sides of the ball for the Huskies, and Moore and Nelson both provided quality innings. With every pitcher returning in 2021, and the addition of Sarah Willis, Washington fans should feel excited about the season to come in Seattle.

Honorable Mentions: Oklahoma, Arizona, Michigan

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