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Five Players To Watch On Defense In 2021

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(Photo courtesy of LSU Athletics)

Diving catches, backhanded flips and home run robberies galore—there is no doubt that the 2021 college softball season will give fans an entirely new set of thrilling web gems and game-saving plays to swoon over. After all, defense wins championships, right?

While there are many teams that take pride in their defense, we’re taking a closer look at five players in particular who are expected to light up the Division 1 stage with their shut-down defensive abilities.

Sis Bates

In 2020: Recorded a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage on 51 chances, also turned two double plays

It’s no secret that softball's human highlight reel has top-tier defensive abilities. Whether it be gunning down speedsters at first or roaming into the outfield to prevent a pop up from dropping, Washington’s Sis Bates is an undeniable defensive star. With over 250 career putouts and over 350 career assists, she owns a career .982 fielding percentage and has been a part of three times as many double plays (33) as errors committed (11) in her time leading the Husky infield. Her speed and athleticism at shortstop are unmatched, and the reason she is a two-time Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection and the winner of back-to-back Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year awards. Look for Bates to continue to impress fans with her glove as she takes the field for her final season in 2021.

Dejah Mulipola

In 2019 (missed 2020 season due to U.S. Olympic team duties): Committed just one error in over 400 chances, gunned down 44% of would-be base stealers.

The winners of the 2019 Johnny Bench Catcher of the Year award, the winner of the 2019 NFCA Catcher of the Year award and a two-time Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection, Arizona’s Dejah Mulipola is a star not only in the batter’s box, but also behind the plate. In her time wearing a Wildcat uniform, Mulipola has recorded 1,266 putouts paired with 65 assists, while only committing five errors and allowing eight passed balls. She owns an intimidating 0.996 career fielding percentage. Mulipola has also gotten progressively better at throwing out base runners each year she takes the field. In 2019, she only gave up 14 stolen bases, the fewest allowed by an Arizona defense since 1995. With nearly 30 runners gunned down in her time in Tucson, her career caught-stealing percentage currently sits at a healthy 37%. In 2021, Mulipola will take the field for her final season as a Wildcat before making her way to Tokyo in July to chase a gold medal with Team USA.

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Five Pitching Staffs To Watch In 2021

We expect these five pitching staffs to dominate during the 2021 college softball season.

Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza

In 2020: Tallied a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage on 43 chances

Another Wildcat who is capable of producing web gems every time she takes the field, Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza gets it done on defense. Not only is she a terrific outfielder, but she also doubles as a smooth first baseman. In her college career, she owns 456 putouts and 16 assists, while being a part of 11 double plays and committing just four errors. Her career fielding percentage sits at 0.992. Her defensive abilities have contributed to three All-Pac-12 selections, two First Team NFCA All-America selections and a Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection in 2019. As if Palomino-Cardoza’s defensive accolades weren’t impressive enough, she’s accomplished them all while battling torn ACLs in each of her knees, with the first injury coming in the fall of her very first season at Arizona. In 2021, Palomino-Cardoza will take the field for her sixth and final year as a Wildcat. It is all but guaranteed that she will wow softball fans once more with her talents both on the field and in the box.

Aliyah Andrews

In 2020: Posted a 1.000 fielding percentage with 27 putouts and zero errors.

Golden gloves run in the Andrews family, and just like big sister A.J., Aliyah Andrews is no stranger to making game-saving grabs all over the outfield. Andrews has been earning starts in the Tigers’ outfield since her freshman year and will likely open the 2021 season with her 200th career start. Her elite speed and cat-like reflexes have earned her two SEC All-Defensive Team honors. She owns a career .978 fielding percentage behind 272 putouts, six assists, one double play and just six errors while at LSU. There is no doubt that the senior will continue her athletic ways as she takes the field on Feb. 11 when LSU takes on McNeese State to kick start the 2021 campaign.

Hannah Adams

In 2020: Posted a .978 fielding percentage on 87 chances, also turned 10 double plays.

As a middle infielder with quick feet and a strong glove, Florida’s Hannah Adams knows a thing or two about lock-down defense. As a freshman, Adams started every game for the Gators at second base, posting a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage to become only the fourth freshman and first freshman second baseman in program history to accomplish such a feat. Her strong debut earned her spots on both the SEC All-Freshman and All-Defensive Teams. Since then, Adams has started 94 games and made only seven errors. She owns a career .983 fielding percentage with 174 putouts, 238 assists and an impressive 30 double plays. She will likely begin her senior campaign making career start No. 162 in a Gators uniform. During the 2021 season, look for Adams to be a leader in the infield for a Florida program that always takes pride in its strong defense.

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