Five Under-The-Radar Defensive Players Entering 2023
The cliché mantra goes as follows: defense wins championships. All of the top five teams in fielding percentage last year, except for Omaha, won at least 40 games, and each team in the top five finished with a winning conference record. The five worst teams in Division I softball fielding percentage finished well below .500 and without a winning record in conference play.
But it’s the individuals, the catchers that stand as near-impenetrable walls behind the plate, the black-hole gloves of infielders and the outfielders who can fly across the grass, that make up these winning formulas.
Heading into 2023, here are five under-the-radar defensive players who we expect to shine between the white lines in Division I softball.
Boise State, UTL
There’s nothing like being one of the top defensive weapons on the team that held the best fielding percentage in Division I softball last spring. Bumcrot has played everywhere for the Broncos and, through 37 games last season, committed just one error. It was during a game against Nevada that Boise State ended up winning despite the error, and Bumcrot also padded the mistake with six catches, three putouts and two assists in the game.
After finishing last season with a .993 fielding percentage, Bumcrot now holds a career .989 fielding percentage. Along with a .390 batting average last season, her stellar play in the field for the Broncos helped Bumcrot earn All-Mountain West Second Team honors in 2022.
Florida State, UTL
If holding a .393 batting average while also having an ERA of 3.81 wasn’t enough to earn Leonard national recognition at both Illinois State and FSU, then her career .989 fielding percentage certainly slapped the icing on the cake. Leonard didn’t commit an error through her first 65 collegiate games at ISU before her first misstep on March 13, 2021, in an eventual win against Dayton. Since then, she’s committed four more errors, which came during her first season with the Seminoles in 2022.
But, much like Bumcrot, Leonard spreads her talent across the field, and finished last season with 335 putouts and added 10 more assisted outs. Among players in the starting lineup, she had the most putouts for FSU and held the third-best fielding percentage. Early in 2022, she committed one error against Loyola Chicago and another against Florida International University, both games the Seminoles won. However, her two errors in conference play—against Virginia Tech and North Carolina—came in eventual losses.
Tucker has established herself as a force in the Mavericks' lineup over the last three seasons. Across 111 games, she’s also only committed five errors from her various positions in the infield. Posting just one error in 4.5% of her collegiate games helped her earn All-Summit League Second Team honors in 2022. After committing just one error last season, she enters 2023 as one of the most reliable fielders in Division I softball, a black hole wherever she plays.
One hundred and 18 putouts and 90 assists have amounted to a career .977 fielding percentage, something Tucker has one more year to improve upon with Omaha. She had the most putouts (78) of her career last season and only committed the one error after three errors the year prior, as opposed to 32 putouts and 25 assists.
Oklahoma State, INF
Wynne never would have been on this list during her years as an infielder for Kansas. In her freshman year, she committed three errors through 44 games, a solid performance that included 40 putouts and eight assists. She just didn’t play enough to see if that fielding prowess would project out to a full season, one in which she started the majority of games.
Then, in 2020, she only got to play 19 games as part of a COVID-19-shortened season. Wynne had 25 putouts, no assists and didn’t commit an error. Her final year with the Jayhawks proved to be the worst, statistically, in her career. While still finishing with a .972 fielding percentage, Wynne committed nine errors and had 306 putouts through a full 47-game season.
Maybe it was the change of scenery, or a fourth season that Wynne needed, but in 2022, the then-senior turned in a perfect defensive season through 38 games with the Cowgirls. She took part in seven double plays, recorded 132 putouts and assisted on three more outs. Of the eight OSU players that finished with a .1000 fielding percentage, she, by far, played the most. Wynne has one more year to get it done with her glove for Oklahoma State in 2023.
Starting all but one game during an impressive 2022 season for South Dakota State was a great feat for Halvorson, who played in every game with the Jackrabbits during her first two seasons of college softball. The Arkansas transfer committed just three errors over the last two seasons—and across more than 100 games—cemented herself as one of the best mid-major defenders.
In 2021, Halvorson was perfect in the field, while recording 282 putouts and 12 assists. She followed that season up with three errors in 2022, but had the most putouts (286) other than the catcher on SDSU's team. Halvorson played a role in eight double plays last spring, and also recorded a season-high 12 putouts on April 23 in a win against North Dakota State, her most since she nabbed 18 putouts against the Bison the year prior.