SA’s 2023 Player Of The Year Candidates
College softball is a thriving and growing game heading into the 2023 season. The sport is undeniably one of the most electrifying games out there, and that is largely due to the incredible talent that takes the field at the college level.
Here are the 10 players who we believe demonstrate the best that the sport has to offer and thus have the greatest chance to be named Softball America's Player of the Year at the conclusion of the 2023 season.
The 2022 Pac-12 Player of the Year and top three finalist for USA Softball’s National Collegiate Player of the Year award has returned to Seattle one last time. In her super senior season, Klingler will follow up a 2022 campaign during which she posted a .434 batting average and 75 hits. Last spring, nearly one-third of her hits were home runs (24) and she tallied a conference-best 71 RBIs, 13 doubles and a 1.448 OPS. She entered the fall season in game-ready form after having competed with Team USA over the summer.
After successfully hitting behind Jocelyn Alo in her first two collegiate seasons, Jennings will take on a new role in her junior year—being Oklahoma's most-feared hitter. There’s no reason to doubt Jennings in filling this new role as she followed up her 2021 National Freshman of the Year campaign with an All-American performance in 2022 and gained some international experience after playing with Team USA over the summer. The San Pedro, Calif. native blasted 29 long balls paired with a team-best 87 RBIs. Jennings also hit for a .401 clip with 73 hits. She may be the best postseason player in the country after helping Oklahoma to back-to-back national championships and being named to the 2022 Women’s College World Series All-Tournament Team after hitting five home runs and recording 15 RBIs.
Part of Oklahoma's ability to put up big RBI numbers is due to having the best lead-off hitter in the country in Jayda Coleman. Coleman hit for a .424 average and found herself on base more than half the time with a .584 on-base percentage. Although the long ball is not necessarily Coleman’s forte, she still had eight home runs last year and 18 extra-base hits. Her 40 RBIs and 1.251 OPS helped her snag another All-American honor as a sophomore.
As a freshman last year at Arizona State, the All-American proved she had one of the most electric bats in all of college softball. The 2022 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year belted 21 home runs with 63 RBIs to put her at a .952 slugging percentage. While displaying her power, she was also able to hit for a .425 average on 62 hits. She finished third in batting average, home runs and RBIs in the conference in 2022. The Sooners certainly got a star in Sanders out of the transfer portal this summer.
It may be easy to forget the integral part Gammill played in the success of Arkansas last year, as KB Sides, Danielle Gibson and Linnie Malkin highlighted the lineup. But 2023 will be a different story, as Gammill will headline the Razorback lineup and is more than capable of excelling in this role after the All-American performance she put on last year. In 2022, Gammill boasted a .374 batting average on 58 hits and got on base more than half the time with a .513 on-base percentage. The junior recorded 27 extra-base hits, with 18 being home runs, and 51 RBIs a year ago. There’s no doubt Gammill is one of the front runners for the 2023 SEC Player of the Year award as well.
After Storied UW Career, Baylee Klingler Makes Impact In WPF
After her storied college softball career, Baylee Klingler is already making a big impact at the pro level.
The Power Five schools often get the attention and praise, but the talent of McKinney shows that college softball is growing and there are stellar athletes at the mid-major level too. The All-American posted a .522 batting average along with a .849 slugging percentage and 1.415 OPS in 2022. McKinney was three hits shy of 100 on the season last spring as well. The senior provides both power, hitting 13 home runs and 12 doubles last season, and speed, successfully stealing 12 bases on 15 attempts.
One of the most dynamic home runs hitters in the nation is making her way back to Tucson, Ariz. for her junior campaign. Skaggs’ 24 home runs in her sophomore campaign was tied with Klingler for the most in the Pac-12 and fifth most in the NCAA. Along with her power came hefty production, tallying 58 RBIs, a 1.259 OPS and a .797 slugging percentage in 2022, which was the fourth-best mark in the conference. The All-American finished the year with a .367 batting average and a .462 on-base percentage.
Acuña is coming off her best college season, one that ended in an All-American honor. The graduate student carried a .430 batting average, which was .119 points higher than her previous career-best that came in 2021. Acuña not only set a career high in batting average in 2022, but also in all other major categories. She hit 14 long balls, had 43 RBIs, 19 doubles and came around to score 63 times. The Tucson, Ariz. native followed up her career highs with a .852 slugging percentage and .562 on-base percentage, helping her to a First-Team All-Pac-12 honor.
Wallace displayed herself as one of the best five-tool players in the sport last year and she is looking to do it again in 2023. When she reached base, it was almost a guarantee she’d put herself in scoring position, as she stole a program-best 52 bases on 56 attempts in 2022. Along with her speed came a high level of productivity, batting for a .386 average on 71 hits with a .542 on-base percentage, 1.178 OPS and 53 RBIs. What makes Wallace such a threat at the plate is that she doesn’t need to get a hit to reach base, but she knows how to take a free base. She walked 50 times and got hit by a pitch on 16 occasions. Wallace also showed some pop in her bat, hitting eight home runs with 12 doubles and five triples last spring.
Arguably the best shortstop in the country and 2022 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year will look to close out her college career with a third consecutive national championship with the Sooners. The defensive talent was always there for Lyons, but it was the evolution of her bat that made her an All-American in 2022. Last season, Lyons hit for a career-best .401 average with 23 home runs. Her 70 RBIs were the third-most in Oklahoma's lineup behind Alo and Jennings. Lyons finished the year with a 1.343 OPS and .864 slugging percentage.