Top Big 12 Newcomers To Watch In 2022
The Big 12 is once again loaded with newcomer talent this year. Many of college softball's future stars will make their debuts in the Big 12 in 2022 and have the potential to lead their teams to deep runs in the postseason and success at the Women's College World Series for several years to come.
See below for the top newcomers to watch in the Big 12 this spring.
Most college softball fans have heard the name Jordyn Bahl before. Ranked No. 1 in Softball America’s 2021 Top 100 Recruiting Rankings, there are high expectations for Bahl as she enters Patty Gasso’s rotation this season. Bahl, who originally committed to stay in her home state and play for the University of Nebraska, decommitted to play for the five-time national champions.
As the 2021 National Gatorade Softball Player of the Year, Bahl led Papillion-La Vista High School to three straight state championships, finishing her senior year with a 27-0 record, including a 0.10 ERA with 316 strikeouts in just 137 innings pitched. Bahl was also dominant in the batter’s box, hitting .510 with 20 home runs as a senior.
Leading the Nebraska Gold to a PGF national championship in 2021, it is likely that Bahl’s dominance will continue at the college level. As softball fans saw last season, Oklahoma freshmen can help lead their team to a national championship, and there is no doubt that Bahl is hoping to do that this year.
Coming in at No. 16 in Softball America’s 2021 Top 100 Recruiting Rankings, Tatum Clopton is likely going to play a crucial role in Kenny Gajewski’s pitching rotation. Committed to Oklahoma State since her freshman year, Clopton has waited patiently to finally put on an Oklahoma State uniform and play an NCAA game at Cowgirl Stadium.
A two-time Kansas Gatorade Softball Player of the Year, Clopton spent her prep years at Free State High School, where she was a dominant force in the circle. Clopton was equally as successful in her travel ball endeavors, posting a 0.91 ERA at the 18U level in the fall of her junior year for the DeMarini Aces.
With the Cowgirls also gaining Texas transfer Miranda Elish for the 2022 season, expect Oklahoma State's pitching staff to do some big things this year.
Joining Jordyn Bahl in Oklahoma is Quincee Lilio, a utility player from Southern California. Ranked No. 13 in Softball America’s 2021 Top 100 Recruiting Rankings, Lilio, who committed to Oklahoma in 2016, is finally going to play games as a Sooner.
Playing travel ball for a talented Athletics Mercado team, Lilio was a key contributor to the three PGF national championships she earned with the team. Lilio, who attended Great Oak High School, has been dominant on offense ever since her sophomore year when she hit for a .435 batting average with 37 runs scored on the season.
A lefty hitter who is not only a power bat, but also a slapper, it is likely that Patty Gasso will find a spot for Lilio in her lineup. Lilio’s versatility both on offense and defense, where she can play virtually any position, will help her be one of the most important freshmen at Oklahoma this season.
As the third-ranked player in Softball America’s 2021 Top 100 Recruiting Rankings, there is a lot of excitement among Sooner fans for Sophia Nugent. A catcher from Southern California, Nugent ended her high school career on a high note and is hoping to translate that success to college.
Before even stepping on the college stage, Nugent received top-level exposure through her high school team at Los Alamitos High School as well as by playing club ball for Firecrackers Rico. Nugent helped her Firecrackers team earn a fifth-place finish at PGF Nationals the summer after her sophomore year, finishing the tournament with a .400 average, including three home runs and seven RBI.
With Nugent’s power, Patty Gasso could find a place for her in Oklahoma's powerful, home run hitting lineup.
Ranked No. 9 in Softball America’s 2021 Top 100 Recruiting Rankings, Sophia Simpson could be the next great arm at Texas starting this spring. Simpson, who committed to be a Longhorn in the fall of her junior year, will be representing her home state for her college years, hoping to help Texas get back to the Women’s College World Series.
As the reigning Texas Gatorade Player of the Year, Simpson’s success in the circle has allowed her to get national attention. She finished her senior season with a 21-0 record, including a 0.18 ERA with 271 strikeouts in 119 innings pitched. Leading her team to a state championship, Simpson was credited as the winning pitcher in seven of her team’s 11 postseason wins.
Playing in her home state, Longhorn fans will certainly rally behind Simpson as she begins her college softball career this spring.