Alabama capped the 2012 season with its first national title — and the first for the Southeastern Conference after coming so close in recent years. Now, find out what you should be looking for when the top teams and players hit the field again for the 2013 campaign.
Will Oklahoma’s Keilani Ricketts repeat as the USA Softball National Player of the Year?
In a word, maybe. Since UCLA catcher Stacey Nuveman won the inaugural USA Softball award in 2002, only two individuals have repeated: Texas pitcher Cat Osterman, who won the award three times (2003, 2005, 2005), and Washington pitcher Danielle Lawrie (2009-10). Remarkably, in the 11 years of the award, only Lawrie led her team that same season to the WCWS title when Washington won the 2009 crown. Ricketts is a great all-around player and many pundits at the WCWS were heralding her as clearly the best player at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium entering the championship series. Yes, Ricketts will enter 2013 at the front of everyone’s mind. But there is no guarantee that she will repeat. Keep in mind the 2011 player of the year, Stanford’s Ashley Hansen, was in position to potentially repeat in 2012 as a senior and didn’t make it past the cut to the award’s final 11 candidates.
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Getting to Know
• LSU | UC | USF | OU | UO | ASU | UT | UA
• Five things to remember from 2012 WCWS
• Slappers make noise setting the table
• Tide far from giving up
• WCWS the best medicine for Shults
• Alabama stands tall at WCWS
• Oklahoma’s powerful punch
• LSU’s long, winding road
• Two better than one for Bears
• How a Kiwi changed the Ducks
• Bulls following plan to the letter
• Previewing the Women’s College World Series
Are the traditional powers in trouble?
For just the third time in the 31-year history of the WCWS, a Pac-12 team was not in the championship game/series, while traditional powers Arizona (eight titles) and UCLA (11 titles) both were absent from Oklahoma City for the second consecutive year. The 2013 season will be important for both UCLA and Arizona. Both programs played in the 2010 championship series, but not making the WCWS in 2013 will mean either UCLA and/or Arizona could no longer have an active player with WCWS experience. With Alabama bringing the national championship to the SEC for the first time, many are heralding the demise of the Pac-12 as the sport’s premier conference. Don’t be so hasty. Remember, the Pac-12 was the only conference this year with multiple teams still playing on Sunday and the SEC and Pac-12 both had the same number of teams at the WCWS (three each).
Will Alabama repeat now that it has finally won a title?
With Jackie Traina having two more years of eligibility in front of her, it’s certainly a possibility despite the fact that Alabama loses six seniors off its title team, including WCWS starters Kendall Dawson (C), Jennifer Fenton (CF), Amanda Locke (DP), Jazlyn Lunceford (RF) and Cassie Reilly-Boccia (1B). However, Arizona was the last team to repeat (2006-07) and only four of the eight teams from the 2011 WCWS managed to get back to Oklahoma City in 2012. So it is hard to call any team a front-runner for the 2013 title. Keep in mind, Alabama has been to four of the last five WCWS, a feat matched only by Arizona State. The Crimson Tide also made it to seven of the last 10 WCWS, matched only by Arizona. Clearly, coach Patrick Murphy’s program knows the way to OKC. Now that it knows how to win the title, a repeat is not out of the question.
What about Oklahoma’s chances after coming so close in 2012?
In 2011, Cal was at its final WCWS press conference, having been eliminated by Florida for a fifth-place finish, but hopes were high for 2012. The Golden Bears had no seniors and were anticipating the return of Valerie Arioto in addition to an outstanding incoming freshman class. The result was that for nearly the entire 2012 season, Cal was ranked No. 1 in the country and was rewarded with the top seed in the postseason. Oklahoma is in a similar situation heading into 2013 as Patty Gasso’s entire defensive starting lineup from the WCWS will return. Key players like Ricketts and Jessica Shults will be seniors in 2013, plus stalwart Lauren Chamberlain will be just a sophomore. Look for the Sooners to be highly motivated to bring the national title back to Norman, Okla., for the first time since 2000.
Will great pitching dominate the 2013 season?
We could be setup for another year of the pitcher. If you look at the final NCAA statistics for 2012, each of the top nine pitchers in ERA are slated to return next season. What separates this group from past years is the fact that three of the top four in ERA all led their teams to the 2012 WCWS — Oklahoma’s Ricketts; USF’s Sara Nevins; and LSU’s Rachele Fico). National ERA leader Olivia Galati of Hofstra pitched her team to a super regional bid. In addition, 12 of the 14 pitchers to record 30 wins in the circle this year will be back in 2013. Five of the 12 appeared in this year’s WCWS, including the top two in Traina (42) and Ricketts (37). Cal’s Jolene Henderson tied Ricketts for second in the country with 37 wins while Oregon’s Jessica Moore (T-6th, 33) and Nevins (T-12th, 31) also will look to lead their squads back to OKC next season.