2021: A year of college softball jam-packed full of superstars. What does that mean? There are a ton of extremely good pitching staffs. Most of the top teams this season have not one player that could step up as the ace on any given day, but multiple.
A list of the best pitchers could’ve gone all day. So I went with the pitchers we can see leading their respective teams on a national title run. These are players mostly on teams ranked in the top 15 right now. I know it is early in the season, and these numbers will all change. But we’ve got a pretty good idea about these stars in the circle so far.
Here are the top college softball pitchers to watch in 2021:
Megan Faraimo — UCLA
Even with Rachel Garcia back on the Bruins staff, Megan Faraimo has been in the circle the vast majority of the season. She is 7-1 on the year with a 1.04 ERA and 60 strikeouts through 43.1 innings. She was a very pleasant surprise for the No. 1 Bruins last season after stepping into Garcia's shoes (who opted out of the season to compete in the Olympics). She was named the Softball America Pitcher of the Year after leading the Bruins with a 0.85 era, a 13-1 record and 149 strikeouts in 90 innings. Faraimo was named to the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List, and understandably so.
Gabbie Plain — Washington
Gabbie Plain was another name rightfully on the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Preseason Watch List. She is 9-0 with a 0.56 ERA and 112 strikeouts through 62 innings. That’s insane. It is also a huge improvement from where she was in the shortened 2020 season... and she was already amazing. Plain is second in Washington history in perfect games and no-hitters and the second Husky ever to throw a perfect game in the season opener. The other is Danielle Lawrie.
Brooke Yanez — Oregon
Brooke Yanez has been the ace for a top-caliber team this season in Oregon. The Ducks are (so far) the only team to beat UCLA this year, behind a dominant effort in the circle by Yanez, who struck out 10. She is 6-0 with a 1.75 era and 65 strikeouts.
Montana Fouts and Lexi Kilfoyl — Alabama
We have a two-headed monster in the circle at Alabama with Montana Fouts and Lexi Kilfoyl. Fouts is a returning 2019 NFCA Second Team All-American with plenty of accolades before this season. This year she is 7-1 with a 1.18 ERA and 89 strikeouts through 47 innings. Kilfoyl is just a sophomore this season but an impressive one at that. She is 7-0 with a minuscule 0.16 ERA and 50 strikeouts through 44 innings. Both of these pitchers were on the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List, and they are earning their spots so far.
Mariah Lopez and Alyssa Denham — Arizona
Alyssa Denham is 6-2 and Mariah Lopez is on pace to break the NCAA record for career winning percentage (currently at .943). Denham had a 0.56 ERA before Arizona’s most recent loss to FSU. Now she has a 1.12 ERA with 42 strikeouts and Lopez sports a 1.64 ERA with 26 strikeouts and is 3-0.
G Juarez, Shannon Saile and Nicole May — Oklahoma
The undefeated Sooners have three BIG-time pitchers on the staff. Led by G Juarez, of course. Juarez is coming off of a 2020 season where she battled injuries. She was the 2019 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year after an undefeated 21-0 season. She is 6-0 this season, so who knows, she could be on track to do it again. Juarez splits time with Shannon Saile and Nicole May. Saile has been PERFECT all season with a 0.00 ERA through 21 innings pitched. May is just a freshman, but is 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA through 25 innings.
Carrie Eberle — Oklahoma State
Carrie Eberle is a no-doubter on this list and a definite ace on the Cowgirls staff. She is 7-0 with a 0.71 ERA and 45 strikeouts. Last year was just her first season (a shortened one) with Oklahoma State and she led the Big 12 and ranked fourth nationally with an 0.46 ERA in 76 innings pitched. Kelly Maxwell can step up on any occasion as well, in fact, with a 0.55 ERA thus far.
Elizabeth Hightower and Natalie Lugo — Florida
Natalie Lugo and Elizabeth Hightower are the two pitchers to watch at Florida. Hightower has been incredibly impressive — 7-0 with a 0.68 ERA and 40 strikeouts. She has been the main arm for the Gators in the rotation. Lugo is a senior on the staff and is 3-0 with a 1.58 ERA.
Shelbi Sunseri — LSU
Shelbi Sunseri leads the charge in the circle for LSU. She might be 4-2 on the season so far but they have had a really strong strength of schedule, and she has a 0.98 ERA against incredibly strong bats and teams.
More pitchers to keep your eye on this season:
Mary Haff — Arkansas
0.88 ERA through 63.1 innings pitched.
Keely Rochard — Virginia Tech
Keely Rochard made the 2021 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List. She has really impressive numbers for Virginia Tech with a 0.57 ERA through 37 innings pitched. Rochard is 5-1.
Shealyn O'Leary — Texas
Shealyn O'Leary, another player on the player of the year watchlist, is stepping up this season to fill in the role of Miranda Elish, who opted out of the 2021 season. O'Leary currently has a 2.10 ERA through 23 innings pitched.
Danielle Williams — Northwestern
Danielle Williams is a star in the circle. She has been named to the player of the year watchlist for the past two seasons. This year, she has only pitched 13 innings, but she is perfect through all of them with a 0.00 ERA. She threw seven shutout innings allowing one hit, no walks and striking out eight, in the 2021 season opener.
Autumn Humes — Kentucky
Kentucky is undefeated so far this season and consistently getting more recognition week after week. This is their best start in program history. However, the Wildcats have yet to play a ranked opponent. They will play Florida this weekend. Humes is currently 8-0 with a 1.94 ERA. She has a powerful bat as well.
Summer Ellyson — Louisiana
Summer Ellyson was a 2019 NFCA All-America Third Team, and named to the player of the year watch list in 2021. She has a 2.52 ERA.
Shelby Lowe — Auburn
Shelby Lowe is only a freshman this season but off to a great start for the Tigers. She is 6-0 with an impressive 0.50 ERA. Three more years after this one, too.
Georgina Corrick — USF
Georgina Corrick finished the shortened 2020 season with 12 victories. That ranked first in the AAC and fourth nationally. So far this year she sports a 1.56 ERA.
Ashley Rogers — Tennessee
Ashley Rogers returns in 2021 after missing the 2020 shortened season due to injury. This year she leads Tennessee's staff with a 1.03 ERA, 107 strikeouts and a 9-3 record.