The 2023 college softball season begins Feb. 9 with a full schedule of games. Here's a look at some of the top pitchers returning to the circle this season.
Jordy Bahl — Oklahoma
Bahl is back at Oklahoma after taking the sport by storm in her freshman season as a Sooner. The fiery right-hander had six double-digit strikeout performances. She missed a large portion of the season with an injury, but made it back for the WCWS and helped lead her team to its second consecutive championship. Despite the injury, she still was named the 2022 Co-Big 12 Pitcher of the Year. She finished sixth in the NCAA with a 1.09 ERA, and I would expect her to have an unbelievable sophomore season as she returns healthy.
Alex Storako — Oklahoma
As if the Sooners weren't stacked enough, Storako transferred to the program. Hope Trautwein graduated, and now Storako will will in that spot on the pitching staff. At Michigan, she was the 2021 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, and last season, she finished with a 1.71 ERA and 300 strikeouts through 200.1 innings pitched. Those 300 strikeouts ranked sixth in the entire NCAA. With Nicole May, Storako and Bahl, watch out for this Sooner pitching staff.
Megan Faraimo — UCLA
Megan Faraimo returns for one last season at UCLA. She is an electric two-way player for the Bruins, the sixth player in program history to pitch and hit a home run in the same WCWS game. She was the 2022 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year and was named to the WCWS All-Tournament Team after a complete-game, 10-strikeout performance with a home run against Northwestern. She sported a 1.98 earned run average with 292 strikeouts over 198.0 innings.
Danielle Williams — Northwestern
Speaking of Northwestern, the arm that led the Wildcats to the WCWS last season is back for one last go-around. The first-team All American was the first unanimous Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in program history. She was third in the NCAA in strikeouts with 333 while posting a 2.09 ERA. She also won the pitching triple crown in the Big Ten after leading the conference in strikeouts, ERA and wins during the regular season.
Kelly Maxwell — Oklahoma State
As for who shared the Big-12 Pitcher of the Year title with Bahl... you might have guessed it. Oklahoma State's Kelly Maxwell is back. The left-hander enters the season as D1Softball's No. 2 overall player returning for 2023. She led the the Cowgirls to the WCWS last season as their ace and posted 12 shutouts, 313 Ks, with a 1.22 ERA over 189.2 innings of work. Those 313 Ks ranked fifth in the NCAA.
Montana Fouts — Alabama
We have one more year of Montana Fouts in the circle for Alabama. The 2021 NFCA Pitcher of the Year missed out on the WCWS last year and didn't quite put up the same caliber numbers as she did in her 2021 campaign, but safe to say you can expect big things from Fouts heading into her final season.
Kathryn Sandercock — Florida State
Now over in the ACC, Kathryn Sandercock returns for the Seminoles. She finished 2022 second in the nation in wins and earned all three wins for the Seminoles in the ACC Tournament as FSU won their 18th conference title. She finished with a strong 1.44 ERA and .189 opponent batting average.
Chenise Delce — Arkansas
Chenise Delce took home the 2022 SEC Pitcher of the Year award, a great accomplishment in such a loaded softball conference. She led the Razorbacks in the circle to the program’s first SEC Tournament Championship and earned the SEC Tournament’s MVP honors. She finished 2022 with a 2.12 ERA, 188 strikeouts, 14 complete games and five shutouts.
Alana Vawter — Stanford
Alana Vawter is a name to know. You might remember her from the 2022 NCAA tournament when she pitched two shutouts at Alabama, the first time the Crimson Tide had been shut out in the regional round since 2004. She led the Pac-12 in wins and shutouts, ranking fifth and 11th nationally in the categories and posted a 1.97 ERA and 164 strikeouts through 227.2 innings.
Emma Lemley — Virginia Tech
Lemley will be the go-to ace at Virginia Tech following the departure of Keely Rochard. Lemley was a top-three finalist for freshman of the year after finishing with a 2.12 ERA, and a .186 opponent batting average.
Ashley Rogers — Tennessee
Rogers is coming off of two great seasons for the Volunteers. She posted a 2.01 ERA last season with a .156 opponent average. She finished the year with a 12-6 record and ranks seventh in Tennessee history with 59 career victories.
Maddie Penta — Auburn
When Auburn's pitching staff suffered multiple injuries last season, Penta picked up a big workload as a sophomore. She ended up leading the SEC with a 1.76 ERA, giving up just 49 earned runs. She set the program record for starts in a season with 35 and earned a win in 23 of her 35 starts. She also set the program record for consecutive winning decision with a streak of wins in nine straight games.
Here are a few more names to watch:
- Valerie Cagle — Clemson
- Jessica Mullins — Texas State
- Peyton Gottshall — Tennessee