The 2023 college softball is here, and every week will be games galore from now until June. We love to make some predictions, so why not make some WAY-too-early ones — as in before any player takes the field.
With just a few days left until season begins, here are my predictions for the eight teams that might advance to Oklahoma City for the 2023 Women's College World Series.
I mean .... obviously.
The back-to-back champs reloaded in the offseason and will be one of the strongest teams this season, even without Jocelyn Alo. Jordy Bahl returns to the circle for her sophomore season, and Alex Storako transferred in to join her making for yet another crazy dangerous pitching staff. Then you have D1Softball's No. 1 overall player Tiare Jennings leading the offense, Grace Lyons, Kinzie Hansen, Cydney Sanders, who transferred from Arizona State, Jayda Coleman and more. This pick would be absolutely absurd not to make.
Next, another Oklahoma school with the Cowgirls. This team did lose a lot of talent from last year, but we have seen them be so successful and gel right away with multiple players out of the transfer portal. I think they will do it again this year. Kelly Maxwell, one of the best arms in the nation, returns to lead the pitching staff, and Lexi Kilfoyl, a two-way threat, transferred from Alabama. Offensively, they picked up two big transfers with Rachel Becker, who led Purdue with a .429 average and 1.184 OPS in 2022, and Megan Bloodworth, also from Alabama, transferring in as well as talented freshmen.
The Bruins feel like a pretty easy pick to me right now with Megan Faraimo back in the circle and at the plate. They return some more veterans as well, names like Maya Brady, and loaded up from the transfer pool as well. They added some new, impactful names this offseason as former Arizona Wildcats Sharlize Palacios and Janelle Meoño, and two former Oregon Ducks in Brooke Yanez and Rachel Cid join the fold.
Let's go with the Florida State Seminoles next. There are a LOT of familiar faces coming back for this season. The Seminoles return All-American Kathryn Sandercock in the circle along with offensive stars like Michaela Edenfield, Devyn Flaherty, Kalei Harding, Mack Leonard and Kaley Mudge. I feel really confident that this team will be a top contender all season. These players have a lot of experience playing together on the biggest stage, and thing that will give them a really big advantage heading into 2023.
Alright, I am calling ahead of the season that Arkansas makes its first-ever WCWS. Could it be the year for Razorbacks? Tough to say, as they did lose some pretty important pieces from last season, Danielle Gibson for the most part. But, they return 2022 SEC Pitcher of the Year Chenise Delce. This team has been on the rise for the past few seasons — They set a program single-season record 48 wins in 2022, won the first SEC tournament title in program history, hosted a Super Regional for the second straight year (losing to WCWS runner-up Texas), and now bring in one of the best recruiting classes in the nation to join Hannah Gammill, who will lead the offense.
MORE PICKS: 2023 season preview with Tara Henry of D1Softball
So I don't want to say that picking Clemson is a bold pick... because obviously the Tigers are really good. But it is only going to be their FOURTH SEASON OF EXISTENCE. That is literally it. But even still, I am picking them to make it to the WCWS. They made it to the supers last season, led by two-way star Valerie Cagle, one of the best players in the nation, and I think they make history this season.
Next, I am going with the Florida Gators. If you want to talk about a team having experience and senior leadership, Florida is that team. The Gators return 16 players from its WCWS team from last season. That includes the likes of Skylar Wallace, fifth-year senior Charla Echols and sophomore Kendra Falby, not to mention Elizabeth Hightower and Lexie Delbrey in the circle. I think experience and a team with a lot of chemistry will be able to go the distance.
I was torn between Bama, Northwestern and Stanford for this last one, but I ultimately decided on the Cardinal, led by ace Alana Vawter. They knocked out Alabama in the regional last year before losing to Oregon State, but I like their chances this year.