Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Welcome to my end-of-season round-up of where things stand for 14 top college softball programs (the eight WCWS participants, plus six other teams that I would consider “high-level”). Below, I list each team's outgoing seniors (noting in bold which ones finished in the top 10 in any major NCAA statistical categories) and provide any news developments I'm aware of, related to a given team.

A link to the NCAA statistical leaders is available here. Of all the statistics, I’m most skeptical of pitcher wins, because offensive support is obviously also a major factor there.

Here we go!

Arizona
Seniors: Autumn Champion, Leslie Wolfe, Kelly Nelson, Alicia Hollowell (ERA 8th, K/7 INN 5th , Wins 5th)

Here's a report on the Wildcats’ victory celebration back at U of A.

Taryne Mowatt, who just finished her sophomore season with a strong offensive performance in the WCWS, ranked 9th in strikeouts per 7 innings in her pitching stints.

Northwestern
Seniors: Courtnay Foster, Sheila McCorkle, Jamie Dotson, Ashley Crane, Kristen Amegin

Tennessee
Seniors: Sarah Fekete (Batting Avg 1st), Katherine Card, Kristi Durant

The Lady Vols have a new softball stadium in the works.

UCLA
Seniors: Andrea Duran (Runs scored/game 6th), Alissa Eno, Caitlin Benyi, Emily Zaplatosch

Texas
Seniors: Chez Sievers, Cat Osterman (ERA 1st, K/7 INN 1st, Wins 2nd), Jaclyn Daniels, Amber Hall, Tina Boutelle

Here’s what is apparently the final installment of Cat’s Korner, Osterman’s blog.

Alabama
Seniors: Dominique Accetturo, Stacy Ramsey, Stephanie VanBrakle

The school’s athletic webpage has a review of the 2006 season.

Arizona St.
Seniors: Bridgette Caron, Jenn McCard, Samantha Zadel, Kim Zadrozny, Ashley Werschky, Desiree Serrano

Oregon St.
Seniors: Maggie DeWall, Ingrid Lochelt, Vanessa Iapala, Lisa Allen, Adrienne Alo, Amy Klever

Michigan
Seniors: Stephanie Bercaw, Grace Leutele, Jennie Ritter (ERA 3rd, K/7 INN 6th, Wins 7th), Tiffany Haas, Becky Marx

Here's a Michigan Daily article on the five seniors.

Also, the Wolverines' home field will be expanded and renovated.

Cal
Seniors: Kristina Thorson (ERA 7th, K/7 INN 10th, Wins 3rd, Saves Tie 5th), Lindsay James, Haley Woods, Emily Friedman

LSU
Seniors: Stephanie Hill, Lauren Delahoussaye, Camille Harris, Lauren Castle

Stanford
Seniors: Megan Bordelon, Catalina Morris, Laura Severson, Lauren Lappin, Shoney Hixson

Washington
Seniors: Aimee Minor, Sarah Hyatt

Georgia
Seniors: Ashley Godfrey, Courtney Knight

Other Topics:

Recruiting. In the collegiate athletics "life cycle," the recruiting of players to become next season's freshmen is the counterpart to the loss of the seniors who've finished their four years on the field. I've found the Ultimate College Softball discussion boards (see links section in right-hand column) to be very helpful in clarifying what is generally known and not known about college softball recruiting.

It seems that there may be some individual recruiting “gurus” who are generally knowledgeable about their own regions. Plus, the UCS boards will periodically feature discussion of a particular recruit or a particular university's incoming class.

However, no intensive, nationally comprehensive softball recruit ranking service, such as Rivals.com for men’s college football and basketball, appears to exist yet. I don’t know how many years it will take, but I’m sure one will at some point.

Professional leagues. I was familiar with National Pro Fastpitch after seeing some of its games on ESPN last summer. NPF's draft was held back in February and players could sign when their collegiate careers ended. As can be seen in this listing, the first round was comprised heavily of players whose teams would go on to make the WCWS, with the later rounds mixing eventual WCWS and non-WCWS players.

Another pro operation that I only recently learned about from the UCS boards is Pro Fastpitch (E)Xtreme. As shown on its website, PFX has signed a number of top college seniors from this past season. PFX uses a tour format, like golf or tennis, where it comes into a given host city for three or four days, then moves on to somewhere else, usually a week later. The tour stops include not only games, but also instructional sessions.

International competition. As noted in my entry (below) just prior to this one, another World Cup of softball will be held in Oklahoma City this July.

Another opportunity for college players (not just seniors) is the World University Games. Many familiar names were among the players invited to try out for the U.S. team. Based on this USA Softball timetable, the World University Games try-outs appear to have been completed, so the final roster seemingly should be announced soon. The actual World University Games are not until 2007 (they're held only in odd-numbered years), but as shown in the previously cited timetable, this year there's a World Univerity Softball Championship in July in Taiwan.

A final, congratulatory note: "Robocoach," operator of the aforementioned Ultimate College Softball website and discussion boards, announced not too long ago that his site had received nearly a million hits in the month of May. Congratulations to him! This is just another sign of the increasing popularity of college softball.