Saturday, February 2, 2013

2013 Big 12 Softball Forecast

Team that might surprise us all: Oklahoma State
Dunne with the 2013 OSU pitching staff. That's
Simone Freeman on the left and Espinosa to the far right.
(One of the biggest, yet also one of the least-heralded moves of the off-season was OSU’s hiring of former Alabama standout Kelsi Dunne as their pitching coach. Under the guidance of Dunne, in her first and only season as a volunteer assistant at Mississippi State, the Bulldog team ERA was a full two runs lower than the previous season. An excellent OSU pitching staff will only benefit from the hire. The Cowgirls have some excellent pitchers on their squad, and under Dunne’s guidance, Kat Espinosa will lead the explosive staff.)

Team that might disappoint us all: Texas
(Coming off a 2012 season that ended with stinging back-to-back losses to Oregon on the last day of the Super Regionals, the Longhorns could come out of the gate with something to prove… or they could just as easily fumble and falter their way through the season. Blaire Luna has to be lights-out, no matter the situation, and the offense behind Taylor Hoagland has to perform consistently. Remember, the conference may be small, but it does include the early championship-favorite Oklahoma Sooners, as well as the Baylor Bears, who will be energized by the return of Whitney Canion’s arm and bat.)

Pitcher of the Year: Keilani Ricketts, Oklahoma
Player of the Year: Keilani Ricketts, Oklahoma
Coach of the Year: Glenn Moore, Baylor

Conference Champs: Oklahoma Sooners

Players to Watch:
Kat Espinosa, Oklahoma State  I remember seeing Espinosa in 2011, when the Cowgirls went to the WCWS. Her powerful right arm was one of the biggest reasons they reached the series, and under the leadership and guidance of Dunne, I fully anticipate her returning to that same form in her senior season. Despite a bit of an increase in her ERA from 2011 to 2012, the vast majority of her statistics last year were very close to her 2011 numbers. Expect to see much more of the picture to the right.
Whitney Canion, Baylor - (After spending most of last season on crutches thanks to a torn ACL, Canion is back to help the Bears regain their 2011 form, when they made it to OKC & the WCWS. Canion not only pitches, but also swings the bat for the Bears. She regularly hits from the clean-up spot, and there’s always a chance she can park one over the fence. Coming back from an injury like the one Canion suffered, you don't usually expect a player to have much more than a at-par season, if that. But Whitney was granted an extension of eligibility from the NCAA and has an excellent shot at being the exception to that rule.)
Maggie Hull, Kansas - (One of many bright spots on a Kansas team that felt they were robbed of a tournament spot in 2012, Maggie had a .409 batting average and started every game for the Jayhawks. She hit fourteen doubles, and clobbered seven home runs. She was a perfect 8-8 in stolen base attempts, and ended the year with a .634 slugging percentage. She led the team in virtually every offensive category last year, and is about the farthest thing from an "easy out" you can get!)

Conference Projection:
1. Oklahoma
2. Texas
3. Baylor
4. Oklahoma State
5. Kansas
6. Texas Tech
7. Iowa State

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