Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 ACC Softball Forecast

Team that might surprise us all: Virginia Tech
The best player in VT history has returned to Blacksburg to
guide the Hokies pitching staff.
     (Scot Thomas’ squad finished rather low in the ACC season standings at the end of last year and didn’t make it past the regional round in the NCAAs, but I believe the 2013 campaign could still be counted as a success for them. They performed very well out of conference, and really all season, minus an in-conference skid that dropped them to the bottom tier ranking-wise. Kat Banks & Bailey Liddle both really came into their own last season, and will be huge factors this year. The absence of Courtney Liddle, Bailey’s older sister and a 2013 contender for NPF Rookie of the Year, will be felt on the field, but lucky for the Hokies’ program, she’s around for at least another year, now serving as a Volunteer Assistant Coach. Softball legend Angela Tincher
O’Brien was hired as the pitching coach this off-season after Barb Sherwood took a head coaching job on the West Coast, and any time a young staff can be under the tutelage of someone with the talent and skill of Tincher, it’s a good thing.)

Team that might disappoint us all: Georgia Tech      
      (As Shelly Hoerner takes over for Sharon Perkins at the helm of the Yellow Jackets’ program, she’ll be faced with an uphill battle. Ashley Thomas is an excellent hitter, but the loss of graduated senior Hope Rush is going to be almost deathly to the Tech program. By far their biggest power hitter, as well as the ace of their pitching staff, she will be sorely, sorely missed. Without her, I expect the lady Jackets to finish in the bottom third of the division.)

Player of the Year: Scout Albertson, NC State
Pitcher of the Year: Lacey Waldrop, Florida State
Coach of the Year: Lonni Alameda, Florida State

Conference Champs: Florida State Seminoles

Players to Watch:
Maddie O’Brien & Kelly Hensley, Florida State – I combined these two in this section because they both play for the Noles, but also because I think they’re going to be two huge pieces of the puzzle that I believe may result in a WCWS appearance. Lacey Waldrop will anchor the pitching staff, but when it comes to offense and defense, Lonni Alameda need look no further than O’Brien & Hensley... Kelly Hensley can hit pretty much anywhere in the lineup, and I think she can succeed against pretty much anybody. Her regional-clinching grand slam against South Alabama during the regional final last season showed off her clutch-hitting to a national audience, and don’t be surprised if that continues this year. O’Brien is a defensive mastermind (three errors in more than 150 chances in 2013, including exactly zero throwing errors) who showed some serious offensive promise by posting career-best numbers in 2013... with the trio of Hensley, O’Brien, and Celeste Gomez as the heart of her order every game, Lonni Alameda has to like the look of her squad going in to this season.

Bailey Liddle, Virginia Tech – I can use two words and tell you why I think Bailey Liddle will have a monster season this year - Momma. Liddle. When a player or a team is playing with a purpose, it's gonna take a lot to stop them. Besides that, the younger of the Liddle sisters was just hitting the edge of her power potential last year, and I see her going far beyond that this season. I don't think a .275/8/30 line is completely unreasonable or out of reach for this young lady, and I anticipate with more playing time, which I think she's earned, the numbers & stats will come.

Scout Albertson, North Carolina State – The slugging guardian of the hot corner will flourish even greater with Renada Davis as her "protection" in the lineup. Although it will be hard to replace the graduated Caitlin Dent, don't be surprised if Albertson takes the offense powerhouse role and runs with it... following an output of twelve home runs and thirty-five RBIs last year, I'd be surprised if she doesn't better both statistics this season. I have her as one of the best third basemen available in the 2014 NPF Draft, so professional teams are sure to be keeping a close eye on Raleigh.

Conference Projection:
1. Florida State
2. Virginia Tech
3. NC State
4. North Carolina
5. Maryland
6. Notre Dame
7. Georgia Tech
8. Boston College


  1. well dunn - nice mix of facts & predictions. agree w/ noles & hokies appraisals.