Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 American Athletic Softball Forecast

This will be the first softball season that the AAC is around; kind of mixing and matching teams from the old Big East and C-USA conferences. Additionally, it is the final season of existence for the Temple softball program, following the sudden announcement late last year that they will completely shut down seven sports, including softball, as of July 2014. Without further adieu, the forecast:

Team that might surprise us all: Houston
            (The Cougars finished a surprising second in the CUSA tournament last year, and while that doesn’t leave them a lot of room to “surprise”, even going into a new conference, I think they’ll exceed even that this year. I don’t believe the Cougars will enter as championship favorites, but I think Kyla Holas’ squad will challenge for that title. The absence of pitcher Bailey Watts, who I originally had as a player to watch before she elected not to play her RS senior season, will be felt, but they’ve still got a lot of play makers on both sides of the ball. You’ll especially want to keep an eye on Haley Outon, Katie St. Pierre, and Kayla Holland.)

Team that might disappoint us all: South Florida            
            (If I’m not mistaken, I picked the Bulls in this spot last year as well, and they kinda-sorta filled my expectations. They dropped off a bit after a WCWS appearance in 2012, ending the season ranked at around twenty-eight in 2013. With the departure of Lindsey Richardson, Sara Nevins will have to assume even more of the bulk of the duties in the circle. Sam Greiner is a likely candidate to fill the #2 role. Both are capable, and Nevins has gotten better as her career has continued. In the new AAC, pulling teams from the Big East & Conference USA, I expect the Bulls to finish anywhere from third to fifth in the conference, and potentially drop even farther in the rankings. But, as I said last year, Ken Eriksen is still one of the best softball minds in the country.)

Player of the Year: Haley Outon, Houston
Pitcher of the Year: Caralisa Connell, Louisville
Coach of the Year: Kyla Holas, Houston

Conference Champs: Louisville Cardinals

Players to Watch:
Shelby Turnier, UCF – Will be the #2 pitcher, behind ace Mackenzie Audas... also a very capable hitter, and will be a solid option off the bench on days she’s not pitching... only a sophomore, she’s definitely ace material when Audas’ career is done after 2015

Loren Williams, Rutgers – Loren led the Scarlet Knights in a half-dozen offensive categories in 2013, including at-bats, batting average, total bases, hits, runs scored, and stolen bases... only caught stealing seven times in her career... tied for the 2013 team lead in home runs & BB/SO ratio was just over 1:2... projected to be an offensive leader in 2014... potential NPF prospects are high

Conference Projection:
1. Louisville Cardinals
2. Houston Cougars
3. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
4. UCF Knights
5. Temple Owls
6. South Florida Bulls
7. UConn Huskies
8. Memphis Tigers

1 comment:

  1. this gets me ready for sum SOFTBALL !!! familiar w/ loren williams & RU a lil bit; and, of course, louisville & cougars have had recent success. hope to attend a rutgers game this spring.