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Big 12 Softball Preview

Posted: February 9, 2014 - 1:09am
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Head coach: Patty Gasso (20th season)

2013 record: 57-4, 15-2 in Big 12 (first place)

Top returning position players: IF Lauren Chamberlain (.458 avg., 30 HR, 84 RBIs); IF Shelby Pendley (.357 avg., 22 HR, 73 RBIs)

Top returning pitchers: RHP Georgia Casey (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 4.2 IP, 5K); RHP Taylor Dewbery (1-0, 1.62 ERA, 4.1 IP, 4K)

2014 outlook: What does it say about how powerful the Sooners are that they can lose two pitchers like Kelani Ricketts (35-1) and Michelle Gascoigne (19-3) and still be the preseason Big 12 favorite and the No. 2-ranked team in the country? OU still has plenty of power, thought, with Chamberlain and Pendley leading the way, and pitching won’t be a weakness no matter how inexperienced it might be.

Head coach: Glenn Moore (14th season)

2013 record: 42-17, 10-8 in Big 12 (third place)

Top returning position players: 1B Holly Holl (.284 avg., 5 HR, 31 RBIs); IF Sarah Smith (.365 avg., 5 HR, 30 RBIs)

Top returning pitchers: LHP Whitney Canion (24-9, 1.94 ERA, 209.1 IP, 269 K); RHP Heather Stearnes (12-6, 2.09 ERA, 123.2 IP, 160 K).

2014 outlook: Baylor definitely goes into the season among the top three teams in the Big 12 Conference with the stronger returning pitching. Canion is the top returning ace in the conference, and the Bears should have enough offense to compete with anyone. If OU doesn’t develop its pitching, which seems unlikely, Baylor could sneak into the picture for the Big 12 title.

Head coach: Connie Clark (18th season)

2013 record: 51-10, 14-4 in Big 12 (second place)

Top returning position players: SS Taylor Thom (.382 avg., 15 HR, 66 RBIs); OF Brejae Washington (.368 avg., 26 RBI, 32-36 SB)

Top returning pitchers: RHP Holly Kern (7-3, 2.74 ERA, 53.2 IP, 23 K); RHP Gabby Smith (2-0, 2.78 ERA, 22.2 IP, 13 K).

2014 outlook: No matter the year, no matter who is on the roster, Texas will be competitive in softball. That’s a fact. But the Longhorns may be a piece or two away from being able to challenge for the Big 12 crown. Thom and Washington will be two of the more talented hitters in the conference, but UT must develop a front-line starting pitcher after its top two graduated last season.

Head coach: Megan Smith (fifth season)

2013 record: 34-16, 9-8 in Big 12 (fourth place)

Top returning position players: IF Chaley Brickey (.297 avg., 4 HR, 24 RBIs); IF Chanin Naudin (.301 avg., 7 HR, 32 RBIs).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Kelsey Kessler (12-6, 2.19 ERA, 118 IP, 116 K); RHP Alicia Pille (13-8, 2.58 ERA, 149 IP, 172 K).

2014 outlook: Even though they didn’t make the NCAA postseason it was still a solid year for the Jayhawks, and they have enough coming back to be competitive in the Big 12 once again. Kessler and Pille will have to take the next step in their evolution in the circle, but they will also have help from some experienced bats in the offensive lineup.

Head coach: Shanon Hays (fifth season)

2013 record: 30-26, 4-14 in Big 12 (sixth place)

Top returning position players: IF Samantha Camello (.311 avg., 1 HR, 19 RBIs); IF Sydnie Tapia (.236 avg., 2 HR, 20 RBIs).

Top returning pitchers: LHP Brittany Talley (9-5, 2.77 ERA, 106 IP, 70 K); RHP Cara Custer (14-16, 3.10 ERA, 174 IP, 124 K).

2014 outlook: The 2013 season was not what Tech softball fans had become accustomed to in the first four seasons under Hays. So look for some younger players and newcomers to step up and become this year’s leaders. Tech has experience in the circle in Talley, Custer and RHP Gretchen Aucoin, but they also need to show marked improvement for Tech to not have a repeat of last season.

Head coach: Rich Wieligman (eighth season)

2013 record: 30-26, 6-12 in Big 12 (fifth place)

Top returning position players: IF Tiffany Mikkelson (.286 avg., 4 HR, 30 RBIs); IF Tarah Ettinger (.327 avg., 10 HR, 42 RBIs).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Simone Freeman (12-7, 2.54 ERA, 127 IP, 157K).

2014 outlook: Experience both in the lineup and in the circle are in short supply in Stillwater going into the season. Wieligman has just three returning position players from last year who hit over .200 and just one pitcher in Freeman. That’s it. Look for OSU to lean on freshman Meagan Lively in the circle while trying to find enough offense to stay competitive.

Head coach: Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler (ninth season)

2013 record: 21-34, 4-14 in Big 12 (sixth place)

Top returning position players: IF Brittany Gomez (.361 avg., 1 HR, 11 RBIs); IF Aly Cappert (.301 avg., 5 HR, 18 RBI)

Top returning pitchers: RHP Madison Jones (0-0. 7.35 ERA, 13.1 IP, 5K)

2014 outlook: The Cyclones lost most of its power offensive weapons and pretty much all effective pitching from a last-place team last year, so they’ll be starting over. Recruiting can overcome the lack of experienced offense, but they’ll need it to develop soon while Gemeinhardt-Cesler tries to shape up the pitching staff, which will include three newcomers.

OKLAHOMA SOONERS

BAYLOR BEARS

TEXAS LONGHORNS

KANSAS JAYHAWKS

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

OKLAHOMA STATE COWGIRLS

IOWA STATE CYCLONES

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