Pitching Superstars of Tomorrow 2017

Five Pitchers Poised to Light up Future Stat Sheets

By TSC Analyst/Contributor DANIEL URBAN 
LOMBARD  Which 2016 underclassmen will make headlines in the upcoming years?  There were some pretty exceptional numbers put up by freshman and sophomore pitchers in 2016, and they should be recognized.  So without further adieu, here are your pitching superstars of tomorrow 2017!

Alexis Osorio - Alabama - 19-7 record, 2.39 ERA, 273 strikeouts, 184 innings pitched, 1.48 strikeouts-per-inning.

In 2016 Alexis Osorio emerged as one of the top pitchers on the Alabama Crimson Tide, and before the year was over she established herself as one of the best pitchers in the nation.  At season-end Osorio ranked in the top 10 in the nation in strikeouts and led her team on a deep run in the Women's College World Series.  Osorio started the season as the #2 pitcher behind junior Sydney Littlejohn.  Littlejohn had a great season for the Tide and was expected to be the team's #1 pitcher, but with the numbers Osorio was posting throughout the 2016 season Osorio surpassed Littlejohn as the ace pitcher for Alabama. It was Osorio, not Littlejohn, that received the ball and was relied on in key innings in the 2016 post season.  Alabama made it to the WCWS in 2016 but was eliminated in 2 games after losses to Oklahoma and LSU.  But with both Osorio and Littlejohn returning in 2017, and with some healthy competition between them inspiring them to do their best, Alabama could have an even better shot at a national championship in 2017 as they did in 2016. 

Paige Parker - Oklahoma - 38-3 record, 1.64 ERA, 269 strikeouts, 252 innings pitched, 1.07 strikeouts-per-inning.

It's hard to call someone an up-and-coming pitcher when she has already excelled on the greatest stage in college softball and won a national championship, but Paige Parker fits the bill.  For as well as she did in 2016, Parker was an underclassmen and still has the ability to improve.  Parker was the undisputed ace pitcher of an Oklahoma team that surpassed all expectations and delivered the school's first softball national title since 2013.  The 2016 national title firmly established Oklahoma as one of the top softball programs in the nation.  And it was Paige Parker on the mound during the bulk of the playoffs, including Oklahoma's decisive victory in the WCWS national championship game.  There is a reason why Parker was so effective—in 2016 she ranked in the top ten in the nation in strikeouts.  if she can improve her level of performance even a little (or heck even just maintain it) during her remaining two years of eligibility, she could be remembered as one of the best Oklahoma pitchers of all time.  

Carley Hoover - LSU - 22-8 record, 2.27 ERA, 225 strikeouts, 194 innings pitched, 1.16 strikeouts-per-inning.

Hoover flew under the radar, for the most part, in 2016.  Hoover's teammate Allie Walljasper had a great season in 2015 and was expected to be the ace pitcher for the team in 2016.  But Hoover surpassed expectations and emerged as LSU's top pitcher by the end of 2016.  Hoover's strikeout-heavy pitching style was very successful, and helped lead LSU to a WCWS berth in 2016.  LSU was eliminated in the WCWS by eventual champion Oklahoma, but with pitchers like Hoover coming back as upperclassmen in 2017, LSU is going to be in the mix again.  LSU has perennially been one of the top teams in the highly competitive SEC, but players like Hoover will make the Tigers a contender for the national title again in 2017.  

Megan Good - James Madison University - 32-3 record, 0.94 ERA, 222 strikeouts, 215 innings pitched, 1.03 strikeouts-per-inning.

The success of James Madison University was the surprise of the 2016 season.  James Madison is a tiny school in northern Virginia, but they competed like a big time program in 2016.  During the regular season it defeated softball titans like Tennessee, Auburn (2016 national title runner up), Arizona, Ohio State, and Arizona State.  James Madison University also made it to the Super Regional and won its first game against LSU before losing the next two straight to end its season.  High caliber young pitchers like Megan Good were a major reason for JMU's success.  Good finished with an astounding 32-3 record and finished in the top 25 in the nation in strikeouts.  It's too early to tell if James Madison is a "one-off" versus a self-sustaining success, building a quality softball program in a small market like Louisiana-Lafayette.  But with continued excellent play by the likes of Megan Good, James Madison University has as good a chance as any.  

Meehra Nelson - Oregon State - 16-10 record, 2.93 ERA, 211 strikeouts, 174 innings pitched, 1.21 strikeouts-per-inning.

This entry to the list surprised me.  Oregon State is not a traditional softball powerhouse, so to see a young pitcher putting up numbers with the best in the nation was a shocker.  It also surprised me a bit to see top players still gravitating to Pac-12 schools when the SEC has been the one scoring all the recruiting victories lately.  But Meehra Nelson at Oregon State definitely deserves distinction.  In 2016 Nelson was in the top 30 in strikeouts nationally, and ranked in the top 25 in strikeouts-per-inning ratio. The Ducks made it to the Regionals in 2016, and while I'm sure they were devastated by their early exit (following loses to South Caroline Upstate and Jacksonville State), they still proved they could make it to the national stage.  If Nelson and the rest of the team can build off their 2016 performance, they could surprise with a deep run in 2017. 

There it is!  Remember that you heard these names here first when you see them lighting up stat sheets in 2017! Read more.