Softball Notebook

The Softball Channel’s Fastpitch Blog

29  01 2009

A Changing of the Guard?

Pac-10 Teams Might Finally Miss College Softball’s Big Dance

Pac-10 college softball. 

There has been at least one Pac-10 team in the final match-up of the Women’s College World Series for 22 years in a row dating back to 1986—and the Pac-10 team has won 18 of those 22! But the 2009 season is set up to be the first since 1986 where the Pac-10 isn’t represented in the WCWS Championship Series. None of the top Pac-10 teams—UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, and Cal—has a bona fide ace pitcher to lead them through 2009. Each of these teams will have to rely on a young, inexperienced, and more mistake-prone crop of pitchers to lead their teams. This leaves the door open for other teams around the nation to step into the void and succeed in the WCWS tournament.

UCLA Bruins college softball. 

UCLA
The perennial favorite and winner of 11 WCWS championships; UCLA will have a tough time replacing the production of departing senior Angelica Selden, who went 29-5 last year, and posted a 0.96 ERA and 335 strikeouts. UCLA spent some significant time last year grooming Freshman Donna Kerr, who is expected to try and fill Selden’s shoes. Kerr experienced some moderate success last year—she put up a 14-2 record, a 0.93 ERA, and 132 strikeouts in limited action. Kerr has the tools to lead UCLA this year, but she is an inexperienced sophomore and will have a very difficult time playing consistently enough to equal Selden’s excellent 2008 numbers.

 Arizona Wildcats college softball.

Arizona
Another Pac-10 dynasty that is in the WCWS running every year, Arizona is in a similarly sticky pitching situation after losing ace Taryne Mowatt. In her 4-year pitching career, Mowatt went 100-33, pitched 877.2 innings (including 109 complete games), earned a 1.54 ERA, and threw 1267 strikeouts. For the first time since 2005, Arizona won’t be able to rely on Mowatt to carry it through the season. Unfortunately, Arizona relied on Mowatt so much that it has left the pitching cupboard empty—the Wildcats don’t have any other pitchers with significant in-game experience. Mowatt’s heir apparent is sophomore Lindsey Sisk, who as a freshman went 10-3, had a 1.62 ERA, and 69 strikeouts. Sisk has shown promise, but it is highly unlikely she will reach Mowatt’s level of play, and Arizona will probably take a step back this year under her leadership.

 Arizona State Sun Devils college softball.

Arizona State
Much like UCLA and Arizona, Arizona State has lost its #1 pitcher and will struggle to replace her. The Sun Devils have the onerous task of replacing departed Senior Katie Burkhart’s 41-5 record, 0.75 ERA, and 513 strikeouts. However, Arizona State is one of the few Pac-10 teams with an upperclassman ready to become its #1 pitcher. Junior Megan Elliot posted a 20-0 record last year and tossed 108 strikeouts, but she also put up a 2.24 ERA, which is far too high to take Arizona State back to the WCWS title game. It’s possible Elliot will step up her game with more experience under her belt in 2009, but if she doesn’t excel early on the Sun Devils may focus on rebuilding and give more time to incoming Freshman Hillary Bach. Bach has tons of potential—she compiled an impressive 15-2 record with a .01 ERA and 16.8 strikeouts per game during her senior high school season in Oklahoma. Regardless of whether Arizona State goes with Elliot or Bach, the Sun Devils are unlikely to compete at the same high level in 2009 without Katie Burkhart.

California Golden Bears college softball. 

 Cal
Cal is another Pac-10 powerhouse with three WCWS title-game appearances and one title in 2002. Cal is ranked #13 in ESPN U’s preseason poll, and while Cal differs from UCLA and Arizona in having a returning upperclassman pitcher with plenty of experience, its ace has put up less than stellar numbers in her past two years. Junior Marissa Drewery posted a 29-19 record, 1.94 ERA, and 312 strikeouts in 2008, but if she can’t keep her ERA down Cal doesn’t have much of a shot to win the WCWS in 2009. Cal has a talented sophomore waiting in the wings in Valerie Arioto, who put up an 8-3 record, 1.93 ERA, and 105 strikeouts in limited action in 2008 as a freshman. Cal will likely struggle in 2009 to achieve the elite level of pitching it needs to capture its second title.

With the level of pitching a question mark at best for these Pac-10 teams in 2009, there is lots of room for non-Pac-10 teams to succeed this year—teams like Michigan. The Wolverines can rally behind sophomore Jordan Taylor with her 222 innings of experience in 2008, exceeding all expectations with a 31-4 record, 0.76 ERA, and 297 strikeouts. Florida also has a great shot to succeed with senior Stacey Nelson, who posted a 47-5 record, a 0.75 ERA and 363 strikeouts last year. Northwestern has a similar shot to go all the way on junior Lauren Delaney’s arm—she excelled in 2008 with a 37-11 record, 1.74 ERA, and 461 strikeouts.

With the Pac-10 teams forced to rely on inexperienced or underperforming pitchers in 2009, there is an unprecedented chance for non-Pac-10 teams to win the WCWS. Either way, it’s going to be a great season!


4 Responses to “A Changing of the Guard?”

  1. I believe Arizona will still be there in the tournament. Sarah and Sisk will be fine. Candrea will be back, they still have some heavy hitters as the new class is learning and getting better themselves. Look for sarah to have a good year and Sam Bannister to break out with the team leadership role she should have had last year. This will be her second year without Caitlin Lowe stealing the spotlight. Now she can talk trash and get the job done.

  2. Although Florida has an excellent chance this season, don’t count out the Pac-10 just yet. The conference has 6 teams in the top 15 with #2 Stanford, #3 Washington, #5 UCLA, #8 Arizona State, #12 California & #14 Arizona.

  3. Yes, there were 3 eastern teams in this year’s WCWS, but there are also a number of California players on each roster:

    Alabama has only one:
    #34 Morgan Charlott, Moreno Valley, Calif (could this be areason they were out so early?)

    Georga has 4 four.
    #6 Taylor Schlopy, West Hills,Calif
    #11 Brittney Hubbard, Victorville, Calif
    #12 Jennie Auger, Poway, Calif
    #27 Erin Arvalo, Lathrop, Calif

    Washigton, suprizingly only four also:
    #3 Niki Williams, Mission Viejo, Calif
    #18 Morgan Stuatt, Riverside, Calif
    #21 Lauren Greer, Placentia, Calf
    #25 Ashlyn Watson, Garden Grove, Calif

    Florida, the big reason they are in the finals, have the most with eight players.
    #42 Stacy Ne Los Alamito, Calif
    #2 Kelsey Bruder, Corona, Calif
    #2 Megan Bush, Anaheim Hills, Calif
    #10 Francesca Enea, Woodland Hills, Calif
    #13 Shaunice Harris, Moreno Valley, Calif
    #3 Aja aculba, Wildmar, Calif
    #8 Kristine Priebe, Moorpark, Calif
    #5 Kim Waleszonia, Fontana, Calif

    Does the number of california players coraspond to how good your team will be?

  4. California players on each WCWS team roster:

    Alabama has one:
    #34 Morgan Charlott, Moreno Valley, Calif (could this be a reason they are out?)

    Georga has four:
    #6 Taylor Schlopy, West Hills, Calif
    #11 Brittney Hubbard, Victorville, Calif
    #12 Jennie Auger, Poway, Calif
    #27 Erin Arvalo, Lathrop, Calif

    Washington, surprisingly, has only four:
    #3 Niki Williams, Mission Viejo, Calif
    #18 Morgan Stuatt, Riverside, Calif
    #21 Lauren Greer, Placentia, Calf
    #25 Ashlyn Watson, Garden Grove, Calif

    Florida has the most with eight (the big reason they are in the finals):
    #42 Stacy Ne, Los Alamito, Calif
    #2 Kelsey Bruder, Corona, Calif
    #2 Megan Bush, Anaheim Hills, Calif
    #10 Francesca Enea, Woodland Hills, Calif
    #13 Shaunice Harris, Moreno Valley, Calif
    #3 Aja Aculba, Wildmar, Calif
    #8 Kristine Priebe, Moorpark, Calif
    #5 Kim Waleszonia, Fontana, Calif

    Does the number of California players correspond to how good the team will be?

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