Softball ranked #2 nationally in preseason poll

Submitted by ಠ_ಠ on January 26th, 2016 at 12:32 PM

LINK HERE

Florida is #1 by default after they defeated Michigan in the World Series final last season thanks to the dominant play of their now-graduated NPOY and the ability of UF players to get hit by pitches. But they bring in the top ranked recruiting class in the country and will be aiming for their third straight national title.

Michigan, meanwhile, is absolutely loaded with talent. This season's lineup has the potential to be even better at the plate than last season's, which was the most explosive in the nation. In the circle, Michigan loses Haylie Wagner, but returns two pitchers who have each led Michigan to the World Series as the staff ace in separate years.

Which team will be better this season? We won't have to wait long to get an idea, as Michigan faces off against UF on February 13th, the third game of their season.

Update: Link above is to the USA Today/NFCA poll. The ESPN/USA Softball poll also came out today with Michigan and UF in the same positions.

Comments

South Bend Wolverine

January 26th, 2016 at 12:35 PM ^

Good to see, although not too surprising given what we did last year & what we're bringing back.  Anything short of a WCWS trip would be a big disappointment this year.  Higher goals than that are very realistic.

Also, now that the polls are coming in, I can put the finishing touches on my season preview.  Expect to see that go up about a week before first pitch.

Jpnets54

January 26th, 2016 at 12:40 PM ^

I think it's a pretty interesting debate between Michigan and Florida.  Both teams return most of their starting lineup but Florida might have a tougher time replacing Lauren Haeger (#1 pitcher & led the team with 19 home runs) than Michigan will Haylie Wagner (because Driesenga is back).  

It's great that these two teams will face each other on the second day of the season on February 13th.  That's a real measuring stick game.

M-Dog

January 26th, 2016 at 4:24 PM ^

Florida barely got by Michigan with Haeger.  They would have been clobbered without her.  She defined that team, much more than Wagner defined Michigan.

I'm really surprised that Michigan is not #1.

No matter, though.  They'll get to decide it on the field.

 

FlaBlue2

January 26th, 2016 at 9:59 PM ^

 

Aside from P/1B Lauren Haeger, OF Bailey Castro, and SS Kathlyn Medina, Florida returns all of its starters and all of its pitchers.  In addition, Florida adds the top 2 recruits in the nation to its roster as ranked by FloSoftball.  Freshman OF Amanda Lorenz is the #1 recruit in the HS class of 2015 and freshman P Kelly Barnhill is the #2 recruit.  According to FloSoftball, “[Barnhill] throws consistently in the 69-70 mph range and […] hit the low 70's many times [last] year, but it's not just heat she throws--she has a rise and drop that are tough to lay off of and when batters start anticipating her speed she'll buckle knees with a brutal change-up.” Barnhill made the Womens’ National Team (“Team USA”) at the tryouts earlier this month in Irvine, CA, the only college freshman and the only current college pitcher to do so.  She joins college graduates Jackie Traina (Alabama-2014), Sara Nevins (USF-2014), Ally Carda (UCLA-2015), and Jessica Moore (Oregon-2013) on the Team USA pitching staff.  Florida seniors 2B Kelsey Stewart and C Aubree Munro also made Team USA.  Florida Sophomore INF Nicole DeWitt made the Team USA 2nd team (called the “Elite Team”).  The graduation of Lauren Haeger is a big loss, but Florida will still be plenty tough this season.  I won’t be surprised if Barnhill starts against Michigan on February 13.  Michigan will get its chance to show it is #1.

softshoes

January 26th, 2016 at 3:21 PM ^

Does anyone know if we recruited any young women with a propensity for getting hit by pitches. Or did we just get the ones who hit piches over the wall?

I'm already desperately missing Lauren .

South Bend Wolverine

January 26th, 2016 at 3:31 PM ^

She is certainly in the top 2 or 3 on that list pre-season.  Last year she just narrowly missed out to Haeger, and Haeger's gone now.  Of course there are other great players out there too like Cheridan Hawkins, who also finished in the top 3 a year ago, but Romero's going to be right in the mix.  I will say this: if she maximizes her potential this year, she'll win it.

ಠ_ಠ

January 26th, 2016 at 3:54 PM ^

She finished second each of the past two years. It would be a shame if she finishes her career without winning it, but sometimes it happens (see: Lauren Chamberlain). Working a bit uphill anyway being a hitter and not a pitcher. Kind of like being a non-QB in the Heisman race.
 
If odds-makers handicapped it, I'd expect her to be even with Hawkins and slightly ahead of a handful of other contenders like Bianka Bell, Kelsey Stewart, Haylie McCleney, Alex Hugo, the pitchers at UCF if they get any run support, and perhaps even Kelly Christner and Megan Betsa.

South Bend Wolverine

January 26th, 2016 at 3:59 PM ^

Good breakdown of the other candidates.  I wish I had more time to follow the national scene, but I often don't get to watch much of any non-Michigan softball until the tourney.

Interesting to note that Christner & Betsa could possibly be in the conversation - definitely a valid point.  Christner reminds me a bit of Chad Kolarik to Romero's Kevin Porter.  Kolarik would have a been a top-5, maybe even top-3 Hobey candidate if it weren't for the fact that Porter was on his team, running away with the award.  Christner is a nationally elite player who should be talked about more.  She'll be a huge factor for us this year, and will be our team leader on offense next season almost certainly.

ಠ_ಠ

January 26th, 2016 at 4:13 PM ^

Obviously it would come down to her numbers vs Romo's. But the fact that it's even a possibility that we would have a player remotely comparable to Romo offensively is difficult to believe. If you'd told me that exactly one year ago I'd have thought you were insane. Yet Christner comes from nowhere and is named a first team all-american in her first season as a starter. Maybe we'll be in for another surprise or two this season as well.

South Bend Wolverine

January 26th, 2016 at 3:52 PM ^

I'd say if you wanted to pick a favorite, she'd probably be it.  She was a narrow 2nd to Haeger, and actually won the ESPNW player of the year award (a less prestigious award; last year was its inaugural year).  She'll be challenged for sure, but she's got a very good chance to bring it home.