Let’s get down to business, shall we?
The 2022 softball season began this past weekend and there was action all over the place! Let’s take a look at how each of the SEC programs fared in their first round of action this week.
Mississippi State got off on the right foot with a 4-2 victory over Loyola Marymount on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, everything that came after that did not go their way. In their defense, playing both Oklahoma and UCLA is tough. Doing it back-to-back though? You’re just asking for trouble. The Bulldogs were outscored 17-0 by two of the top teams in the country. They rounded things out unfortunately with LMU getting their win back, so to speak, in a 5-3 result.
Top Performers: Paige Cook led the way with a .444 average over her nine at-bats. She, along with Brylie St. Clair and Mia Davidson collected four hits each over the weekend. Davidson had nine total bases, boosted by two doubles and a home run. Teammate Matalasi Faapito also belted a homer. Aspen Wesley was the lone pitcher to record a win. She pitched eight innings and allowed just one run, allowed only one walk, and struck out seven batters.
Arkansas and Mizzou ended the weekend over .500 and both took different paths to get there. Arkansas beat Rutgers, Memphis, and Long Beach State. Mizzou meanwhile beat Liberty, Penn State, and Wisconsin. And while the Tigers lost to unranked UConn, neither squad could muster victories up against ranked teams. Arkansas lost twice to a Top 10-ranked Washington team while Mizzou ate a loss to 10th-ranked Virginia Tech. Each will have opportunities to prove they’re cuts above, and we’ll see how it goes for each.
Top Performers: Jenna Laird seemingly picked up right where she left off after a fantastic 2021 season. Laird led the Tigers in B with a mark of .438 over 16 at-bats. She smacked seven hits and three went for extra bases. That included one home run she hit that propelled her SLG to a gaudy .750. Jordan Weber got it done in the circle for the Tigers also, striking out 14 batters in three appearances. She’ll have to cut down on the free passes though as she allowed eight of them.
For Arkansas, Danielle Gibson was the star of the show. In 15 at-bats she recorded eight hits to lead with a .533 BA after the first weekend of play. Linnie Malkin’s .429 BA is outstanding as well and yet it still pales in comparison. Gibson hit two doubles and reached base nine times to rack up an OBP of .563. Not many may have weekends like this one for Gibson, cause sheesh. Hannah Gammill deserves some appreciation as well. Her .125 BA may not look great, but deeper in there, you realize there’s some good. She hit a home run and also drew four walks and, unfortunately, also was hit by pitches four times over the weekend. Ouch. Meanwhile, hurlers Chenise Delce and the great Mary Haff combined for 19 strikeouts. But they, like some others, will need to cut down on the walks as they combined for nine of them out of the gate.
Both LSU and Ole Miss got out to great starts. The Fighting Tigers split games against Central Arkansas and Illinois while taking two from South Alabama in the first go-around of the season. Ole Miss meanwhile collected victories over Dixie State, Colorado State, Cal State Fullerton, and Cal while dropping games to San Diego and 17th-ranked Oregon. Ole Miss’ win over Cal State Fullerton was quite dramatic as the Rebels scored the game-winning run in the top of the 7th on a sacrifice fly.
Top Performers: For LSU, Ciara Briggs and Georgia Clark deserve honors for hitting .421 in their respective series. Clark was particularly exceptional with the bat in her hands this weekend. She clocked three home runs and picked up 18 total bases. She was not the only Tiger to hit three homers this weekend however as veteran Shelbi Sunseri dished out three of her own as well. And let’s give a big hand to Sunseri, Ali Kilponen, and Shelby Wickersham. The trio racked up 34 of the 39 strikeouts that LSU pitchers recorded all weekend.
Meanwhile, for Ole Miss, KK Esparza got off to a very fast start. Esparza hit an even .500 over 14 at-bats with two walks earned as well. She finished the weekend with a slash of .500/.563/.786 after hitting a double and a homer. Paige Smith and Mikayla Allee each recorded home runs as well. Aynslie Furbush and Savannah Diederich combined for 17 strikeouts and just two walks in the circle. Opening things up, Ole Miss pitchers recorded 26 strikeouts to five walks, finishing as one of the more efficient pitching staffs this weekend.
South Carolina may’ve lost their final game of the weekend to UNC but they were otherwise stellar this past weekend. The Gamecocks got things started with a 3-2 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers on Friday. The 3-1 result didn’t come too easily as UVA put the heat on them in the seventh. However, they were able to get out of dodge and didn’t lose on their home turf in the Gamecock Invitational to start the year. They would then proceed to beat up both George Washington and Lipscomb on Saturday. They outscored their two opponents 26-11, pulling off tremendous offensive displays in the process. As we mentioned, things soured a bit when they fell 8-3 to UNC on Sunday, but it was an otherwise great weekend for the Gamecocks.
Top Performers: Both Hannah Kumiyama and Jordan Fabian hit over .500 this past weekend. Fabian led the team with a .545 average and posted an OPS of a whopping 1.324. The Gamecocks finished the weekend with six different players hitting over .400, including one Katie Prebble. Prebble slashed .417/.533/1.167 as she scorched with two homers, a double, and a triple! Riley Blampied was the other Gamecock to record a homer, meanwhile, but not the only one to record a triple. Maddie Gallagher did that as well.
Like South Carolina, Kentucky got off to an unbeaten start that ended at the hands of an ACC squad. UK beat three different Big Ten teams over the weekend as Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Iowa all fell victim to the Wildcats. Liberty was sandwiched in between there as well before they ultimately fell to those aforementioned Virginia Tech Hokies. Kentucky’s offense, which was pretty great last year, showed itself to be again this year. They finished the weekend with 27 runs scored.
Top Performers: Lauren Johnson had a particularly stellar showing. Johnson recorded eight hits and three of them went for triples! She finished the weekend with a slash of .500/.500/.875, recording 14 total bases in the process. Kayla Kowalik got off to a very strong start too, hitting .438 and like Johnson, hit a triple of her own. Surprisingly only one Wildcat went deep, Erin Coffel, who hit the team’s only homer of the weekend.
Georgia was the last remaining team without a loss this weekend. The Bulldogs got off to a porous start, as they lost via a walk-off to UCF (that was pimped to HELL and honestly, we love to see that). They then ripped off five straight victories to end the weekend however and were prodigious in doing so. They ended the weekend scoring 45 (!!) runs including two performances of 11 and 16 runs. They accumulated wins over Longwood twice, Minnesota, and Fresno State.
Top Performances: While it was just four at-bats, shout out to Hayley Eaton for going 4-for-4 with three RBI this weekend. Lyndi Rae Davis also did a lot in eight at-bats, as she hit .750 with five RBI. Sara Mosley and Savana Sikes each hit .400 as Mosley hit three doubles and a homer. Mosley, Sydney Chambley, Lacey Fincher, Jaiden Fields, and Jayda Kearney all recorded homers this weekend. Madison Kerpics boasted 18 strikeouts over 15 innings, meanwhile.
Now, onto the unbeatens...
‘Bama, Florida, and Tennessee emerged out of weekend play with unblemished 4-0 marks.
The Crimson Tide were rocking and rolling all weekend long. They scored 35 runs and allowed only four, shutting out Southern Utah and 11th-ranked Arizona. ‘Bama hit 10 home runs as a team and recorded 33 strikeouts and one walk in the circle.
The Gators, meanwhile, left the weekend with a gaudy run differential of +25. They scored 26 runs, 12 against South Florida, and allowed only one run to UMKC. They shut out the Bulls, Illinois State, and 13th-ranked Michigan.
Rounding things out, Tennessee had to grind some victories out. But, wins are wins! They beat UNC Greensboro, Maryland, and FIU twice. In the second meeting, they erupted for seven runs after scoring just 10 combined in the first three games of the season.
Top Performers: Alabama’s Megan Bloodworth was outstanding. She hit three home runs and a triple en route to a slash of .600/.636/1.700 (!!), boasting one of the best performances in the country all weekend, let alone the SEC. Ashley Prange’s .583/.583/1.333 would be THE mark anywhere else, but Bloodworth was just that much better.
Kendry Falby and Hannah Adams were standouts for the Gators in the batter’s box. Falby hit .545 with a home run and 10 total bases logged. Adams hit a triple and drew four walks throughout the weekend. Elizabeth Hightower had 12 strikeouts over 12.1 innings of work, meanwhile, and had an ERA of 0.57. Granted, that’s the highest ERA on the whole staff. But nevertheless, she dazzled like everyone else. Also, speaking of pitchers, Lexie Delbrey won SEC Freshman of the Week honors, as she tossed a complete-game, one-hit shutout in her first-ever start against a ranked Michigan squad. Hats off to her!
Finally, Kaitlin Parsons of Tennessee gets some noteworthy consideration. She hit a team-best .444 and slugged over .700 after recording a homer over the weekend. Ivy Davis had two home runs and slugged an even .900, making the most with her bat this weekend. And Ashley Rogers, who’s been one of the best pitchers in the country the last few years, struck out TWENTY batters in 13 innings.
Auburn and Texas A&M wrap things up for us here.
The Tigers and Aggies basked with 5-0 starts to the season. Auburn beat up the Big East’s Seton Hall and St. John’s twice over the weekend and wrapped things up with a win over UMass Lowell. Elsewhere, the Aggies took it upon themselves to assert their dominance over fellow Texas teams, as they beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and UT Arlington twice, sandwiched in between by a win over Western Kentucky.
Top Performers: It’s very fitting that we wrap things up here with the top performers of the week as decided by the conference. Haley Lee of Texas A&M won SEC Player of the Week honors to start the year. Lee hit a ridiculous .818, drew SEVEN walks, and recorded two stolen bases. All this while playing both catcher and first base.
Shelby Lowe, who had a great freshman year, earned Co-SEC Pitcher of the Week honors with the above-mentioned Ashley Rogers. Lowe recorded the 28th no-hitter in Auburn softball history and over her 13 innings pitched, struck out 23 batters. Her BAA was a dismal .109, as hitters just could not figure her out.
SEC Softball in D1Softball.com’s Rankings
And that wraps up this weekend update post! We’re going to continue to be your source for all things SEC softball this season and we’re very excited that it’s back. Stay tuned to everything we have to offer here at TSK for everything softball!