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Five freshmen SEC softball players who’ve shined in 2021

A look at five freshman studs who are impressing in the SEC. Plus, a glance at some others across the nation too!

Shanna Lockwood / Auburn Athletics

The SEC softball season is in full swing. We’ve been doing our best to cover the league this year, and today we’re going to be doing something different. Our usual recap post will return next week, but we deviated away from that this time around. For this post, we’ll be talking about some freshmen sensations. Five of them, to be precise. Let’s not waste any more time and start profiling!

Erin Coffel, IF, Kentucky Wildcats

Season Stats: 87 AB, 402/.469/.839, 6 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 11 K, 8 BB

Kentucky’s Erin Coffel was the 14th-ranked recruit in the country by

Softball America going into the year. Thus far, it’s pretty easy to see why. Coffel has already demonstrated incredible pop in her bat, as she’s socked 10 homers and has slugged over .800. She ranks first amongst freshmen in the SEC in runs scored (28), RBI (31), total base (73), and home runs (10). From a national perspective, Coffel stands up pretty well as well. She trails only Tiare Jennings of the Oklahoma Sooners in the home run category for freshmen. Jennings’ 14 has her beat for now, but one should expect Coffel to make a run.

She’s part of a ridiculously stacked UK offense and is arguably one of their most key contributors already. Braxton Burnside has a five-homer edge on her, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Coffel made a run for the lead as the season wears on. Her pop is that damn good, and she too is that damn good.

Hannah Gammill, UTIL, Arkansas Razorbacks

Season Stats: 46 AB, .370/.508/.739, 1.247 OPS, 2 2B, 5 HR, 4 K, 11 BB

Hannah Gammill has been giving Arkansas terrific contributions. Her at-bats aren’t as high as many others on the team, but she’s made the most of them. She’s hit .370 and has slugged over .700 thus far. Gammill has also hit five home runs, and to this point, has 34 total bases and has struck out just four times while drawing 11 walks.

Gammill already is showing off her skills with the bat, just as she did in high school. As a junior, she hit a clean .500 on the season. So those skills do appear to be translating, as her average is pretty lofty through 46 at-bats as a freshman. I think she’ll continue her rise and continue to deliver at the plate, those at-bat numbers just have to go up. She’ll have to of course heal her hand up, as she had suffered an injury that’s been plaguing her a bit.

Jenna Laird, SS, Missouri Tigers

Season Stats: 75 AB, .427/.463/.680, 1.143 OPS, 6 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 14 K, 5 BB

After acquiring accolades out in New York as a high schooler, Jenna Laird seems to be quite comfortable at Mizzou. Laird, who was first-team all-state and all-county every year at East Meadow HS, is terrorizing in the box. She leads all freshmen in batting average with her robust .427 mark. Laird is also second to the above-mentioned Erin Coffel in hits (32), which shouldn’t come as a surprise with her BA being where it’s at. Her strikeout numbers are a bit high, but even with that said, her average is still crazily high. There’s no telling if that will offset itself in the future, so for now, Mizzou should enjoy the riches that come when Laird steps into the batter’s box.

Shanna Lockwood/Auburn Athletics

Shelby Lowe, LHP, Auburn Tigers

Season Stats: 7-2, 61.1 IP, 0.80 ERA, 82 K, 9 BB, .180 BAA, 4 CG

Auburn’s Shelby Lowe is not only one of the best freshmen pitchers in the SEC; she’s one of the conference’s best hurlers in general. The southpaw has had nothing short of a dominant start to her collegiate career. After a celebrated high school career — featuring five-time All-State honors, the 2018 AISA Pitcher of the Year award, she was ranked as the No. 9 recruits in the country by Softball America. She has made good on that and then some, to say the least. Lowe has thus far amassed an 0.80 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 61.1 innings pitched. All three rank her first amongst all SEC freshmen pitchers as of now. Additionally, they rank her fourth, fifth and ninth in the SEC in general right now.

She’s also making waves nationally, posting the lowest ERA of any freshman pitcher thus far (Illinois’ Tori McQueen is lower, but McQueen has only amassed 15.1 innings this season). Also, she ranks fourth in the country among freshman in strikeouts, trailing Valerie Cagle (Clemson Tigers, 91), Olivia Lackie (South Alabama Jaguars, 130), and phenom Payton Gottshall, who we’ll be shouting out later for a reason you’ll see then. Put simply, Lowe is one of the best young pitchers in the sport right now and has earned recognition for it.

Sydney Chambley, OF, Georgia Bulldogs

Season Stats: 67 AB, .343/.408/.866, 1.274 OPS, 4 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 13 K, 8 BB

Sydney Chambley has done a little bit of everything for Georgia this year. Chambley has hit for average and she’s gotten on base at a productive rate. She’s hit multiple doubles, multiple triples, and multiple home runs. She leads the SEC in triples, not just freshmen, and she’s atop the national leaderboard for triples as well. Chambley is tied for the lead with senior outfielder Kaitlyn Jennings of the Fresno State Bulldogs, senior infielder Nicky Dawson of the Baylor Bears, and fellow freshman McKenzie Clark, an outfielder for Clemson. Chambley’s bat and presence have been a major boost for Georgia, and the Dawgs are certainly glad that she’s on her side. The sky’s the limit for her, especially if she continues to be such a weapon with her bat and her wheels.

Five Other Fantastic Freshmen Worth Mentioning

Maddie Penta (Auburn) - 2.66 ERA, 55.1 IP, 74 K, 27 BB, .194 BAA
Jayda Kearney (Georgia) - .327/.431/.491, .922 OPS, 2 2B, 2 3B, HR
Blaise Biringer (Ole Miss Rebels) - .409/.411/.559, .970 OPS, 3 2B, 4 3B, HR
Alex Honnold (Mizzou) - .373/.439/.508, .947 OPS, 6 2B, 3B
Bre Warren (Texas A&M Aggies) - .381/.559/.595, 1.154 OPS, 5 2B, 2 3B, 15 BB

Let’s Go National

Alyssa Brito (Oregon Ducks) — The #3 Ducks have gotten off to a torrid start to the year. One of the major reasons why is the play of freshman Alyssa Brito. Brito has four doubles, eight homers, and is slashing .410/.471/.902. That SLG puts her in the Top 20 in the category, and her mammoth-sized OPS is one of the best in the nation as well. Alyssa is showing off a lot of power in her bat already, and she is helping to fuel one of the nation’s best offenses.

Tiare Jennings (Oklahoma Sooners) — We mentioned her before, so let’s give some love to Tiare Jennings. The Sooners freshman has torn the cover off the ball every chance that she has gotten. She’s slashed .528/.557/1.208 to come to an OPS of 1.765. Her OPS is second only to her teammate, the amazing Jocelyn Alo, for the national lead. Jennings has hit for seven doubles and, as we mentioned before, a freshman-best 14 home runs. She also hasn’t struck out... once. At all. This season.

Payton Gottshall (Bowling Green) — So, let’s talk Payton Gottshall. The freshman phenom for Bowling Green has been a force to be reckoned with in the circle in 2021. Gottshall has posted a 1.56 ERA through 94.1 innings pitched this season. She’s thrown six shutouts and has put up a BAA of .143. But let’s talk strikeouts. Gottshall has 165 (!) strikeouts in her aforementioned 94.1 innings pitched. That is tied for the nation’s leader in the strikeout category with Washington Huskies star Gabbie Plain. These are pretty insane numbers for a first-year pitcher at that level, so we’ll see if Gottshall can maintain this pace and challenge Plain and other oncoming players for the strikeout crown.

Jenna Wildeman (Central Arkansas) — Last but not least, we focus on Jenna Wildeman. The freshman sensation for Central Arkansas has slashed .467/.518/.560 in 75 at-bats this season. Furthermore, she’s been a terrific base-stealer. Wildeman leads all freshmen with 20 stolen bags on the year and is second in the nation in that category in general. Only Winthrop’s Macy McCall has more SBs this season, and five is a pretty close gap to work with. With any luck, Wildeman could challenge for the stolen base crown by the time the season ends. Godspeed and best of luck to her in her pursuit!