Anne Photograp News 2024

NCAA regionals 2024: 10 college softball players you can’t miss

NCAA regionals 2024: 10 college softball players you can’t miss

The stage is set for the 2024 NCAA softball tournament. No. 1 overall Texas is looking to spoil No. 2 seed Oklahoma’s chances of making history and four-peating as champions. No. 3 seed Tennessee and No. 4 Florida will also use their star power in the quest to win the Women’s College World Series.

The top seeds aren’t the only teams with loaded rosters. This 64-team tournament field is packed with talent, from the top players from Miami (Ohio) to the top players from Stanford.

As teams begin their quest to reach Oklahoma City, let’s take a look at 10 of the most exciting players in this year’s tournament.

Reese Atwood, C/1B, Texas

Atwood was the most dominant player for the top-seeded Longhorns. She was excellent in the batter’s box and had a team-best 70 hits with a .427 average. The sophomore wrote her name in Texas history, breaking program records in home runs (22) and RBIs (86). Atwood was named the Big 12 Player of the Year, the first Longhorn so honored since Taylor Thom in 2014, after leading the conference in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage (.917).

Jaysoni Beachum, IF, Florida State

Beachum burst onto the scene as one of the most dominant freshmen this season. She is one of the most powerful hitters on FSU’s roster, with 15 home runs and a .773 slugging percentage. The unanimous ACC Freshman of the Year also hit an ACC-best .436 with 75 hits. Beachum made a big step for the Seminoles at third base, posting a .968 fielding percentage. Although she has no tournament experience, having played 57 games as a first-year player for a storied program like FSU will certainly work in her favor.

Maya Brady, SS, UCLA

The last name says it all. Like her uncle Tom Brady, the former NFL star, Maya is one of the best at doing this. The two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year started 47 games at shortstop this year and posted a fielding percentage of .919. She led the Bruins in batting average (.403), hits (58), home runs (15) and RBIs (61). After smashing her 67th career home run on the final series of the season, she moved into second place in UCLA history.

Nijaree Canady, P, Stanford

Canady played in the WCWS last year and looks like she could do so again in 2024. For the second consecutive season, Canady owns the nation’s best ERA, posting a 0.50 mark in more than 168 innings pitched. The power of her riseball is proven by her 256 strikeouts and a .133 opponent batting average. The Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year also improved her impact in the batter’s box with two home runs during the regular season.

Claire Davidson, OF, Duke

Duke is coming off a phenomenal season, with three Blue Devils claiming ACC Player, Pitcher and Defensive Player of the Year honors and coach Marissa Young earning Coach of the Year honors. If Duke wants to make its first trip to the WCWS, it will have to lean on the hot bat of ACC POY Davidson. She led her team in batting average (.428), home runs (17), doubles (18), RBIs (61) and a 1.439 OPS, career-best marks in nearly every offensive category.

Jocelyn Erickson, C, Florida

Erickson was one of the best transfers this season. Since arriving in Florida from Oklahoma, Erickson has increased her power numbers to a .689 slugging percentage with 12 home runs and 75 RBIs in 57 starts. She’s just as good behind the dish. The USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalist has a .989 fielding percentage with 255 outs and just two errors.

Tiare Jennings, SS, Oklahoma

Jennings has capped each of her first three college seasons by hoisting the national championship trophy. Can she do it a fourth time? If she comes back to life in the postseason, that’s certainly possible. Jennings already holds WCWS records for career RBIs (29) and home runs (five). Jennings has recorded 57 RBIs, bringing her career total to 302 – the sixth-best mark in Division I history. She is a four-time first-team All-Big 12 selection.

Karlyn Pickens, P, Tennessee

The Lady Vols pitching staff has been one to fear all season, in part because of Pickens’ ferocious fastball. She has recorded 186 strikeouts and boasts a 1.26 ERA after 156 innings of work. She joins Monica Abbott as the only Lady Vols to claim SEC Pitcher of the Year honors. She turned heads as a freshman during the 2023 WCWS after throwing a 75-mph heater against the Sooners, one of the fastest pitches ever recorded. Will we see that speed again?

Karli Spad, IF, Miami (Ohio)

What would this list be without the 2024 home run leader? Spaid’s 37 home runs in 2024 are tied for the most in a season in Division I history. With 104 career home runs, she trails only Oklahoma legend Jocelyn Alo (122) on the all-time leaderboard. Spaid has proven himself as one of the game’s best power hitters, with a batting average of 1,157 and a total of 79 RBIs. It will be exciting to see Spaid swing against top opponents in the Knoxville area.

Sara Vanderford, IF, State of Texas

Vanderford has had an electric final season for the Bobcats. She posted career records in doubles (24) and RBIs (48). Vanderford is an anchor for the Bobcats, starting in all 58 of Texas States’ games. She also became the program’s all-time RBI (187) and home run (40) leader. Vanderford and the Bobcats swept Penn State in the regular season, so it will be interesting to see if they can tame the Nittany Lions again, but this time in the postseason stage.