Look Back at 2016. Look Ahead to 2017

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On this edition of In The Circle podcast, Eric Lopez and Victor Anderson talk to Justin McLeod of Justin’s World to recap the year in softball and look ahead to the potential storylines in 2017 in both College and NPF softball.

  • Is Oklahoma the team to beat in 2017?
  • Who is the best college softball player going into 2017?
  • Who were some of the best coaching moves in the off-season?
  • The year that was in the NPF and what in store for the league in 2017?
  • Impact of Softball returning into the Olympics.
  • Early look at some of the storylines in the SEC, Big 12, Pac 12, Big 10, American Conference and more.

In The Circle Podcast episode 58 with Justin McLeod.

Check out Justin’s work at Justin’s World.

Also in case you missed the most recent episodes of In The Circle check out below.

Mackenzie Audas on her UCF Career and new career in Photography.

Stephanie Best on her Hall of Fame career at UCF. Her career in the NPF and ProSwings.com company.

Tiffany Lane on participating in The World Championships this summer.

2016 NPF Championship Series recap 

You can follow In The Circle on Twitter @InTheCircleSB & on facebook.

 

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LSU-Auburn Tops Viewers for Season

The SEC Championship game between LSU and Auburn was the most watched College Softball game of the season to date. The Auburn Tigers win over LSU garnered 587,000 viewers on Saturday on ESPN according to SportsTVRatings.com . It beat the Georgia-Alabama game on May 7th which had 505,000 viewers on ESPN.

This year SEC Title game is down from last year’s SEC Title game between Auburn and Tennessee had 887,000 viewers. Keep in mind though that last year’s SEC title game aired on primetime compared to this year’s 5pm eastern start time.

The ACC Championship game between Notre Dame and Florida State that aired before the SEC Championship game on ESPN had 486,000 viewers making it the most watched ACC Softball championship game ever as it was up from last year’s ACC Title game between Florida State and Pittsburgh which had 453,000 viewers. The American Conference Championship game between South Florida and Tulsa which aired on ESPN had 484,000 viewers. It was the first time the American Conference Championship game aired on ESPN and did not go up against a Softball game.

Last year Championship game between Tulsa and UCF aired on ESPN2 went head to head against the ACC Championship game at the same time. In 2014 The American Conference Tournament  was effected by rain so it aired Semi-final game between UCF and Rutgers from Houston on ESPN2 that went up against a regular season Big 12 Softball game.

The Big East Championship game between St John’s and Butler had  tough competition going up against ACC and SEC title games on a lesser network airing on Fox Sports 2. The game garnered 24,000 viewers which did triple last year’s Big East Title game between St John’s and Seton Hall which had 8,000 viewers.

The NCAA Selection Show on Sunday night that aired on ESPNU garnered 109,000 viewers.

ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU Softball Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Network
March 18 7 p.m. No. 16 Tennessee at No. 1 Florida ESPNU-  74K
March 24 5 p.m. Mississippi Valley State at Texas Southern ESPNU-44K
March 26 Noon  Florida at  LSU ESPN2-250K
  9 p.m.  Texas at  Baylor ESPN2-164K
April 2 Noon  Alabama at  Florida ESPN2-298k
  12pm

10:30 p.m.

Tennessee at MissouriUCLA at  Oregon ESPNU-101kESPNU- 99K
April 3 7 p.m. Ole Miss at Mississippi State ESPNU- 91k
April 8 7 p.m. Coastal Carolina at Winthrop ESPNU- 67K
April 9 Noon  Texas A&M at  Tennessee ESPNU- 135k
  5:30 p.m. NC State at  Florida State ESPNU-89k
  3 p.m.  Kentucky at LSU ESPN – 392k
  7:30 p.m.  Georgia at  Missouri ESPNU-163K
April 10 3 p.m.  Oklahoma at  Baylor ESPN2- 208K
  4 p.m. NC State at  Florida State ESPNU- 73k
April 16 1 p.m.3pm  Tennessee at  GeorgiaTexas at Oklahoma ESPN 2-207kESPN2-219K
 April 17 12 p.m.  Missouri at Kentucky ESPNU- 163k
April 23 2 p.m.430pm  Georgia at  AuburnTexas AM at Missouri ESPNU-75KESPNU-112K
  2 p.m.  Oklahoma at  Tennessee ESPN- 311K
  5 p.m.  UCLA at  Arizona ESPN2-182k
April 24 3:30 p.m. Notre Dame at North Carolina ESPNU-70K
  5 p.m.  UCLA at  Arizona ESPN2-166k
April 25 7 p.m.  Notre Dame at North Carolina ESPNU-88K
April 27 6 p.m. Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton ESPNU-45k
  10:30 p.m. Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton ESPNU*-34K
April 28 4 p.m. Bethune-Cookman at Florida A&M ESPNU-41K
April 30 7 p.m.  LSU at Arkansas ESPNU- 148K
  8 p.m.  Auburn at  Tennessee ESPN2-Rain Out
May 1 3 p.m.  Arizona at  Oregon ESPN2- 183K
  5 p.m. UCF at USF ESPNU-124k
 
May 7 Noon  Georgia at  Alabama ESPN- 505k
  1 p.m.  Texas A&M at  Auburn ESPN- 418K
  1pm

3 p.m.

Arkansas at Florida 

South Carolina at  Missouri

ESPNU- 73K

ESPNU-58K

May 13 12pm

3 p.m.

Auburn vs Alabama

LSU vs Tennessee

ESPNU- 81K

ESPNU- 148K

  5:30 p.m. Auburn vs Florida  ESPNU- 183K
May 14 Noon Tulsa vs South Florida ESPN- 484K
  2 p.m. Notre Dame vs Florida State ESPN- 486K
  5 p.m. LSU vs Auburn ESPN- 587K
May 14 3pm Butler vs St John’s  FS2- 24k

NCAA Softball Tournament Projections V

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Here is my Fifth 2016 NCAA Softball Tournament Projections of the season. () is RPI ranking.

Here is In The Circle Podcast where we breakdown the Conference Tournaments, Teams that are in and out and seeding scenarios and more.

In The Circle Podcast : NCAA Tournament Projections, Conference Tournament Previews

ACC (4): Florida State (7), Notre Dame (29),  Louisville (46), North Carolina (35)
American (3): UCF (31), South Florida (20), Tulsa (41)
Big East: DePaul
Big 12 (5):  Oklahoma(4), Baylor (13),  Texas (26), Oklahoma State (34),Kansas (47)
Big Ten (4): Michigan (2), Minnesota (22), Nebraska (32), Ohio State (40)
 Pac-12 (7):  Oregon (9), Washington (6), UCLA (14),  Arizona (21), Utah(25), Oregon State (30), California (37)
 SEC (11): Florida (1),  Alabama (3), Auburn (8), Missouri(10),  Kentucky (16),  Tennessee (11), LSU (15), Georgia (19), Texas A&M(17), South Carolina (24), Ole Miss (27)
 A-10: Fordham
 America East: Albany
 A-Sun: USC Upstate
 Big Sky: Sacramento State
 Big South: Longwood
 Big West (3): Cal State Fullerton (28), Long Beach State (36), CSUN (55)
 CAA:  James Madison (5)
 C-USA: Florida Atlantic (23)
 Horizon: Wright State
Ivy: Dartmouth
 MAAC: Marist
 MAC: Miami (Ohio)
 MEAC: Delaware State
 MVC: Wichita State (50)
 MWC: Fresno State (17)
 NEC: Saint Francis
 OVC: Jacksonville State
 Patriot: Lehigh
Southern: Samford (53)
 Southland: McNeese State (33)
 Summit: North Dakota State
 Sun Belt (3): Louisiana-Lafayette (12), Texas State (44), South Alabama (43)
 SWAC: Alabama State
 WAC: New Mexico State
 WCC: BYU (45)
Last 4 In : Kansas, CSUN, Ohio State, Oklahoma State
First 4 Out :  Illinois (48), Virginia Tech (42) , Boston College (52), Arizona State (39),
Projected Host Teams
1- Florida
2- Michigan
3-Oklahoma
4- Oregon
5- Florida State
6-Alabama
7-Washington
8- Auburn
9- James Madison
10- Tennessee
11-Louisiana Lafayette
12- Kentucky
13- Missouri
14- LSU
15-Baylor
16- UCLA
Teams in Contention to Host
Fresno State, Arizona, Georgia, Minnesota
Conference RPI Rankings Top 12
1- SEC
2- Pac 12
3- Big 12
4- ACC
5- Big Ten
6- Sun Belt
7- American
8- Colonial
9-Big West
10-A-Sun
11- Mountain West
12- CUSA
Follow In The Circle on Twitter & on Facebook.

Arizona-Oregon Tops Softball Viewers

Sunday’s  ESPN2 telecast between Oregon and Arizona was the most watched College Softball game of the week. The Ducks win over the Wildcasts which completed Oregon sweep of Arizona was watched by 183,000 viewers on ESPN2 according to SportsTVRatings.com . LSU come from behind win over Arkansas on ESPNU Saturday night telecast was the second most watched game of the week with 148,000 viewers.

Sunday’s late afternoon dramatic game between UCF and South Florida was watched by 124,000 viewers which was the most watched live Sporting event on ESPNU that day beating  the College Lacrosse game between Syracuse vs Duke (119,000)  and College Baseball game between Texas AM and Arkansas (85K). The Knights 5-3 win in 9 innings over 18th rank Bulls also had more viewers then College Baseball’s  Dallas Baptist-Bradley telecast on Saturday night (64K) as well as Tennessee-Missouri (43K).

Overall UCF-USF is 5th most watched College Softball game of the season that has aired on ESPNU and 15th most watched game of the season. UCF-USF  easily had more viewers then any ACC Conference game televised this season and it is the most watched Non-Power 5 College Softball or Baseball game of the season.

ESPNU is available to approximately 73,594,000 pay television households (63.2% of households with at least one television set) in the United States. In comparison,  ESPN2 is available to approximately 94,379,000 pay television households (81.1% of households with at least one television set) in the United States. ESPN is available to approximately 94,396,000 paid television households (81.1% of households with at least one television set) in the United States. 

ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU Softball Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Network
March 18 7 p.m. No. 16 Tennessee at No. 1 Florida ESPNU-  74K
March 24 5 p.m. Mississippi Valley State at Texas Southern ESPNU-44K
March 26 Noon  Florida at  LSU ESPN2-250K
  9 p.m.  Texas at  Baylor ESPN2-164K
April 2 Noon  Alabama at  Florida ESPN2-298k
  12pm

10:30 p.m.

Tennessee at MissouriUCLA at  Oregon ESPNU-101kESPNU- 99K
April 3 7 p.m. Ole Miss at Mississippi State ESPNU- 91k
April 8 7 p.m. Coastal Carolina at Winthrop ESPNU- 67K
April 9 Noon  Texas A&M at  Tennessee ESPNU- 135k
  5:30 p.m. NC State at  Florida State ESPNU-89k
  3 p.m.  Kentucky at LSU ESPN – 392k
  7:30 p.m.  Georgia at  Missouri ESPNU-163K
April 10 3 p.m.  Oklahoma at  Baylor ESPN2- 208K
  4 p.m. NC State at  Florida State ESPNU- 73k
April 16 1 p.m.3pm  Tennessee at  GeorgiaTexas at Oklahoma ESPN 2-207kESPN2-219K
 April 17 12 p.m.  Missouri at Kentucky ESPNU- 163k
April 23 2 p.m.430pm  Georgia at  AuburnTexas AM at Missouri ESPNU-75KESPNU-112K
  2 p.m.  Oklahoma at  Tennessee ESPN- 311K
  5 p.m.  UCLA at  Arizona ESPN2-182k
April 24 3:30 p.m. Notre Dame at North Carolina ESPNU-70K
  5 p.m.  UCLA at  Arizona ESPN2-166k
April 25 7 p.m.  Notre Dame at North Carolina ESPNU-88K
April 27 6 p.m. Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton ESPNU-45k
  10:30 p.m. Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton ESPNU*-34K
April 28 4 p.m. Bethune-Cookman at Florida A&M ESPNU-41K
April 30 7 p.m.  LSU at Arkansas ESPNU- 148K
  8 p.m.  Auburn at  Tennessee ESPN2-Rain Out
May 1 3 p.m.  Arizona at  Oregon ESPN2- 183K
  5 p.m. UCF at USF ESPNU-124k
 
May 7 Noon  Georgia at  Alabama ESPN
  1 p.m.  Texas A&M at  Auburn ESPNU
  3 p.m. South Carolina at  Missouri ESPNU
May 13 3 p.m. SEC Tournament ESPNU
  5:30 p.m. SEC Tournament ESPNU
May 14 Noon American Championship ESPN
  2 p.m. ACC Championship ESPN
  5 p.m. SEC Championship ESPN
May 15 10 a.m. SWAC Softball Championship ESPNU**

Softball Tournament Projections IV

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Cheridan Hawkins

Never thought we see the day where Pac 12 Leader be seeded lower then the Colonial Conference champion but that is what the commitee did in its initial rankings. I dont expect to last.  Check out Graham Hays 5 observations.

Here is my Fourth 2016 NCAA Softball Tournament Projections of the season. () is RPI ranking.

ACC (4): Florida State (5), Notre Dame (26),  Louisville (48), North Carolina (35)
American (3): UCF (28), South Florida (20), Tulsa (42)
Big East: DePaul
Big 12 (4):  Oklahoma(3), Baylor (14),  Texas (31), Kansas (44)
Big Ten (5): Michigan (2), Minnesota (22), Nebraska (32), Ohio State (33), Illinois (47)
 Pac-12 (7):  Oregon (6), Washington (8), UCLA (15),  Arizona (21), Utah(25), Oregon State (23), California (39)
 SEC (11): Florida (1),  Alabama (4), Auburn (7), Missouri(10),  Kentucky (12),  Tennessee (13), LSU (16), Georgia (19), Texas A&M(18), South Carolina (27), Ole Miss (29)
 A-10: Fordham
 America East: Albany
 A-Sun: USC Upstate (54)
 Big Sky: Sacramento State
 Big South: Longwood
 Big West (3): Cal State Fullerton (30), Long Beach State (38), CSUN (53)
 CAA:  James Madison (9)
 C-USA: Florida Atlantic (24)
 Horizon: Wright State
Ivy: Dartmouth
 MAAC: Marist
 MAC: Miami (Ohio)
 MEAC: Delaware State
 MVC: Wichita State (50)
 MWC: Fresno State (17)
 NEC: Saint Francis
 OVC: Jacksonville State
 Patriot: Lehigh
Southern: Samford (51)
 Southland: McNeese State (37)
 Summit: North Dakota State
 Sun Belt (3): Louisiana-Lafayette (10), Texas State (49), South Alabama (45)
 SWAC: Alabama State
 WAC: New Mexico State
 WCC: BYU (45)
Last 4 In : Illinois, CSUN, Tulsa, North Carolina
First 4 Out : Virginia Tech ,San Diego State, Boston College, Arizona State,
Projected Host Teams
1- Florida
2- Michigan
3-Oklahoma
4- Oregon
5- Florida State
6-Alabama
7-Auburn
8- Washington
9- Tennessee
10- Louisiana Lafayette
11- James Madison
12- Kentucky
13- Missouri
14- LSU
15-Baylor
16- UCLA
Teams in Contention to Host
 Fresno State, Arizona, Georgia, Minnesota
Conference RPI Rankings Top 12
1- SEC
2- Pac 12
3- Big 12
4- ACC
5- Big Ten
6- Sun Belt
7- American
8- Colonial
9-Big West
10-A-Sun
11- Mountain West
12- CUSA
Follow In The Circle on Twitter & on Facebook.

NCAA Softball Tournament Projections III

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Cat Osterman Asst Coach at Texas State

Here is my Third 2016 NCAA Softball Tournament Projections of the season. () is RPI ranking.

ACC (4): Florida State (9), Notre Dame (25),  Louisville (50), North Carolina (37)
Comment
American (3): UCF (29), South Florida (17), Tulsa (36)
Big East: Villanova
Big 12 (4):  Oklahoma(3), Baylor (14),  Texas (32), Kansas (42)
Big Ten (5): Michigan (2), Minnesota (21), Nebraska (31), Ohio State (34), Illinois (48)
 Pac-12 (8):  Oregon (7), Washington (8), UCLA (16),  Arizona (20), Utah(24), Oregon State (27),  Arizona State (35), California (39)
 SEC (11): Florida (1),  Alabama (4), Auburn (5), Missouri(11),  Kentucky (12),  Tennessee (13), LSU (15), Georgia (19), Texas A&M(22), South Carolina (28), Ole Miss (30)
 A-10: Fordham
 America East: Albany
 A-Sun: USC Upstate (52)
 Big Sky: Sacramento State
 Big South: Longwood
 Big West (2): Cal State Fullerton (26), Long Beach State (43)
 CAA:  James Madison (6)
 C-USA: Florida Atlantic (23)
 Horizon: Wright State
Ivy: Dartmouth
 MAAC: Marist
 MAC: Miami (Ohio)
 MEAC: Delaware State
 MVC: Wichita State (54)
 MWC: Fresno State (18)
 NEC: Saint Francis
 OVC: Jacksonville State
 Patriot: Lehigh
Southern: Samford (49)
 Southland: McNeese State (38)
 Summit: North Dakota State
 Sun Belt (3): Louisiana-Lafayette (10), Texas State (44), South Alabama (46)
 SWAC: Alabama State
 WAC: New Mexico State
 WCC: BYU (45)
Last 4 In : Illinois, North Carolina,  Arizona State, Texas State
First 4 Out : San Diego State, Mississippi State, Purdue, Georgia Southern
Projected Host Teams
1- Florida
2- Michigan
3-Oklahoma
4- Oregon
5- Auburn
6-Alabama
7-Florida State
8- Washington
9- Louisiana Lafayette
10- Kentucky
11- James Madison
12- UCLA
13- Tennessee
14- Missouri
15-Baylor
16- Arizona
Teams in Contention to Host
LSU, Fresno State, Georgia, Minnesota
Conference RPI Rankings Top 12
1- SEC
2- Pac 12
3- Big 12
4- ACC
5- Big Ten
6- Sun Belt
7- American
8- Colonial
9-Big West
10-A-Sun
11- Mountain West
12- CUSA
Follow In The Circle on Twitter & on Facebook.

Ken Eriksen Previews USF Season

 

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South Florida’s Ken Eriksen has been USF Head Coach since 1997

Eric Lopez and Victor Anderson talk to South Florida’ Head Coach Ken Eriksen about the Bulls 2016 season. Among the topics Eriksen talked about include :

  • Who are some of the players to look for this season at USF?
  • Breaking down USF’s schedule
  • Outlook for the AAC in 2016
  • Impact new Asst Coach Jessica Moore will have on program
  • Chances of Softball getting back to the Olympics in 2020?

Interview with Ken Eriksen 

2016 American Athletic Conference Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll

School Points
1. UCF (4) 33
2. Tulsa (2) 31
3. Houston (1) 27
4. USF 23
5. East Carolina 12
6. Memphis 11
7. UConn 10

The Bulls offense will be led by Catcher/Outfielder Lee Ann Spivey. Spivey hit ten homeruns and drove in 52 runs last season for South Florida. Infielder Kristen Wyckoff is going to be another key player to watch as Wyckoff led the Bulls in runs scored with 45 as well as stolen bases with 25. Junior  Juli Weber also will be a big part of the offense as Weber won AAC Freshman of the Year and was first team all-AAC in 2014. In 2015 Weber scored 28 runs which was a career high.

On the Pitching Staff the Bulls will led by senior  Eric Nunn as well as well as Emily Gaitan who joins South Florida after transferring from Ole Miss.

Ken Eriksen Been Head Coach of Team USA since 2011

Coaching the Bulls pitching staff is 1st year asst coach at USF , Jessica Moore. Moore comes over after coaching 1 season as an asst coach at Idaho State. Moore is a former Oregon all-american pitches for Eriksen on Team USA. Eriksen has been the head coach for the U.S. Women’s National Team since 2011.

Follow In The Circle on Twitter & on Facebook.

 

AAC and Mid Major Conference Outlook

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On this edition of In The Circle podcast, Eric Lopez and Victor Anderson talk to Justin McCleod of Justin’s World about the upcoming season in the American Conference as well discussions on other mid major teams. Among topics discussed

  • Who can knock off UCF in American Conference?
  • Can South Florida and Tulsa get back to NCAA Tournament?
  • Which mid-major team is a sleeper for Oklahoma City?
  • Whats the outlook of James Madison and Louisiana Lafayette?

In The Circle Podcast : American Conference outlook and Mid-Major Teams talk

Check out Justin’s World previews of American East, Big Sky, Big South, Horizon League, Ivy League, MEAC, and MAAC as well as the Patriot League, Northeast, So Con, Summit, SWAC, WAC, and WCC Conferences. Check every conference preview by Justin McCleod right here.

2016 American Athletic Conference Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll

School Points
1. UCF (4) 33
2. Tulsa (2) 31
3. Houston (1) 27
4. USF 23
5. East Carolina 12
6. Memphis 11
7. UConn 10

Players to Watch:

  • Shelby Turnier- UCF– Turnier led the NCAA with a 0.87 ERA last season edging out her teammate Mackenzie Audas who had 0.95 . Turnier had a  record-breaking season for the Knights by going 25-8 with 268 strikeouts on her way to winning the 2015 American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and  being named to the 2015 NFCA Division I All-America First Team. Turnier finished last season as a top ten finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year award and was named last week to the Top 50 watch list for the award for the upcoming season.
  •  Caitlin Sill, Tulsa – Despite a record just under .500 a year ago, Sill enjoyed the best season of her career in 2015. With a 2.65 career ERA and opponents hitting below .240 against her the past two seasons, she stands with a golden opportunity to finish her career in the circle stellarly. Her strikeout/walk ratio could use improvement, but there are otherwise few complaints about her skill set.
  •  Emily Gaitan, South Florida – In an abbreviated non-conference campaign with the SEC’s Ole Miss a year ago, Gaitan impressed, putting together a sub-2.00 ERA and an 8-2 record. In 2014, her only full season as a Rebel, opponents hit .235 against her and she published a 3.93 ERA in seventy-three innings. In a decidedly-lower level of competition in moving from the SEC to the AAC, she could enjoy similar statistics in an elevated amount of work.

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2016 Sun Belt Conference Preseason Poll (First Place Votes)                            
1. UL Lafayette (8) – 98 pts
2. South Alabama (1) – 90 pts
3. Georgia State – 74 pts
4. Texas State – 71 pts
5. Troy – 66 pts
6. UL Monroe – 56 pts
7. UT Arlington – 46 pts
8. Georgia Southern – 38 pts
9. Appalachian State – 28 pts

 Sun Belt Softball Preseason All-Conference Team
Taylor Rogers, Georgia Southern, Junior, Outfield
Taylor Anderson, Georgia State, Senior, Shortstop
Ivie Drake, Georgia State, Sophomore, Catcher
Devin Brown, South Alabama, Sophomore, Pitcher
Emily Messer, South Alabama, Senior, Third Base
Stephanie Pilkington, South Alabama, Senior, Outfield
Randi Rupp, Texas State, Sophomore, Pitcher
Kendall Wiley, Texas State, Senior, First Base
Lexie Elkins, UL Lafayette, Senior, Catcher
Haley Hayden, UL Lafayette, Junior, Second Base
Shellie Landry, UL Lafayette, Senior, Outfield
DJ Sanders, UL Lafayette, Sophomore, Shortstop
Kelsey Vincent, UL Lafayette, Senior, First Base
Rochelle Roberts, UL Monroe, Junior, Outfield
Mya Anderson, UT Arlington, Senior, Designated Player

Preseason Student-Athlete of the Year
Lexie Elkins, UL Lafayette, Catcher, Senior

Preseason Pitcher of the Year
Randi Rupp, Texas State, Pitcher, Sophomore

Players to Watch

  •  Lexie Elkins– the two-time reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year (2014, 2015) is returning for her senior season behind the plate for the Cajuns. She was named as the First Team All-American and Diamond Sports/NFCA Division I Catcher of the Year in 2015 after posting a .541 batting average. She generated a school-record 32 home runs, which led all levels of collegiate softball and tied for second on the NCAA all-division single-season list. Elkins also led the nation in RBI’s per game with an average of 1.54, recording 53 in league play. Recording 20 homeruns in 2015, she upped her career total to 11 multiple-home run games.
  •  Randi Rupp was named the 2016 Sun Belt Preseason Pitcher of the Year. As a freshman, Rupp quickly made her mark by leading the league in strikeouts with 293. She was named First-Team All-Sun Belt Conference last season, as well as to the NFCA All-Region Second-Team under the coaching from Asst Coach Cat Osterman.

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2016 CAA Softball Coaches’ Predicted Order of Finish
1. James Madison (56 points)
2. Hofstra (49)
3. College of Charleston (39)
4. Elon (38)
5. Towson (37)
6. Delaware (24)
7. UNCW (19)
8. Drexel (16)
Players to Watch:
– Jailyn Ford, James Madison –Ford has helped put JMU on the national map and made herself virtually a household name, an almost-unheard of feat coming from a small mid-major. Twice an all-American and a former conference Pitcher and Player of the Year, she is simply a sensational player. Especially when coupled with sophomore Megan Good both in the circle and at the plate, Ford packs a dangerous, deadly punch both in the circle and at the plate.
– Caryn Bailey, Hofstra – Bailey earned National Player of the Week honors the first week of May last season after batting .667 with four home runs and eight RBI in the conference tournament. The performance was an opportunity for her to receive national acclaim, but followed up much of the same that she had been doing throughout the season. Ending the campaign with a .386/16/52 slash line and a .737 slugging percentage, Bailey played a hueg role in the Pride’s success a year ago and figures to do the same in 2016. A senior, look for her swan song to be a memorable one.
Eric Lopez’s NCAA Tournament Projections 
American – UCF, Tulsa, South Florida
Sun Belt – Louisiana Lafayette, South Alabama
CAA- James Madison, Hofstra
A-Sun- USC Upstate, Lipcomb
A-10- Fordham
Big East- St John’s
Big West- Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton
CUSA- Florida Atlantic, UAB, Marshall
MAC- Kent State
MVC- Missouri State
Mountain West- Fresno State, San Diego State
OVC- Tennessee Tech
Southland- Northwestern State 
MEAC- Bethune Cookman
IVY- Dartmouth
Horizon- Oakland
Big South- Coastal Carolina
Big Sky- Weber State
American East- Stony Brook
WAC- New Mexico State
WCC- BYU
SWAC- Texas Southern
Summit- North Dakota State
Southern- Chattanoga
Patriot- Bucknell
Northeast- St Francis 
Follow In The Circle on Twitter & on Facebook.

Renee Luers Gillispie Talks UCF Season

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Renee Luers-Gillispie enters her 15th season at UCF. Photo Courtesy of UCF Athletics.

Eric Lopez previews the 2016 UCF Softball season with Head Coach Renee Luers Gillispie on the ” SportstalkFlorida Insiders Show” on Sportstalk 1080am Orlando from Saturday. Gillispie, who is entering her 15th season at UCF, talked to Lopez about the following in the interview.

  • The impact of the succesful 2015 season on and off the field.
  • Outlook of the 2016 season
  • Who are some of the players to look for this season?
  •  The Expectations of Shelby Turnier
  • Breaking down UCF’s schedule which includes 8 teams in Top 25 in first two weeks of season
  •  The Outlook for the AAC in 2016

Listen to Interview with Renee Luers Gillispie from “SportstalkFlorida Insiders Show”

The Knights are coming off a season where they won a program record 50 games in going 50-9 on their way to winning the AAC Regular season championship and Conference Tournament at home on a walk-off Homerun by Samantha McCloskey.

The Knights made it to the NCAA Tournament regional final in Tallahassee before losing to Florida State. UCF finished the season ranked 16th in the national polls which was the first time the Knights finished the season ranked in the top 25. This season UCF starts the year ranked 17th in the preseason polls returns 16 players from the team, including First team All-American pitcher Shelby Turnier.

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Shelby Turnier is UCF’s first ever All-American  and USA Softball Player of the Year candidate.

Turnier led the NCAA with a 0.87 ERA last season edging out her teammate Mackenzie Audas who had 0.95 . Turnier had a  record-breaking season for the Knights by going 25-8 with 268 strikeouts on her way to winning the 2015 American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and  being named to the 2015 NFCA Division I All-America First Team.

Turnier finished last season as a top ten finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year award and was named last week to the Top 50 watch list for the award for the upcoming season.

The question will be back who will pitch behind Turnier as the Knights dont have Mackenzie Audas who graduated as the Knights all-time leader in Wins, Strikeouts and No Hitters in a career. Audas finished behind Turnier in the NCAA with 0.95 ERA while going 24-1 and made Academic All-American Team.  The combo of Turnier and Audas helped UCF finish No 1 in the country in ERA (0.93) as a staff.

The Knights bring back veteran seniors Jamie Ujvari and Mackenzie Huhn who were part of the Knights 2014,2015 American Conference championships to the pitching staff while also adding Manami Calixto  who comes to UCF  after two successful seasons at Miami Dade College. The Curitiba, Brazil, native  Calixto was named FCSAA Pitcher of the Year twice and earned NJCAA First Team All-America and Pitcher of the Year honors. Calixto was a member of the 2010 Brazil National World Cup Championship team.

 

On offense the Knights will be led by 2015 AAC Player of the Year, Jessica Ujvari as well as  Samantha McCloskey, who hit the game-winning walk-off home run against Tulsa in the AAC Championship along with  Kalyn Cenal, whose 11 home runs were the most in a single season since 2005.

Juniors  Linnea Goodman and Brittany Solis were all-conference and NFCA  all-region selections last season will help set the table for the power hitters. The Knights will have to replace starting third baseman Farrah Sullivan who won AAC 2014 Player of the Year, starting second base Kahley Novak who is the progam all-time leader in stolen bases and plays in the NPF with the Dallas Charge as well starting center field Maddy Schroeder who was all-conference last season.

UCF will face eight of their ranked opponents in the first 12 games including facing No. 5 Alabama (Feb 12) in the third game of the season at the UCF Softball complex, and No. 19 James Madison (Feb 13) in the fifth game of the 2016 campaign.

In total the Knights have 14 teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA preseason poll on the 2016 schedule including six Top 10 teams on the preseason poll. UCF will Host 4 teams in the top ten ,No. 1 Florida (April 6) , No. 4 Auburn (Feb 17), No. 5 Alabama (Feb 12), No. 10 Florida State (March 29) at the UCF Softball Complex.

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UCF are the favorites in the American in 2016.Photo by Romeo Guzman of Sanford Herald.

The Knights are favorites to three-peat as AAC Regular season champions by the American conference coaches.

2016 American Athletic Conference Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll

School Points
1. UCF (4) 33
2. Tulsa (2) 31
3. Houston (1) 27
4. USF 23
5. East Carolina 12
6. Memphis 11
7. UConn 10

(First-place votes in parentheses)

Listen to Interview with Renee Luers Gillispie from Feb 6th edition of SportstalkFlorida Insiders Show on Sportstalk 1080am Orlando.

You can listen and watch UCF Softball games on UCFKnights.com starting February 11.

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College Softball Season Preview

On this edition of In The Circle podcast, Eric Lopez and Victor Anderson preview the upcoming College Softball season in D1 which begins February 11th. Lopez and Anderson are joined by Justin McLeod who overs College Softball, NPF for  Justin’s World website.

Among the topics we discussed on this episode include.

  • Can the Florida Gators be the first team to 3-peat since UCLA (1988-1990)
  • Can Oregon bring back the National Title to the Pac 12?
  • Who will challenge Florida State in the ACC?
  • Is the Big 10 a 2-team race between Michigan and Minnesota?
  • How will Oklahoma fair in the Big 12 after the graduations of Lauren Chamberlain and Shelby Pendley?
  • Can UCF 3-Peat as AAC Champs?
  • Which mid-major teams are threats to end up in Oklahoma City?
  • Who are the top contenders for Player of the Year?
  • Who are some of the names to keep in mind for the NPF Draft on April 14?

In The Circle Podcast Episode 3 : College Softball Season Preview

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