After two weekends of softball, the conference standings are starting to take form and it is has been far from expectations for some teams. A couple of teams that we expected to compete for the conference title have been slow out of the gate, while the preseason favorite has been the most dominant team in the sport through 10 games.
Here are a few things that we noticed in week two of the 2022 Big 12 Softball season
Oklahoma State’s Struggles in the Circle are Concerning
Oklahoma State, who came into the year as one of the favorites to make it to Oklahoma City in June, has struggled in the circle outside of Kelly Maxwell and now sits at 6-4. Maxwell’s ERA is spectacular at 0.61, but outside of her, the Cowgirls have struggled mightily with a team ERA of 3.55.
Miranda Elish (4.14 ERA), Tatum Clopton (5.00 ERA), and Morgan Day (6.83) haven’t found their footing early on and it has led to some bad showings, highlighted by a 10-2 loss to LSU and a 7-1 loss to USF in the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational this weekend. OSU went 2-3 on the weekend and although they faces stiff competition, they were expected to be one of the top teams in the tournament.
They hung well with fifth-ranked Washington and shut out a top-25 Michigan team, but their inability to win with anyone besides Kelly Maxwell is going to limit their ceiling unless they can fix it. OSU did rally to pick up a big win over No. 23 Northwestern to end the weekend on a positive note, but they will need a lot more from Elish and Day if they want to reach their potential in 2022.
Texas Falls Flat on its Face in Florida
Oof. It was a long flight back to Austin after the Longhorns went 0-5 in the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational this weekend. Texas gave up 41 runs over five games and mustered just 17 runs in the same stretch; that’s just not going to win you games. They looked completely outgunned by Florida State and let games against Auburn and Notre Dame get away from them.
The Longhorns will likely fall out of the Top 25 just 11 games into their season after coming in ranked in the Top 10. What happened?
For starters, the pitching staff has not been good. Shea O’Leary, who was selected as a preseason second-team All-American, has an ERA of 10.00. Not 1.00, 10.00. The team ERA of 3.93 isn’t just her fault, however, as Logan Hulon (4.54 ERA), Hailey Dolcini (4.20 ERA), and Sophia Simson (3.18 ERA) have all struggled.
Offensively, the Longhorns need more from their lineup. The trio of McKenzie Parker, Mary Iakopo, and Janae Jefferson are all batting .313 or better but behind that it falls off sharply. They have scored 55 runs and given up 53 through 11 contests, which just isn’t something you expect from a Top 10 team. UT has time to turn it around after a tough start but it will need to be a drastic turnaround to get back on track.
Oklahoma’s Early Season Dominance is Ridiculous
While the other Big 12 preseason favorites struggled over the weekend, the reigning National Champions continued to steamroll opponents. Eight of the Sooners 10 games have been decided by run-rule and called in the fifth inning as they continue on a path of destruction that dates back to 2021. The scary part is, the Sooners might look even better in 2022, and its all about what’s going on in the circle. The Sooners have a team ERA of 0.00 through ten games and have allowed just 18 hits total. There have been three pitchers making it happen: Jordy Bahl (20.1 IP), Nichole May (16.0 IP), and Hope Trautwein (17.0 IP).
The bats have been red hot for Oklahoma as well, with eight Sooners batting over .400, including six of OU’s every day starters. Jocelyn Alo has picked up right where she left off last season, leading Oklahoma with seven home runs, including this one that has her tied with former Oklahoma slugger Lauren Chamberlain for the NCAA record for career home runs.
The Sooners’ dominance thus far has been quite hard to encapsulate, but this stat probably says it best: The Sooners have outscored their opponents 95-2 in 10 games this season.
Iowa State and Baylor are quietly off to great starts
Outside of Oklahoma, there hasn’t been a team in the Big 12 that has been more impressive than the Iowa State Cyclones in 2022. While they haven’t played the toughest schedule, ISU has absolutely dominated most of their competition, outscoring their opponents 80-23 through nine games. In Washington D.C. this weekend, Iowa State won its four contests 14-1, 10-2, 10-1, and 10-2. Mikayla Ramos has been on fire to start the year, with a .500 batting average and six home runs. Ellie Spelhaug and Karlie Charles have identical ERA’s of 1.71, which is good enough to win games when your offense is putting up nearly 10 runs a game.
Sitting at 8-1, Iowa State is off to a fantastic 2022 and now they will get a shot at one of the top teams in the country when they take on two of the best teams in the country this weekend: UCLA and Washington. Don’t be surprised if you hear about a pesky Cyclones team knocking off one of those teams and making a strong case for the Top-25.
Baylor went 1-2 against No. 13 Oregon this weekend, and those losses are the only blemishes on the Lady Bears schedule in 2022. Dariana Orme has been the story in the circle with a 1.45 ERA over 18 IP while the BU offense has been stout behind McKenzie Wilson and Sydney Collazos. While the sample size is small, Baylor looks to have the makings of a team that could upset a team or two in Big 12 play and will certainly be a team to keep your eyes on going forward.