We are officially under a week away from the 2023 college softball season getting underway, and some of the best action in the country will be right here in the Big 12.
With just a few days left, it’s a great time to look at what each team in the conference is bringing to the table and determine where we think the Big 12’s best players will come from.
With that in mind, here is who we think will take home the hardware in the Big 12 in 2023, and why.
Big 12 Player of the Year: Tiare Jennings, Oklahoma
Jocelyn Alo might’ve left, but the nation’s RBI leader (87) and second-leading home run hitter (29) from 2022 is back, and her name is Tiare Jennings. While she grew up learning everything from Alo, who won this award the last two seasons, 2023 will be Jennings’ time to shine as she blossoms into her own mold as the hitting leader for the Sooners.
Big 12 (Co) Pitchers of the Year: Kelly Maxwell, Oklahoma State; Jordy Bahl, Oklahoma
This is definitely a cop-out, but come on. There’s no way to pick between two of the nation’s most dominant pitchers. Jordy Bahl enters her second season after 205 strikeouts over 141.1 IP, while maintaining a 1.09 ERA and a 22-1 record in the circle. Meanwhile, Kelly Maxwell returns after an outstanding season in which she recorded 313 strikeouts, 20 complete-game performances, and 12 shutouts over 189.2 IP, while maintaining a 1.22 ERA and a 21-5 record.
Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year: Grace Lyons, Oklahoma
Grace Lyons has won this award in each of the past two seasons and I expect she will again in her final year in an Oklahoma uniform. Widely regarded as the best shortstop in the nation, Lyons will again be the foundation of an outstanding Sooners’ infield. Not only did she maintain a .960 fielding percentage in 2022, but she also had a career-high in 23 home runs (8th nationally) and slugging (.864) (11th nationally). Lyons is an absolute treat to watch and was close to being my prediction for Conference Player of the Year.
Big 12 Freshman of the Year: Kierston Deal, Oklahoma
Deal comes into college as the No. 1 player (and No. 1 pitcher) in the class of 2022, according to Extra Inning Softball. In the spring of 2021, Deal recorded 292 strikeouts over 136 IP, while maintaining a 0.64 ERA. If Deal gets a go in 2023, and I think she will, the softball world will quickly realize that Jordy Bahl and Kierston Deal will be the pitching duo in college softball for the next three years.
Big 12 Coach of the Year: Patty Gasso, Oklahoma
Gasso has won this award for 10 consecutive seasons, and 14 times in her career. There are rumblings in Norman that the 2023 edition of the Sooners might be the best team that Gasso has ever fielded. If that’s the case, there won’t be many, if any, losses on the schedule to keep her from taking home this award for the 11th straight year.