These women will inject even more life into the league––and provide some great softball in the process.
Athletes Unlimited Softball’s second-ever draft class was announced last week, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the league hit the jackpot with their recruits. Not only is this year’s draft class diverse in terms of play style and experience, but every member of the thirteen-strong lineup has the potential to bring quite a bit to the league’s proceedings in Rosemont, IL.
AU’s press room has already provided useful information on each of the athletes, but we wanted to dig a little deeper into what makes each member of the class tick. So without further ado, here are some primers for this year’s draft picks, containing theories on what unique perspectives they’ll bring and what they’ll have to do to win the coveted championship.
Jocelyn Alo (Oklahoma)
Who she is: One of the best home runners of all time. No, this is not hyperbole; look at the record she set earlier this year and tell us we’re wrong. That’s not even getting into the fact that her batting average ranks in the top three in the NCAA. She is a player that everyone should be watching come July.
What she’ll bring to the league: A long, long CV with enough “X of the Year”s to make your eyes water.
Key to winning the Championship: Besides her oodles of home runs? Her versatility. Athletes like Alo who dabble in both pitching and batting can be hard to come by, which separates her even further from the pack.
Keely Rochard (Virginia Tech)
Who she is: A fierce and dominant pitcher, who finished her 2021 collegiate season in the NCAA’s top three in terms of strikeouts. She’s also a history-maker, being the first VTech player to be drafted into a professional league since the NPF’s Courtney Liddle in 2013.
What she’ll bring to the league: Arguably, Rochard boasts some of the best pitching in college softball. But an underrated part of her game is her remarkable consistency—she’s thrown at least two no-hitters in each season of her collegiate career, save for her debut in 2018.
Key to winning the Championship: Players receive relatively few points for pitching contributions in Athletes Unlimited, and the penalty for runs allowed is pretty heavy. Of course, it’s possible to win the league as a pitching specialist—just ask the one and only Aleshia Ocasio—but Rochard may do well to experiment with batting if she wants an extra advantage over the stiff competition.
Georgina Corrick (South Florida)
Who she is: A once-or-twice-in-a-generation talent. She’s accomplished a whopping 357 strikeouts this season as of May 5th, and is one of three USF women to throw a perfect game. You know she’s good when Ken Eriksen himself is talking her up as the real life version of Sidd Finch.
What she’ll bring to the league: Experience beyond her years, thanks to the fact that she started playing international softball when she was just fifteen. This isn’t even mentioning the stamina that allowed her to throw 200+ innings this season alone.
Key to winning the Championship: If she continues exactly what she’s doing, there’s no reason why she can’t shake things up and catch the veterans in July.
Janae Jefferson (Texas)
Who she is: Three-time All-American, and Texas’s all-time leader in hits. Per fellow draftee Mary Iakopo, she’s the “best to ever do it.” Need we say more?
What she’ll bring to the league: The credentials to play with the big dogs, thanks to her newly minted team USA membership. The fact that she’s one of five college athletes to get selected for the 2022 World Games speaks to how indispensable she’ll be to any team that drafts her in AU.
Key to winning the Championship: Her adaptability is unparalleled––she literally drew a walk from her first plate appearance at Texas––making her well-suited to the short-and-sweet style that AU seasons tend to favor. Jefferson’s ability to hit the ground running from the very first game will be what sets her apart from the other women on this list.
Danielle Gibson (Arkansas)
Who she is: Casuals will have heard of Gibson for her historic home run cycle back in 2019. But the range of her batting skills goes far beyond that feat. She tops the league in a huge number of offensive categories, ranking fifteenth in hits, eighth in total bases, and sixth in batting averages with .451. She’s also top five in the SEC for home runs earned.
What she’ll bring to the league: Perhaps due to her team’s status as an underdog, Gibson will show up to Rosemont with a desire to prove herself. “I think that a lot of the SEC, probably a majority, doesn’t really have any respect for us and our wins last year,” Gibson said to the Fort Smith Times Record. “I think that there’s a little bit more to the game for us returners than just softball.” Gibson’s drive has done wonders for her play this year, so it’ll be exciting to see it in action throughout Season Three.
Key to winning the Championship: When adjusting for the amount of games and weeks played, Gibson’s stats compare nicely with Amanda Chidester, the reigning Athletes Unlimited runner-up who earned a lot of her points with her batting. As long as the Arkansas starlet keeps up the good work, she should acquit herself very, very well.
Gabbie Plain (Washington)
Who she is: The second coolest thing about Gabbie Plain is just how accomplished she is in this sport. Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, 2021 All-American, 2020 OLYMPIAN…Her resumé is utterly stacked, and it earned her the sixth-overall spot on the draft.
What she’ll bring to the league: The coolest thing about Gabbie Plain is…well, just how cool she is. She’s a leader to the Huskies in the best possible way, bringing refreshing lightheartedness and role-model-worthy confidence to each game. In other words, she is the exact type of character that Athletes Unlimited is built upon.
Key to winning the Championship: Her unique spin and accuracy when pitching has been acclaimed by fans and teammates alike. If she gets to face any batters in AU who fare better against speed than precision, watch out.
Mia Davidson (Mississippi State)
Who she is: Put simply, Davidson is the pride of Mississippi State. She’s the sixth player in NCAA history to bag 90 career-homers, and boasts a team-high batting average of .339. She is, as teammate Christian Quinn puts it, “the real deal.”
What she’ll bring to the league: Just like Plain, Davidson is bringing talent on the field and great character off of it to California. Charity work is a huge part of Athletes Unlimited’s mission. Based on her work for MSU’s important No One Fights Alone campaign––designed to raise awareness of ovarian cancer––Davidson has the heart and work ethic to help fulfill the league’s core tenet.
Key to winning the Championship: Her affinity for drop ball pitches will be a major asset to her league play.
Part Two, featuring the remaining six women, is forthcoming. In the meantime, get hyped for all thirteen of these amazing athletes––and for the mark they’ll make on the league this summer.
Athletes Unlimited Softball Season Three will commence on July 29th, 2022.
Correction: A previous version of this article identified San Diego as this year’s AU Softball location; the actual location for the season will be Rosemont, IL.