Part Two of our series continues the analysis of AU Softball’s newest recruits.
The Athletes Unlimited Softball College Draft is back––and the level of talent it managed to lure in is immense. We at She Plays explored the strengths and key traits of the first seven draft picks in Part One of our analysis. Now, it’s time to finish the job. Without further ado, here are some facts and narratives you should know about the remaining women on the draft.
Sydney Sherrill (Florida State)
Who she is: A queen of third base––with only 25 career errors out of 884 chances in the field––and a legend of Florida State to boot. That’s saying something, considering how elite the Seminoles are in the world of college softball.
What she’s bringing to the league: Without sounding like a broken record in this series, her versatility. Judging by her solid .327 batting average this season, Sherrill can add value to a team with a mitt or a bat.
Key to winning the Championship: Per an interview with Softball America, Sherrill thinks the key to her and her team’s success is the coaching staff’s insistence on “doing those reps and the fundamentals and the basic stuff, so we never lose [the defensive] part of our game.” AU’s rotating team captain system may make it difficult to experience consistent training methods throughout the season, so Sherrill could benefit from finding new ways to maintain her usual level of excellence come game time.
Hannah Adams (Florida)
Who she is: The owner of a clutch gene so strong, Punnett Squares can’t even explain it. Eighteen game-winning runs in 2021, a fielding percentage of 1.0 (one) in her freshman year, and zero missed games for Florida up until April. Take that, biology (and the SEC)!
What she’s bringing to the league: Her frequent off-balance saves are incredible to watch, and may make her a prime candidate for slo-mos and “Top Ten Plays” lists this summer.
Key to winning the Championship: As mentioned in Part One, the penalty for runs allowed in AU Softball is pretty darn high…but what are point deductions in the face of an athlete who can catch a ball in almost any situation?
Peyton St. George (Duke)
Who she is: Duke’s first-ever (yes, you read that right) verbal commit in program history. And clearly, trying new things paid off for the Blue Devils: she notched 171 strikeouts this year, nearly matching her record-setting 199 in 2021. Duke’s highest individual strikeout tally before St. George came onto the scene? 98.
What she’s bringing to the league: Thanks to her friendly rivalry with fellow pitching superstar Shelby Walters, St. George will thrive in the competitive-yet-supportive atmosphere that AU’s set-up breeds.
Key to winning the Championship: 2021 AU Softball Champion Aleshia Ocasio took fifteen games to tally 55 strikeouts; this year, St. George took thirteen. While this stat doesn’t automatically mean that the Duke pitcher will rack up the points like Ocasio did, it’s still a promising sign that when she’s at her best, her numbers are elite––and valuable in a league like this.
Maggie Balint (San Diego State)
Who she is: A player whose resilience in the face of hardship is unmatched. After two stellar seasons––despite the injuries that plagued her––Balint transferred out of Oregon in 2019, citing a lack of trust in both the school’s sports administration and newly-minted coaching staff. But the circumstances of her arrival at SDSU didn’t affect her play in the slightest. She’s posted 263 strikeouts this season and has held the unlucky batters who faced her to a .173 average.
What she’s bringing to the league: Arguably, an innate sense of leadership. She’s become both an ace and a leader for the Aztecs in the relatively short time she’s been there. We wouldn’t be surprised if she did the same in Illinois.
Mary Iakopo (Texas)
Who she is: A home-runner extraordinaire. Per Hook ‘Em, Iakopo tallied 16 in 2021––just two behind Taylor Hoagland, the current record holder for homers in a season. Her field game is just as strong too. She’s averaging a percentage of .970 so far this year, and is a big reason why the Longhorns might surprise some people (*cough* the Selection Committee *cough*) in the tournament.
What she’s bringing to the league: Probably our favorite stat on this list: a .448 batting average with runners in scoring positions. That shows Iakopo can bring efficiency when it matters most.
Key to winning the Championship: Iakopo has a solid rapport with Texas coach Mike White, which has only grown stronger thanks to his changed coaching style after they both transferred to Texas from Oregon. “If we ever needed help, he’s still there, but he’s never gonna micromanage you,” she shared with the American-Statesman in February. “I think that’s what I appreciate the most out of him.” This relaxed approach could make her more well-suited to Athletes Unlimited’s player-driven model than those accustomed to a more involved coaching style.
And last, but certainly not least, is…
Rachel Lewis (Northwestern)
Who she is: A total home run bomber. Lewis is the all-time leader in home runs for the Wildcats, breaking Tammy Williams’ previous record last month.
What she’s bringing to the league: An absolutely insane level of power in her swings. Seriously, just look at the way she hits.
Key to winning the Championship: The most impressive thing about Lewis––and the thing that could get her far this summer––is probably her drive. She feels confident that her team can win the World Series. She’s been challenged by her coach, Kate Drohan, to make her new home run record “untouchable.” She’s even aspiring to become an Olympic bobsledder, for Pete’s sake. Talent can really only get an athlete so far. But when you combine that talent with Lewis’s killer mentality, you’ve got a nigh-unstoppable force on your hands.
There you have it: the 2022 Athletes Unlimited Softball Draft Class in all their strengths and…well, more strengths. Onwards to Rosemont! (Well, after the College World Series anyway.)