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Softball | General | 11/18/2021

Softball Signing Day Highlights: SEC

Jerry Miller     
Photo: Perfect Game
The SEC, arguably, is the most competitive Division-I conference in all of college softball. Of the 13 schools that field a team, 12 made the NCAA tournament last year. The SEC had six of the top nine seeds last spring. Georgia and Alabama advanced to the WCWS after capturing Super Regional championships. To even get to the NCAA field, SEC teams must first work their way through the gauntlet that is league play and the SEC tournament and hopefully come out on the other side still standing. There are no off weekends in the Southeastern Conference.
 
That competitive spirit carries over to recruiting. Garnering commitments is a non-ending passion for the many Hall of Fame-worthy SEC head coaches and their staffs. These dedicated professionals in the Southeastern Conference are some of the absolute best in attracting elite talent. This year’s National Signing Day saw SEC programs once again gather athletic grant-in-aide signatures from some of the top players not only in the country, but internationally. By and through the efforts of many of the outstanding coaches in the conference, the SEC is poised to continue leading the way in and with NCAA fastpitch softball. And if things weren’t competitive enough right now, just wait until Oklahoma and Texas become a part of this conference.
 
Alabama
 
Veteran skipper Patrick Murphy has had a storied career at the helm of the vaunted Crimson Tide program. Assisted by longtime co-coaches Alyson Habetz and Stephanie VanBrakle, Murphy has helped elevate fastpitch softball to worthy heights, not only in Tuscaloosa, but around the country. At the forefront of the success enjoyed by Alabama is their ability to scout and recognize talent and get those gifted players on campus. There is both a science and an art to recruiting and it appears that Coach Murphy and his staff get both. This year’s class, while numbering only three, is extremely gifted and is certain to carry on in the tradition of the many ‘Bama players who have come before them. Visiting teams will need a lot more than luck when they come to Rhoads Stadium, one of the best home field advantages in America.
 
Abby Duchscherer – INF – Kindred, N.D.
Marlie Giles – UT – Clanton, Ala.
Larissa Preuitt – OF – Hartselle, Ala.
 
Arkansas
 
It wasn’t too very long ago that the softball program in Fayetteville was struggling to win just a handful of games. They were stuck at the bottom of the standings and things appeared rather bleak in the hills. Enter Courtney Deifel. In her sixth season as head coach at Arkansas, Coach Deifel is the reigning SEC Coach of the Year. The former Cal catcher and member of the Golden Bears National Championship squad in 2002 has in just five short years completely turned the Razorback program around. Arkansas is currently among the sport’s elite and is one of the most envied squads in the country. They ride into the 2022 season as defending SEC champions, with aims on another league crown and a first ever trip to OKC and the WCWS. If the 2021 signing class is any indication, continued well-deserved success and accolades almost certainly find their way to Arkansas. Arguably, UA has signed the country’s No. 1 class. With the arrival of this group of nine outstanding, gifted players next fall, the Razorback program should conceivably stay at the top of the national landscape.
 
Hannah Camenzind – P/UT – Valley, Neb.
Lauren Camenzind – INF – Valley, Neb.
Rylee Cloud – UT – Mittie, La.
Kiki Estrada – INF – Chino Hills, Calif.
Nyjah Fontenot – OF – Lake Charles, La.
Robyn Herron – P – Tampa, Fla.
Regan Johnson – OF – Karnes City, Texas
Nikki McGaffin – Ft. Collins, Colo.
Atalyia Rijo – INF – Horseheads, N.Y.
 
Auburn
 
Entering his fifth season on the Plains, Auburn head coach Mickey Dean has elevated the Tiger softball program to new heights, winning over 120 games, while guiding AU to three NCAA Regionals. The Elkton, Va. native and Elon University grad has built a program strong on fundamentals and one that can compete, and beat, the best in the country. The four-player 2021-22 signing class is certain to help boost the Tigers fortunes and make Jane B. Moore Field an even tougher venue for visiting squads.
 
Skyler Elkins – C – Locust Grove, Ga.
Axe Milanowski – INF – Dothan , Ala.
Millie Roberts – C/INF – Owensboro, Ky.
Emmah Rolfe – P – Madison, Ala.
 
Florida
 
Gainesville continues to be a top destination for some of the country’s most elite players as evidenced by the UF 2021-22 recruiting class. Veteran head coach Tim Walton and his staff have procured another outstanding crop of players who will certainly impact the already powerful Gator program. Having won five of the last six SEC championships, Florida shows no signs of letting up in their pursuit of dominance on the diamond. Always a tough venue for opponents, Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, one of the very best complexes in the country, will continue to be one of the top home field advantages in all of college softball, especially with the addition of this new group of Gators. With this new class, set to arrive on campus next fall, the tradition of excellence that is Gator softball, will continue.
 
Olivia Gigante – P/1B – San Diego, Calif.
Kaila Pollard – INF – Riverside, Calif.
Samantha Roe – C – Destin, Fla.
 
Georgia
 
Taking over at Georgia for now retired legendary coach Lu Harris-Champer, Tony Baldwin is very familiar with the UGA program having served as the squad’s No. 1 assistant for the past several years. The veteran mentor and his staff are also well-versed in perpetuating excellence and the talent arriving in Athens next fall will certainly keep the excitement coming at Jack Turner Stadium. Fresh off the program’s fifth appearance at the WCWS, the Bulldogs are primed to stay in the mix with the best in the SEC and the country. With pledges from this talented five player class, Georgia softball is in great hands for many years to come.
 
Lauren Burnett – INF/C – Mansfield, Ga.
Tyler Ellison – INF – McDonough, Ga.
Jaydyn Goodwin – INF – Paris, Ky.
Destin Howard – P – Macon, Ga.
Marisa Miller – C – Suwanee, Ga.
 
Kentucky
 
In her 15th year in Lexington, head coach Rachel Lawson and her staff have built a powerful program at Kentucky and if this small, yet very gifted four-player class is any indication, that success will certainly continue. UK has a dominant home field advantage at John Kropp Stadium and is a threat to beat any team in the conference, home or away. They are certainly worthy of the national stage and have the depth of talent and approach to success that rivals any program in the country. Wildcat Nation should be proud of the achievements of their softball program. A second trip to OKC and the WCWS wouldn’t be a big surprise for the folks in Lexington. The program is in the very capable hands of Coach Lawson and the talent is there. With the arrival of the four recent signees, the tradition of excellence in Lexington will continue.
 
Lauryn Borzilleri – INF – Riverside, Calif.
Karissa Hamilton – UT – Flat Rock, Ind.
Taylor Hess – P – St. Augusta, Minn.
Chelsea Mack – OF – Brecksville, Ohio
 
LSU
 
Among the most elite programs in the country, LSU looks primed to stay at the top of the SEC. They should also be a big player on the national stage for many years to come. Head coach Beth Torina and her outstanding co-coaches, Howard Dobson, and Lindsay Leftwich, all arrived on The Bayou 11 years ago and have turned the LSU program into one of the most feared, respected, and talented programs in the country. Good luck trying to capture a game, much less a series at Tiger Park. The Tiger coaching staff has once again signed an outstanding class of players. The six-strong group that will arrive in Baton Rouge next fall is one of the top classes in the country and will certainly look to keep the tradition of excellence that is LSU softball at the top.
 
Maci Bergeron – C – Rayne, La.
Sydney Berzon – P – Buffalo, N.Y.
Alea Johnson – P – Fairhope, Ala.
Abigail Savoy – IF – Branch, La.
Emma Strood – P/UT – League City, Texas
Maia Townsend – OF – Morris, Ala.
 
Mississippi
 
Jamie Trachsel arrived in Oxford in 2020-21, and she and her staff made an immediate impact, guiding Ole Miss to the NCAA tournament in year one. The Ole Miss Softball Complex is a beautiful venue and one that gives the Rebels a decided home field advantage. That advantage will only get better in the years to come not only due to the outstandingly gifted players already wearing the blue and red, but for those yet to matriculate. The talent on the current squad is evident and that group will certainly be enhanced with the arrival of one of the country’s top recruiting classes. Great things are happening in Oxford, with the best yet to come.
 
Julia Lassiter – INF – Atmore, Ala.
Taylor Malvin – UT – Jones Creek, Ga.
Grace Thompson – INF – Beaumont, Texas
Mackenzie White – C – Carrollton, Ga.
Natalie Ray – OF – Covington, Ga.
Tenley Grisham – UT – Philadelphia, Miss.
Jamie Mackay – C – Laguna Beach, Calif.
Grace Sparks – P – Crosby, Texas
 
Mississippi State
 
Starkville, Mississippi has become a destination spot for a number of elite softball players across the country. “Stark-Vegas” is a happening place, especially with concerns to softball. Head coach Samantha Ricketts is one of the country’s top young coaches and has brought noticeable enthusiasm and a winning culture to MSU. The former all-everything star at Oklahoma has brought to Mississippi State the same intensity and focus that made her a four-year standout for Patty Gasso and OU. Nusz Park is always a tough venue on opponents and with the talent on hand that will soon be joined by one of the top recruiting classes in the country, the Bulldogs home field will be rocking. MSU is primed and destined to move into the top echelon in the SEC and the country.
 
Nadia Barbary – INF – Douglasville, Ga.
Morgan Bernardini – UT – Elkville, Ill.
Reis Beuerlein – P – Cave Creek, Ariz.
Gabby Coffey – C/INF – Celina, Texas
Macy Graf – INF – Aledo, Texas
Josey Marron – P – Grimes, Iowa
 
Missouri
 
The Old Gold and Black clad Missouri Tigers made a return to the Super Regionals last spring and look primed to make another run this spring. Based on the talent of the just signed class, coach Larissa Anderson and the Tigers have the look of a champion and appear ready to impact the top of the SEC standings and make numerous trips to the NCAA tournament for the foreseeable future. Mizzou Softball Stadium, one of the largest venues in the country, provides the Missouri team a great home field advantage and with the obvious talent on hand, coupled with the great ability of the incoming class, the Tigers are in a position to be in the hunt for SEC championships and regional bids for a long time.
 
Cierra Harrison – P – Lee’s Summit, Mo.
Kayley Lenger – 1B – Liberty, Mo.
Mackenzie Nicholson – UT – Atlanta, Ga.
Katie Chester – INF – Liberty, Mo.
Lilly Whitten – P – Tunas, Mo.
Sami Huck – P – Potosi, Mo.
 
South Carolina
 
Since arriving in Columbia in 2010, head coach Beverly Smith has guided the Gamecocks to heights reached by few in the country. The USC program is one of the most respected in the country. The draw of competition in the SEC, coupled with an outstanding home venue in Beckham Field, makes South Carolina a destination spot for many talented players across the country. This year’s recruiting class is not unlike the many who have proceeded them. They are athletic, have high softball IQs and are uniquely talented. Their respective skill sets will certainly enhance the already top-flight USC program.
 
Brionna Condon – MIF – Woodstock, Ga.
Kyye Ricks – OF – Fayetteville, Ga.
Reagan Marchant – CIF – Hilton Head, S.C.
Caydra Parker – OF – Sparta, Tenn.
 
Tennessee
 
Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in Knoxville is a nightmare for opposing teams. Vols fans are loud, knowledgeable, and involved. That kind of support alone would be enough to draw great talent to Tennessee. The success that the Lady Volunteers have enjoyed through the years under the tutelage of veteran coach Karen Weekly keeps the Orange and White at the top of the SEC and among the best in the country. The Lady Vols are talented. They’re deep and they are hungry for another shot at an SEC title and trip back to OKC. With the signing of this year’s elite staff, recognized around the country as one of the best, the success of the Tennessee softball program is certain to continue.
 
Jackie Kirkpatrick – C/3B – Moore, Okla.
Karlyn Pickens – P – Weaverville, N.C.
Amanda Ahlin – OF/MIF – Bamberg, S.C.
Charli Orsini – P – Sydney, Australia
Brylee Mesusan – OF – Gray, Tenn.
Destiny Rodriguez – C/3B – San Antonio, Texas
Camryn Sarvis – 1B/INF – Gray, Tenn.
Jamison Brockenbrough – IF/OF – Locust Grove, Ga.
Taylor Pannell – INF/3B – Milan, Ill.
Jenna Mosley – MIF – Summerville, Ga.
 
Texas A&M
 
Jo Evans, one of the longest-tenured head coaches in the country, continues to attract outstanding talent to College Station. Beautiful, state-of-the-art, Davis Diamond certainly helps. The always-rabid Aggie 12th man is also a big factor. The bottom line, however, in continuing to get some of the nation’s elite softball talent to the Brazos Valley is the long history of Aggie success on the field. The Aggies have made 31 trips to the NCAA tournament and should always field a team that is capable of winning the SEC and making a deep run in the tournament. This year is no different and with the addition of another outstanding class, Texas A&M appears poised for continued success for the foreseeable future.
 
Amari Harper – INF – Corona, Calif.
Keely Williams – OF – Cibolo, Texas
Kaiah Altmeyer – INF/OF – San Diego, Calif.
Aiyana Coleman – 1B – College Station, Texas
Natalia Puchino – P – Milliken, Colo.
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