I. Conference Breakdown
The ACC has thirteen member schools that sponsor the sport of softball. In 2019, Virginia Tech won the conference’s regular-season title, though Florida State took home the conference tournament championship. In total, five ACC teams reached the NCAA tournament in 2019 – Louisville, North Carolina, and Notre Dame joined the Seminoles and Hokies.
When the 2020 season ended, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State were each 3-0 in conference play, while Clemson had the most conference wins at 5-1. Virginia Tech had the best overall record at 21-4, sporting an .840 winning percentage.
II. 2021 Predictions
Player of the Year: Sydney Sherrill, Florida State
Pitcher of the Year: Keely Rochard, Virginia Tech
Coach of the Year: Lonni Alameda, Florida State
Conference Champions: Florida State Seminoles
III. Who to Watch
Brittany Pickett, North Carolina —Pickett only appeared in nine games before her season ended due to injury in 2020, and her return as a “super senior” makes a huge difference for North Carolina’s outlook this season. The victor in 73 career games through her career, Pickett is also one of the nation’s best two-way players; she owns a .283 batting average and 29 career home runs. If she is not only back to full health, but also back to the Pickett ‘of old,’ she will be one of the conference’s biggest individual X-factors this year.
Virginia Tech —The Hokies return almost their entire starting lineup from a year ago, including leading hitter Meredith Slaw (.409 batting average) and home run leader Kelsey Bennett (7). Pete D’Amour’s squad has a ton of offensive weapons; different players led in each of the major statistical categories a year ago. Keely Rochard has earned much well-deserved acclaim in the circle, though depth behind her is a question; Kaylee Hewitt was 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA in just over forty innings of work a year ago.
Abby Trahan, North Carolina State — A list of pitchers who can claim Pitcher of the Year awards in two separate conferences would be a short one, but Trahan’s on it. She began her career as the Northeast Conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2017, then earned the league’s Pitcher of the Year award after posting a 0.61 conference ERA against conference foes. She transferred to Southern Miss in 2019, leading the conference in ERA and earning the C-USA Pitcher of the Year award. Now eligible for the Wolfpack after sitting out 2020, can Trahan contend to add another POTY trophy to her mantle?
Clemson — John Rittman’s club showed up and showed out on more than one occasion in 2020, their inaugural season of play. Marissa Guimbarda proved that she’s still the player that she was at Furman, even at a higher level and a bigger conference. Valerie Cagle was the biggest breakout star of the Tigers’ first season, batting .376 with ten home runs and leading the team with a 2.19 ERA in the pitching circle. She’s an All-American in the making.
IV. Coaching Moves
Georgia Tech hired Marty McDaniel as pitching coach after his nearly two-decades-long tenure at Tennessee… Virginia Tech hired Michael Lewis as an assistant, while Syracuse added Evan Reuchel as hitting coach… Former Tennessee standout Annie Aldrete was named volunteer assistant at North Carolina.
V. Burning Questions
* Can Duke sustain their momentum and stellar play from 2020?
* Does Florida State have the depth to contend for a national title?
* How will Brittany Pickett look in her to return to UNC from injury?
VI. Projected Standings
- Florida State Seminoles
- Virginia Tech Hokies
- Duke Blue Devils
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Clemson Tigers
- North Carolina State Wolfpack
- North Carolina Tar Heels
- Louisville Cardinals
- Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
- Syracuse Orange
- Pittsburgh Panthers
- Virginia Cavaliers
- Boston College Eagles