Alexis Holloway, Notre Dame
Notre Dame enters Cathedral City with a 6-3 record. The Irish are coming off of a weekend when they took three out of four in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against Minnesota and Michigan. Holloway, a freshman pitcher, earned both wins against Minnesota, one in relief and one in the form of a complete game, one-hit shutout of the Golden Gophers. Already establishing herself as the ace of the Fighting Irish pitching staff, she could face off against some of the SEC’s best hitters in Texas A&M and Auburn just on the tournament’s opening day.
Vanessa Shippy, Oklahoma State
Shippy has enjoyed a red-hot start to the season, hitting .640 through the first two weeks of the year. She has reached base in all but one of her team’s ten games to begin the season, and recorded a perfect 1.000 batting average in four separate games. She has hit to a slugging percentage of 1.040 on the year and has earned twelve walks. Her team’s matchup against the great Oregon pitching staff will be one of particular interest on Friday.
Megan Kleist, Oregon
Despite taking her team’s first loss of the season in walk-off fashion to Ole Miss in Mexico, Kleist put together two impressive performances south of the border. After a complete game and ten strikeouts against Houston, she threw 8.1 innings and collected sixteen strikeouts, while scattering just three hits. The Ducks will face some of the nation’s best offenses and offensive players in Cathedral City, including Oklahoma State; Texas A&M; Tennessee; LSU; and San Jose St.
Tristen Edwards, Nebraska
The Huskers breakout star has earned back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Week honors after starting the season on a red-hot streak. Heading into Cathedral City, the younger sister of two former Husker all-Americans is hitting .455 on the season and leads her team with a .727 slugging percentage and ten RBI. Her batting average ranks nearly 100 points higher than her closest teammate, and she is tied for the team lead in home runs and extra base hits.
Maddi Hackbarth, Arizona State
A part-time backstop for Fresno State in 2017, Hackbarth was one of three Bulldog transfers who joined former coach Trisha Ford in Tempe this fall. She is hitting .370 through the first two weeks of the season, fourth on her team, but leads the team with seventeen RBIs and is second on the squad with twenty-one total bases on the year. She could be poised for a breakout weekend at Mary Nutter, but will face off against defending champion Oklahoma’s pitching staff on the tournament’s first day.
Brooke Yanez, UC-Davis
The Aggie freshman leads her classmen nationwide with forty-eight strikeouts on the season and boasts a miniscule 0.18 ERA, with just a single earned run allowed in thirty-nine innings in the circle. Her strikeout/walk ratio is 4/1 and she has allowed just nine extra base hits after facing more than 130 batters. The first-year lefty will have the opportunity to ‘strut her stuff’ against Tennessee and others, and could take some teams by surprise.
Ryan Jackson, Bethune-Cookman
The MEAC star leads her team in nearly every statistical category, including with a .441 batting average and a 1.000 slugging percentage. She opened the year with a two-home-run performance against Florida Atlantic and boasts ten extra base hits and ten RBI on the season. The catalyst for the Wildcat offense, Jackson will face off with the chance to show out against two SEC teams in Tennessee and Missouri, as well as Oregon State, Long Beach State, and San Diego State.
Holly Ward, Mississippi State
With a team-leading four wins on the season, Ward has yet to allow an earned run in 2018. She allowed a single, unearned run that happened to come in her team’s only loss on the season, a 1-0 defeat in extra innings against Drake. After earning the win in an extra-innings victory over Southeastern Louisiana, Ward and the Bulldogs will face their first major test of the year in Cathedral City.