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Who are the must-watch softball stars in the NCAA regionals? 10 players to know


The stage is set for the 2024 NCAA softball tournament. No. 1 overall seed Texas is looking to spoil No. 2 seed Oklahoma’s chances at making history and four-peating as champions. No. 3 seed Tennessee and No. 4 Florida will also use their star power in the quest to win the Women’s College World Series.

The top seeds aren’t the only squads with loaded rosters. This 64-team tournament field is full of talent from Miami (Ohio)’s heavy hitters to Stanford’s top-notch ace.

As teams begin their quest to reach Oklahoma City, let’s look at 10 of the most exciting players in this year’s tournament.

Reese Atwood, C/1B, Texas

Atwood was the most dominant player for the top-seeded Longhorns. She was excellent in the batter’s box, boasting a team-best 70 hits with a .427 average. The sophomore wrote her name in Texas history, breaking program records in home runs (22) and RBIs (86). Atwood was named the Big 12 Player of the Year, the first Longhorn so honored since Taylor Thom in 2014, after pacing the conference in homers, RBIs and slugging percentage (.917).


Jaysoni Beachum, IF, Florida State

Beachum burst onto the scene as one of the most dominant freshmen this season. She is one of the most powerful hitters on FSU’s roster, with 15 homers and a .773 slugging percentage. The unanimous ACC Freshman of the Year also batted an ACC-best .436 with 75 hits. Beachum stepped up in a big way for the Seminoles at third base, posting a .968 fielding percentage. Though she lacks tournament experience, having 57 game starts for a storied program like FSU as a first-year player will certainly work to her advantage.


Maya Brady, SS, UCLA

The last name says it all. Much like her uncle Tom Brady, the former NFL star, Maya is one of the best to do it. The two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year started in 47 games this year at shortstop, recording a .919 fielding percentage. She led the Bruins in batting average (.403), hits (58), home runs (15) and RBIs (61). After smashing her 67th career home run in the final series of the season, she moved to second place in UCLA history.


Nijaree Canady, P, Stanford

Canady starred in last year’s WCWS, and she looks like she can do it again in 2024. For the second consecutive season, Canady owns the nation’s best ERA, posting a 0.50 mark in more than 168 innings pitched. The toughness of her riseball is proved by her 256 strikeouts and .133 opponent batting average. The Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year also improved her impact in the batter’s box with two home runs during the regular season.


Claire Davidson, OF, Duke

Duke has had a phenomenal season, with three Blue Devils claiming ACC Player, Pitcher and Defensive Player of the Year accolades and coach Marissa Young earning Coach of the Year honors. If Duke hopes to make its first trip to the WCWS, it will need to lean on ACC POY Davidson’s hot bat. She led her team in batting average (.428), home runs (17), doubles (18), RBIs (61) and a 1.439 OPS, the best numbers of her career in almost every offensive category.


Jocelyn Erickson, C, Florida

Erickson was one of the best transfers this season. Since arriving to Florida from Oklahoma, Erickson has increased her power numbers to a .689 slugging percentage with 12 homers and 75 RBIs in 57 starts. She’s just as good behind the dish. The USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalist boasts a .989 fielding percentage with 255 putouts and only two errors.


Tiare Jennings, SS, Oklahoma

Jennings has concluded each of her first three college seasons hoisting the national championship trophy. Can she do it for a fourth time? If she comes alive in the postseason again, she certainly can. Jennings already owns WCWS records for career RBIs (29) and home runs (five). Jennings has smashed 57 RBIs, bringing her career total to 302 — the sixth-best mark in Division I history. She is a four-time All-Big 12 first-team selection.


Karlyn Pickens, P, Tennessee

The Lady Vols’ pitching staff has been one to fear throughout this season, partly because of Pickens’ ferocious fastball. She has recorded 186 strikeouts and owns a 1.26 ERA through 156 innings of work. She joins Monica Abbott as the only Lady Vols to claim SEC Pitcher of the Year honors. She turned heads as a freshman during the 2023 WCWS after pitching a 76 mph heater against the Sooners, one of the fastest pitches ever recorded. Will we see that speed again?


Karli Spaid, IF, Miami (Ohio)

What would this list be without the 2024 home run leader? Spaid’s 37 homers in 2024 are the tied for the most in a season in Division I history. With 104 career home runs, she’s behind only Oklahoma legend Jocelyn Alo (122) on the all-time leaderboard. Spaid has solidified herself as one of the game’s best power hitters, slugging 1.157 and tallying 79 RBIs. It will be exciting to see Spaid swing against top opponents in the Knoxville regional.


Sara Vanderford, IF, Texas State

Vanderford has had an electric final season for the Bobcats. She posted career bests in doubles (24) and RBIs (48). Vanderford is an anchor for the Bobcats, starting in all 58 of Texas States’ games. She also became the program’s all-time RBI (187) and home run (40) leader. Vanderford and the Bobcats swept Penn State in the regular season, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can tame the Nittany Lions again, but this time on the postseason stage.



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