#18 Washington Softball 2016 Preview

Washington Huskies
Overall Rank: #18
Conference Rank: #4 Pac-12
Washington Logo
Washington managed to navigate a rebuilding year in the circle as the pitching staff struggled all year long. But the offense was more than enough to push the Huskies to 42 wins in 2015. With another of year of experience and a couple of new additions to the pitching rotation, Washington is will once again be a dangerous team to deal with all season long.
2015: 42-17, 11-11
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Heather Tarr
Field Players:
Scoring runs has never been a problem for the Huskies as they scored 460 runs last season. Senior infielder Courtney Gano and junior infielder Ali Aguilar are going to provide one of the best 1-2 offensive punches in all of college softball. Gino led the team with 18 homeruns and 59 runs batted in. Aguilar is one of the top overall returning hitters in all of college softball as she hit .411 with 16 homeruns, 58 runs batted in and had an on base percentage of .509. Casey Stangel earned all-Pac-12 honorable mention honors as a designated player. Stangel hit .340 with seven homeruns, 50 runs batted in and showed great plate discipline, walking 30 times while only striking out 20 times.
The progress made in this area is going to dictate how far this Washington program can go in the postseason. Senior Hailey Bator and junior Casey Stangel return the most starts from last season. Sophomores Kristin Cochran and Kristin Thomas also gained valuable experience as freshmen in 2015. Transfer Madi Schreyer from Stanford and incoming freshman Taran Avelo are going to be expected to contribute right away in what should be a tremendous competition for playing time that could last the entire season.
Who to Watch:
Sophomore Taylor Van Zee hit the ground running last season with an excellent freshman campaign. Van Zee has the total package of hitting for a high average, power and speed. She hit .357, with seven homeruns, 49 runs batted in and stole nine bases. Sophomore Trysten Melhart made a great first impression as a freshman too, hitting .379 while making 28 starts in the outfield and playing in 50 games overall. Look for Melhart to play more in 2016 as a starter and lengthen the Huskies lineup that much more, which will create even more of a nightmare for opposing pitchers.
Final Projection:
You can always count on Washington to play a tough schedule heading into conference play. Oklahoma and Minnesota will await the Huskies at the UNLV Sportco Kickoff Classic. The Mary Nutter Classic will provide a gauntlet of Notre Dame, Texas A&M, UCF, Florida, Nebraska and Michigan to prepare Washington very well for the Pac-12 grind. The key to the conference race for the Huskies will be the first nine games as they play Oregon at home, travel to UCLA and come home to play Arizona. If Washington can survive that nine game stretch, then they should be able to go on a nice run towards the conference championship. One other great aspect of the schedule for the Huskies will be the trip to LSU in early May. That will get them ready for the NCAA Tournament. Overall, if the pitching improves significantly then the sky is the limit for Washington in 2016.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Ali Aguilar, IF, 190
Hits: Ali Aguilar, IF, 78
Home Runs: Courtney Gano, IF, 18
RBIs: Courtney Gano, IF, 59
Runs: Ali Aguilar, IF, 66
Stolen Bases: Taylor Van Zee, IF/OF, 9
Wins: Hailey Bator, P, 11
Innings Pitched: Hailey Bator, P, 83.0
Strikeouts: Hailey Bator, P, 34
Saves: Kristin Cochran, P, 1
Madness 2016 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#8 Taryn Alvelo
#10 Morganne Flores