#14 Baylor Softball 2016 Preview

Baylor Bears
Overall Rank: #14
Conference Rank: #2 Big 12
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The Bears are coming off of yet another NCAA Tournament appearance, one that saw them bow out in the Regional final of the Lafayette (La.) Regional. Luckily for the Baylor squad, it brings back seven position player starters, including All-American Shelby Friudenberg and its top three pitchers to form a squad that should be expected to compete for the Big 12 title, as well as possibly make a deep NCAA run.
2015: 41-17, 12-6
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Glenn Moore
Field Players:
As mentioned above, the Bears bring back seven of their starters in the field, including sophomore Friudenberg, who hit .357 with 18 home runs and 46 RBI, the latter two being team highs. Ari Hawkins also returns to the team after leading the squad in average, hitting .396 and pounding out a team-leading 63 hits. The Bears were a doubles-hitting machine last season, hitting 84 two-baggers, as eight of their top nine hitters had at least six doubles; six of those hitters return, led by Sarah Smith, who had ten. Linsey Hays hit nine doubles, eight home runs and drove in 39, all of which were second on the team. Along with hitting doubles-on-doubles-on doubles, the Bears were also terrors on the basepaths, stealing 92 bases on 113 attempts. Lindsey Cargill stole 29-of-30 bases, while Hawkins added 19-of-23 swiped bags. Robin Landrith had one of the more interesting stats, finishing with eight walks, hit-by-pitches and strikeouts apiece.
Ace Heather Stearns returns to lead a Baylor squad that finished with a team ERA of 2.55. Stearns had a 21-13 record in 44 games (35 starts, five saves) and 239 strikeouts, compared to 57 walks. Stearns' 239 strikeouts were tops in the Big 12 last season. Kendall Potts returns after a freshman season that saw her start 14 games and compile an 8-3 record. The third pitcher returning is Sarah Beth Toben, who led the team in ERA at 2.37 and finished 8-0 in 23 appearances.  
Who to Watch:
Both Abby Langkamp and Rhonda Jarvis were NFCA First Team All-Americans last season and come in looking to prove their lofty accolades were no fluke. Langkamp, a pitcher, is the No. 28 recruit by College Sports Madness and was an NFCA All-American in both 2014 and 2015. Last season she finished with a 17-1 record with a 1.06 ERA and 130 strikeouts. She finished her high school pitching career with 74 wins, 1.42 ERA, 484 strikeouts, and held opponents to just a .197 BA and also hit 21 home runs and drove in 128 in her career. Jarvis comes to Waco as an infielder/catcher after smacking 25 home runs, 55 doubles and driving in 146 in her career. She saved her best for last, as she hit .535 with 11 home runs, 16 doubles, three triples and 47 RBI in her final season.
Final Projection:
The Bears are one of the lucky teams that don't have much to replace from a successful team. The Bears are predicted to finish second in the Big 12 for the third consecutive season and that shows how Baylor has become one of the most consistent squads in one of the tougher conferences in the nation. Having Friudenberg already hitting with the power she is in only her second year in college will help the Bears, as will the return of Hawkins and Hays. Stearns continues to get better in the circle and this year she'll have a good stable of backups behind her, especially if Langkamp can adapt to the collegiate game quickly. As always, Baylor loaded its schedule with top competition, led by nonconference matchups with Missouri, Arizona, California and a three-game series with UCF. The Bears get Oklahoma at home this year and host Texas in two of the three meetings between the teams.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Lindsey Cargill, OF, 172
Hits: Ari Hawkins, IF, 63
Home Runs: Shelby Friudenberg, IF, 18
RBIs: Shelby Friudenberg, IF, 46
Runs: Lindsey Cargill, OF, 40
Stolen Bases: Lindsey Cargill, OF, 29
Wins: Heather Stearns, P, 21
Innings Pitched: Heather Stearns, P, 204.2
Strikeouts: Heather Stearns, P, 239
Complete Games: Heather Stearns, P, 15
Madness 2016 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#27 Gia Rodoni
#28 Abby Langkamp
Madness 2016 Draft Rankings:
#3 Heather Stearns