Strong pitching is the key to a successful softball program, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that pitchers dominate MaxPreps' list of National Softball Player of the Year candidates.
Eight of the 10 players on the list spend at least some time in the circle for their teams including three pitchers who are undefeated this season: Paige McDuffee of The Woodlands (Texas), Chelsea Wilkinson of Alexander Central (Taylorsville,
N.C.) and Alyssa Bache of East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Fla.).
Only two players on the list, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) third baseman Bailey Castro and Rodriguez (Fairfield, Calif.) shortstop Cheyenne Cordes, play strictly in the field, although Canyon del Oro's Mattie Fowler is perhaps known best for her hitting ability rather than for her pitching skills.
The MaxPreps All-American softball teams and MVP will be selected in late June.
Here's a look at the early candidates for MaxPreps National Softball Player of the Year:Paige McDuffee, The Woodlands (Texas), Sr, P -
McDuffee has led the Highlanders to the No. 1 spot in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Softball Rankings
for most of the season. While she is one of the team's top hitters with a .436 average that includes 38 RBIs and nine doubles, she is on this list for her pitching, which includes a 29-0 record with 19 shutouts and 193 strikeouts in 157 innings pitched with a 0.54 ERA.Chelsea Wilkinson, Alexander Central (Taylorsville, N.C.), Jr, P -
In racking up a 20-0 record, Wilkinson has struck out 231 batters in 125 innings and has thrown four perfect games for Alexander Central, which is at No. 2 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Softball Rankings. Wilkinson was the Gatorade State Player of the Year last season. Chelsea Wilkinson feature storyBailey Castro, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), Sr, 3B -
The Patriot third baseman proved to be one of the top long ball hitters in the country this year as she pounded 16 home runs while batting .613 for a team that went 25-1. Bailey Castro feature storyRachel Albritton, Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Jr, P -
An all-state selection as a sophomore, Albritton has one of the highest win totals in the country this year with a 37-1 overall mark. She also has 24 shutouts and has struck out 414 batters in just 224 innings pitched.Sara Driesenga, Hudsonville (Mich.), Sr, P -
A two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year, Driesenga has Hudsonville primed to win its third straight Michigan state championship. Driesenga is 14-1 on the season with a recent tournament win at the Northview Invitational. Hudsonville is also ranked No. 1 in the state.Mattie Fowler, Canyon del Oro (Tucson, Ariz.), SR, SS-P -
In leading the Dorados to a 33-1 record and a spot in the Xcellent 25 rankings, Fowler has been impressive at the plate and in the circle. She has a 10-0 record with three shutouts and 52 strikeouts in 58 innings, but it's Fowler's offense that has been a big factor for the Dorados. Fowler is among the national leaders with a .569 batting average, 81 RBIs, 22 doubles and 14 home runs.Cheyenne Cordes, Rodriguez (Fairfield, Calif.), Sr, SS -
One of the top shortstops in the country, Cordes has not made an error in 49 chances this year. She is also quick on the basepaths with 28 steals in 29 attempts. In leading the Mustangs to a 23-3 record, Cordes is batting .681 with 54 RBIs, 12 doubles, four triples and 11 home runs.Lauren Haeger, Deer Valley (Glendale, Ariz.), Sr, P -
The Skyhawks have had a strong run through the Arizona 5A playoffs and Haeger is a big reason why. She is batting .539 with 50 RBIs, 12 doubles and 19 home runs. She is also 25-5 in the circle with 398 strikeouts in 201 innings pitched.Alyssa Bache, East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), Sr, P -
Bache's pitching has been the key for East Lake, which is ranked No. 3 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Softball Rankings. Bache is 26-0 on the season with 16 shutouts and 251 strikeouts in 142.1 innings pitched with a 0.34 ERA.Karysta Donisthorpe, Piedra Vista (Farmington, N.M.), Sr, P -
The recent New Mexico State signee has Piedra Vista on track for a sixth straight state championship. She had a recent perfect game against Grants and a doubleheader sweep of Farmington. Donisthorpe is also the returning Gatorade State Player of the Year.