The 2016 college softball season is already underway for the Kansas Lady Jayhawks. Unfortunately, it hasn't started well as 2015 did, when KU started off 12-0. Kansas is 2-3 so far on the young season with victories over Jacksonville and Coastal Carolina and losses to NC State and UNC-Greensboro (twice).
Let's take a closer look at this year's squad and get to know the 2016 softball team a little bit better.
The Jayhawks played well last season, finishing with a 40-15, 8-10 mark, good for fifth in the Big 12. (Remember: The Big 12 only has seven members that field softball teams - no K-State, TCU, or West Virginia.) Kansas qualified for the NCAA Tournament and was sent to the Columbia, MO Regional, where they were knocked out by the evil Missouruh Tigers for the second year in a row. The Jayhawks did not finish in the year-end Top 25 rankings.
Historically, Kansas holds an overall record of 1,102-755 across 33 seasons of NCAA play. KU has never won a conference title in softball and has appeared in 12 NCAA regionals without making it to the College World Series. Since the formation of the Big 12, Kansas is 165-231.
Megan Smith is in her 10th season coaching and her 7th season at Kansas. While in Lawrence, Smith has compiled a record of 191-131. Kansas has posted five straight 30-win seasons under Smith and has knocked off at least one nationally-ranked opponent in each of her five seasons in Lawrence.
Similar to the baseball squad, offense was KU's strength last year and will be so again this year. Kansas returns three of the Big 12's premier hitters in SS Chaley Brickey (Sr), DH/INF Daniella Chavez (So), and OF Lily Behrmann (Jr). Brickey and Chavez were both All-Big 12 First Team selections in 2015. The Jayhawks only lost two regular players from last year's lineup. Brickey is poised for a huge senior campaign, and Chavez could emerge as one of the best players in college softball this spring - she already has three home runs in KU's first five games.
If there's one question mark on this year's KU squad, it's who will be the #1 pitcher. The Jayhawks lost Alicia Pille to graduation; Pille pitched 58% of KU's innings in 2015. Sophia Templin is KU's most experienced returning pitcher, but look for University of Virginia transfer Andie Formby to get a shot at the #1 spot. Incoming freshman Alexis Reid was a highly rated recruit and may get a look as well.
The Big 12 has two teams ranked in USA Today's preseason Top 25: #14 Oklahoma and #21 Baylor, with Texas receiving votes.
The Jayhawks should have a killer offense, but need to find answers and quickly inside the pitching circle if they want to move up the Big 12 ranks. I hesitate to make any predictions, but if they can find some stability among their pitchers, Kansas has a real shot at getting a third consecutive invite to the NCAA Tournament.
Follow the Jayhawks
Kansas will have several games televised on national television, as well as JTV/ESPN3. In addition, every game will be broadcast live on the Jayhawk Radio Network at KUAthletics.com/radio or on the official Kansas Jayhawks mobile app, with selected dates being simulcast over the air on KJHK radio in Lawrence and the surrounding area. The live audio stream will be accessible via desktop computer, mobile phone or tablet.
The Jayhawks continue their season at the Fresno State Kickoff Classic in Fresno, CA, with five games this weekend starting on Friday afternoon, Feb 19, at 1 PM.
Kansas will play its first 19 games on the road before their home opener in Arrocha Ballpark on March 11 vs Missouri State.