Five transfers who helped their teams reach the NCAA Softball Super Regionals

It doesn’t matter which sport, these days college coaches have to recruit three areas: high school, their own rosters, and the transfer portal. For the teams at the top of the sport, the portal can be the most important recruiting area to fill needs that are keeping those teams from reaching their goals.

The portal can immediately add high-level talent to push a team over the top (or just keep it at the top). It can also add vital role players who can make enough of a difference to take a talented team into the postseason.

Which five players transferred into their softball programs for the 2024 season and made critical differences to get their teams to the 2024 Super Regionals?

Taryn Kern, Stanford

Stanford was one of the last four standing last season, but there was a significant hole in the team. That hole was on offense. When Alana Vawter transferred to South Carolina, taking half of the Cardinal’s one-two punch in the circle, offense became even more important.

Enter Taryn Kern, who spent her freshman season at Indiana. She was crowned both Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Year in 2023. She was a second team All-American and a finalist for national Freshman of the Year and national Player of the Year. Bringing the San José native home was a major coup for a school that is traditionally difficult to transfer into.

Kern did not have the kind of offensive year she had as a freshman. Her batting average fell from .404 at Indiana to .288 at Stanford. After hitting 23 home runs for the Hoosiers, she hit just seven for the Cardinal. She did it in a much tougher league, though.

The sophomore led Stanford with a 1.049 OPS fueled largely by her .520 OBP. The OBP was over 100 points higher than the Cardinal’s second highest. It ranked second in the Pac-12 and 21st in the nation.

Between her 53 walks and 22 HBP, Kern got 75 free passes from opposing pitchers. She walked .88 times per game, placing seventh in the country and first in the Pac-12. Only two players in the country were hit by more pitches than Kern and she’s the only one still active in the postseason.

Kern may not have driven in as many runs this season, but she got on base to help her team score. It helped her lead the Cardinal with 40 runs scored.

Korbe Otis and Jocelyn Erickson, Florida

Florida brought in great freshmen for the 2024 season, but having All-American talent that already has experience at the highest level is a luxury that few teams have. The fact that the Gators introduced two players of that caliber makes them one of the contenders to win another title.

We covered their achievements before regionals. It took them a little while to get going in the opening round of the tournament, but both came up huge as the weekend unfolded. The pair ended the three games 6 for 15 (.400) at the plate with five walks, five RBI, two stolen bases, and eight runs scored.

In the clincher against South Alabama, they were lights out. Each player went 2 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored. Erickson had three RBI and Otis had two. Erickson showed both speed and power with a home run and a stolen base. She had two extra-base hits and two stolen bases in the Gators’ three games.

Kelly Maxwell, Oklahoma

What do you do when you lose a pitcher like Jordy Bahl? If you’re Oklahoma, you go get your in-state rival’s best pitcher.

The Sooners brought in several transfer pitchers last year, including Liberty’s Karlie Keeney and Wisconsin’s Paytn Monticelli, but Kelly Maxwell was the big get. The grad student leads OU with 19 wins and a .905 winning percentage. With just two losses, her winning percentage is fourth in the country.

Maxwell has a 1.87 ERA accumulated over 123.1 innings. While her ERA is not first on the team, it is the best for any Sooner who has pitched enough to qualify for national stats.

Oklahoma is used to having one (or two) of the top 10 pitchers in the game. Last year, the Sooners had two with ERA below 1.00. The year before, their top two pitchers were ranked No. 2 and No. 6 in the country. They had at least one pitcher in the top 25 in five of the previous six seasons coming into this year. The only year they didn’t was the shortened 2020 season.

Maxwell is not pitching at that level this season, but she’s still leading the charge for a team that’s good enough to be the No. 2 seed. Without her, the Sooners would be relying on pitchers who have pitched 69 or fewer innings this season.

If Oklahoma is to win a fourth straight title, Maxwell will be the pitcher who carries it there.

Miranda Stoddard, Arizona

Many pitchers in this postseason have better stats than Miranda Stoddard. Arizona has a 22-game winner in Aissa Silva, but her effectiveness has hinged on being part of a group of pitchers who work well together.

The Wildcats’ staff operates more like a baseball bullpen than a traditional softball staff. The group only had one complete game all season. They have used a data-driven mix-and-match strategy, often changing pitchers after just two or three innings of work.

The team leaned heavily on Devyn Netz last season, who also played first base and was the designated player on days she didn’t pitch. There just weren’t many days she didn’t pitch. Overuse made her less effective as teams got lots of looks at her. Her 3.88 ERA was the best on the team, but it wasn’t going to put the Wildcats among the top teams. In the end, Arizona ended its 35-year run of making the postseason.

Stoddard left college softball after graduating from Kentucky in 2022 despite having two years of eligibility remaining. She spent a year in the corporate world before realizing she wasn’t ready to walk away.

Arizona needed someone to eat innings, especially after three of its seven pitchers were ruled out for the season and freshman Brooke Mannon missed a chunk of the year with an injury. Stoddard has stepped in to take some of the load off Silva.

Last season, Netz pitched over 175 innings just in the regular season on top of playing first base and hitting. No one else pitched more than 54 innings. Stoddard has taken 125 innings of the load this season, so Silva has only had to pitch 152.2 including the regionals.

Stoddard stepped up in regionals to help the Wildcats sweep. She got the win in the opening game against Villanova with three innings of one-hit ball. She was back in the circle two days later. She gave up two earned runs on two hits and a walk in three innings as her team clinched the regional.

Arizona might not have halted its absence from the postseason if Stoddard had not decided to return to softball. Advancing to the second weekend would have been wishful thinking. She won’t be on any end-of-season award lists, but it’s tough seeing the Wildcats with nine fewer losses this season without her.

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