College softball is loaded with superstars right now. The three-time defending champion Oklahoma Sooners have another fantastic roster for next season, and there are tons of other players scattered across the country who could very well win 2024's USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award.
Although it was tough to narrow down the list, we've found five women who not only might win that award, but are also must-see TV once the college softball games begin.
5. NiJaree Canady (Stanford)
NiJareee Canady is the youngest player on this list — but she also might have the highest ceiling. Stanford's star sophomore pitcher will enter 2024 after a fantastic freshman campaign, going 17-3 over 135 innings with a 0.57 ERA, 218 strikeouts, a .137 Batting Average Against, and a 4.9 wWAA (weighted Wins Above Average) — which means Stanford won 4.9 more games with Canady on their roster last year than they would have without her.
Crazily enough, Canady wasn't Stanford's ace last season. That title belonged to Alana Vawter — who recently announced her transfer to South Carolina. Canady must step into Vawter's former role in 2024 — and if her freshman season is any indication, she seems more than ready. Canady seems poised for a breakout sophomore season that might win her some well-earned hardware.
4. Tiare Jennings (Oklahoma)
This list wouldn't be complete without an Oklahoma Sooner. We're featuring Tiara Jennings, who might be the best overall hitter in all of softball. Jennings, who'll be a senior in 2024, had a bit of a down year in 2023 — at least by her massive standards. Last season, Jennings hit .415 with 17 home runs, 66 RBIs, a 3.4 wWAA, and helped provide Oklahoma's 3rd straight national championship.
In 2021, Tiare Jennings started her college career by hitting .462 with 27 home runs and 92 RBIs (which won her the 2021 NFCA/Schutt Sports Division I National Freshman of the Year award). While Jennings is still producing at an elite rate, her best season might still be ahead of her. One imagines that if she can replicate or improve upon her 2021 numbers next year, Tiara Jennings will be a Finalist for 2024's USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award.
3. Maya Brady (UCLA)
Maya Brady — Tom Brady's niece — was college softball's biggest breakout star in 2023. Brady, who enters 2024 as a redshirt senior, hit .448 with 18 home runs, 59 RBIs, and a 3.9 wWAA for UCLA last season — all of which earned her a USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 3 Finalist spot, NFCA First Team All-American honors, and the Pac-12 Player of the Year award.
All eyes will be on Brady next season to see whether she can replicate that incredible 2023 campaign. If she does, and if UCLA — who was the last team to win a national championship before Oklahoma's dynasty began — makes another run deep into the Women's College World Series next year, Maya Brady might go from Collegiate Player of the Year Finalist to winning the award outright. Either way, Maya has proven that Uncle Tom isn't the only world-class athlete in the Brady family.
2. Kiki Milloy (Tennessee)
When it comes to excitement, nobody in college softball competes with Kiki Milloy. Tennessee's redshirt senior slugger led all Division I players with 25 home runs in 2023 — a Lady Vols single-season program record. Her 5.2 wWAA was also the highest out of any non-pitcher in Division I last season.
While it will be difficult for Kiki Milloy to top what she accomplished last year, she has improved her home run tally every single season thus far. If she surpasses those 25 home runs from a season before — especially if she breaks the 30 home run barrier — there's no way she'd be denied the 2024 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, right?
Although the last player on our list might have something to say about that.
1. Valerie Cagle (Clemson)
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?? 5th two-way POY recipient
— USA Softball (@USASoftball) May 31, 2023
Clemson's Valerie Cagle does it all — literally. The 2023 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award winner had a truly historic season, both on the mound and at the plate. Cagle hit .469 with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs, while also pitching 193 innings and producing a 25-8 record, a 1.56 ERA, and 188 strikeouts — all of which earned her a 10.3 wWAA in 2023. That means Clemson won over 10 more games last season than they would have if they didn't have Valerie Cagle. Let that sink in.
College softball's two-way superstar is the epitome of must-see TV. In 2024, Cagle will be a redshirt senior. Will she be able to bring home a second consecutive USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award? If the past is any indication, Cagle's chances to repeat seem solid. The two previous POTY winners before Cagle each won it twice (UCLA's Rachel Garcia won it in 2018 and 2019, and Oklahoma's Jocelyn Alo won it in 2021 and 2022) — and neither of those two women hit and pitched.
Regardless of whether one of these 5 women win the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award or someone else sneaks in to steal it, one thing is for certain: the race to see who'll win will be must-watch.
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