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Pitt softball returns strong core to 2016 team

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Photo used with permission of the University of Pittsburgh athletics department - www.pittsburghpanthers.com

Pitt's softball team finished its best year ever, reaching the ACC Tournament championship game and also the NCAA Tournament regional finals. While the program does lose some key players, it returns an excellent core of its talent for next season.

The biggest losses look to be top pitcher Savannah King, who won 20 games for the team, and outfielder Carly Thea. Thea's .341 average was third-highest for the Panthers. But what Pitt returns is exciting.

Four of the Panthers' top five hitters in terms of batting average return. That includes the team's top hitter, Maggie Sevilla (.359) and transfer Shelby Pickett, who made some huge defensive plays in the aforementioned ACC title game.

Also back is the team's power. Pitt returns its top six home run hitters, led by true freshman McKayla Taylor, who had a team-high 14 (along with a team-best 59 RBI). The Panthers weren't a powerhouse when it came to hitting the long ball, but most of the production from the 50 they hit last year returns.

On the mound (okay, circle), there's the aforementioned loss of King. Still, the Panthers bring back a good bit of experience. True freshman Kayla Harris was the second-best starter at 13-13 with a 3.79 ERA and she'll be back as will Jenna Modic, who pitched mostly in relief. Harris' return seems to make her the new ace of the staff and she had quite a bit of postseason experience, earning a complete game win against Cal and a win against Oakland in the NCAA Tournament.

The loss of King on the mound will be a difficult one, but Pitt returns quite a bit next year and should have a chance to reach their second NCAA Tournament.

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