The 2022 season was one to forget for the Pittsburgh Panthers softball team. A 14-27 (2-20 in ACC) meant the Panthers finished last in the conference and had to watch the conference tournament play out on their field, unable to take part. The Panther’s .249 batting average was dead last in the conference, and the offense found themselves consistently unable to generate any runs. The Panthers produced only 138 runs in 41 games (3.36 runs per game), and when you compare that to the ACC’s best offense, the Duke Blue Devils, Duke’s 381 runs in 54 games (7.05 runs per game) you can quickly start to imagine how that 2-20 conference record came to be. There were individual bright spots, most notably senior SS Yvonne Whaley’s .344 batting average, good enough for an All-ACC third-team spot. Whaley is returning for one final year in the royal and gold and is likely to occupy that lead-off spot once again. OF Bailey Drapola led the team in OPS among those who started at least 30 games with a .893 mark in the 2022 campaign. She’ll likely occupy a middle-of-the-order spot during her 2023 senior campaign.
In terms of pitching, the story wasn’t all that different. Pitt was 12th out of 13 ACC teams (Wake Forest does not have a softball team) with an inflated 4.54 ERA. Not only was the Panther pitching questionable, but the defense ranked near the bottom of the league in fielding percentage as well. P Dani Drogemuller was the standout of last year’s collection of pitchers. During her redshirt freshman campaign, Drogemuller shouldered a load of more than half of Pitt innings last season, pitching 135.2 out of a possible 260.2 innings. Her 3.51 ERA was the only sub-4 ERA on the team, and her 147 K’s was seventh in the conference. If Pitt is to take a step forward in any big way, Drogemuller is going to have to be in the realm of a top-10 pitcher during her redshirt sophomore season.
Just a little over 2️⃣ weeks until the start of the season.— Pitt Softball (@Pitt_SB) January 25, 2023
See you on the field in 1️⃣6️⃣ days. pic.twitter.com/VC4p6AF47X
The Panthers have a variety of new faces on the roster that bolster their chances for success. In the field/batters box the Panthers will see INF/OF Kat Rodriguez for the first time. Rodriguez transferred to Pitt from Quinnipiac before the 2021 season but was forced to sit out all of last season per NCAA transfer rules. During her time at Quinnipiac Rodriguez earned an All-MAAC second-team spot during her sophomore season as she hit .352 with a .880 OPS, leading her team in slugging percentage (.484) along the way. She’ll likely be the biggest impact performer of any new Panther on the offensive end. Also joining Rodriguez on the offensive end are three class of 2022 recruits, C Sandra Soltes, OF Macy Hamilton, and INF Shelby Frazier. The three of them combine to form one of Pitt’s higher-ranked recruiting classes, ranked #29 nationally by extrainningssoftball.com, and will likely each see some playing time throughout the season, especially early on in non-conference games.
The Panthers added two new pitchers from the transfer portal, with Julia Grobman (Yale) and Adriana Romano (Siena) joining the roster. Grobman hasn’t seen a collegiate field since the 2020 season which was cut short by COVID, as the Ivy League did not schedule athletic competitions for the 2021 season. During her shortened 2020 campaign Grobman had a 3.82 ERA pitching both as a starter and out of the bullpen, recording two complete games and one save. Romano was the best pitcher on Siena’s 2022 team, going 11-6 in 32 appearances (15 starts) with a 2.45 ERA and 139 K’s, including two complete game shutouts. Romano was ranked in the top 60 coming out of high school and could potentially be the Panther’s second most utilized pitcher this upcoming season.
Get to know ➡️ Adriana Romano #⃣2⃣7⃣ pic.twitter.com/RsHK6yGaSg— Pitt Softball (@Pitt_SB) January 27, 2023
Besides Yvonne Whaley and Dani Drogenmuller, the Panthers have a few other candidates primed for a big season. Senior OF EC Taylor is looking to bounce back after a disappointing individual campaign in 2021, as she hit .188, a year after her .315 batting average was second on the Panther squad. She was All-ACC third team back in 2021 while also swiping a ridiculous 27 bases. If Taylor can harness that hitting prowess once more the Panthers could lead off with two.300+ BA hitters, providing even more opportunities for sluggers like Bailey Drapola, and Junior OF Cami Compson, the two leaders in slugging from last year’s campaign. Three of those four top hitters (Compson, Taylor, Whaley) have All-ACC team awards under their belt and could be the spark Pitt needs to bump up that offensive output.
WHEN DOES THE SEASON START?
Pitt opens up with a matchup against the Indiana Hoosiers Friday, Feb. 10th in Clearwater, FL.