The new Big 12: What to know about league’s three softball additions

photo by: AP Photo/Nate Billings

Utah coach Amy Hogue looks at the lineup during the fourth inning of the team's NCAA softball Women's College World Series game against Oklahoma State on Friday, June 2, 2023, in Oklahoma City.

Of all the teams affected in one way or another by the latest round of conference realignment, the Big 12 Conference softball teams have to be among the most relieved.

With Oklahoma and Texas leaving the league, a new world of possibility opens for everyone else in it. It’s not just that those two conference foes were so dominant in 2024 as to face off in both the Big 12 softball championship and the Women’s College World Series, both of which OU won (after Texas had taken the regular-season league title). It’s specifically that OU in particular has had a stranglehold on the league for years.

Prior to 2024, the Sooners had won 11 consecutive regular-season titles and only lost 15 combined conference games in the same time frame. Kansas, for example, has dropped 23 consecutive games against OU.

In some sense, the departures of OU and UT for the Southeastern Conference create a bit of a power vacuum back in the Big 12. On the other hand, Oklahoma State has made eight straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, has not finished lower than third after the conference schedule since 2016 and is loading up in the transfer portal.

The conference will, however, bring in three new teams next season to grow its size to 13 (Colorado does not have a softball program). They come from what was a venerable softball league in the Pac-12 Conference. And they may also want to stake their claims right away in the new-look Big 12.

photo by: AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

Arizona utility Regan Shockey (25) runs to first during an NCAA softball game against Alabama on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2024, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.


Arizona has a venerable softball history with eight national titles, all under former head coach Mike Candrea and none more recent than 2007. The Wildcats, now coached for three full seasons by alumna Caitlin Lowe, finished in the middle of the pack in last year’s Pac-12 and bowed out with consecutive losses to none other than OSU in super-regional play.

The foundation is clearly in place for Arizona to return to glory, if the success of its underclassmen is any indication, so long as it can retain its talent. Freshman Regan Shockey and sophomore Dakota Kennedy were first-team all-conference picks in 2024; sophomore Aissa Silva was on the second team, and classmate Tayler Biehl on the third.

Infielder Carlie Scupin and utility player Allie Skaggs, the team’s power-hitting RBI leaders, will both be gone, but Shockey led the team in batting average at .404 and was a freshman All-American, and Kennedy wasn’t far behind at .400 while also turning in a team-high 1.209 OPS thanks to 10 doubles and 14 home runs. Biehl, meanwhile, was the Pac-12 co-defensive player of the year as an everyday shortstop.

Silva was 22-6 as a pitcher with a 3.25 ERA. Graduate student pitcher Miranda Stoddard, a Kentucky transfer, has another year of eligibility, and on Monday Lowe added another pitcher with proven Big 12 experience in Iowa State grad transfer Saya Swain, who started 2024 strong with a 2.07 ERA in 23 2/3 innings before a back injury ended her season.

photo by: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Arizona State outfielder Tanya Windle (44) during an NCAA softball game against Boise State on Saturday, Feb 10, 2024, in Tempe, Ariz.

Arizona State

The Sun Devils were also quite successful in the not-too-distant past but have struggled in two seasons under Megan Bartlett since Trisha Ford left for Texas A&M. In 2024, Bartlett’s squad finished last in the Pac-12 with a 3-21 conference record.

ASU was hurt by a few key season-ending injuries, including to pitchers Kenzie Brown and Kylee Magee (who has since transferred to Nebraska) and outfielder Yannixa Acuña.

The Sun Devils will lose well-traveled third-team all-conference outfielder Kelsey Hall, one of their top hitters, after she exhausted her eligibility. They will also have to replace the power of Alesia Denby, who hit 12 home runs, along with other frequent starters like Audrey LeClair and Kayla Lissy who brought experience to the roster.

They do expect to bring back sophomore outfielder Tanya Windle. Windle was an all-region third-team selection who hit .369 on the year. Getting Acuña back will also help — she was outpacing Windle and had a .942 OPS before missing half the campaign.

Libby Walsh, a Pac-12 all-freshman selection who started 49 games, primarily at second base, is reportedly in the portal. However, ASU did add AJ Murphy, a longtime starter at multiple positions across three seasons at San Diego State.

photo by: AP Photo/Ben McKeown

Utah’s Shonty Passi (11) bats during an NCAA softball game on Friday, May 17, 2024, in Durham, N.C.


The Utes have already sustained a severe blow during the offseason, with Pac-12 regular-season batting champion (.444) and third-team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American Abby Dayton reportedly entering the portal.

From a team that made the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year (after surprisingly winning the conference tournament the year before), Utah also loses primary pitcher Mariah Lopez, one of the conference’s top players in the circle, and sixth-year senior outfielder Haley Denning, who hit .418 and stole 24 bases, among a class of seven seniors in total. Don’t be surprised to see the Utes stick with small ball after hitting a league-low 22 home runs while stealing 69 bases in 2024.

The headliners in the field for Utah among returnees include Kaylah Nelsen, who batted .370 as a junior, and freshmen Reese Lee and Shonty Passi, who both played in all 53 games. Passi, a Hawaii native, got hot late in the year and went 20-for-42 (.476) in one 13-game stretch to improve her batting average by more than 100 points.

It’ll be a new-look pitching staff next year for longtime coach Amy Hogue as Lopez and Ladd ate up a combined 333 2/3 of the Utes’ total 374 1/3 innings. Brooklyn Carreon, Taylor Jacobs and Cal State Fullerton transfer Raci Miranda all saw some action and still have remaining eligibility.


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