The college softball season is upon us. By all accounts, 2023 is shaping up to be an exciting season. We have a returning national champion in Oklahoma and numerous teams lining up to dethrone them. Some old faces are in new places, and new faces look to breakthrough. The best news is it all starts now. Below we look at five things we will be watching today.

The first is how the defending national champions, No. 1 Oklahoma, will look. They kick off the season out west at the Mark Campbell Invitational. The Sooners will face three ranked opponents in five games. Those being No. 16 Duke, No. 17 Standford, and No. 14 Washington. They return a fantastic line-up and a deep pitching staff. Of those three games, the match-up with Stanford is interesting. Stanford has the most depth in the circle, and let’s be honest, you will need a strong pitching performance to have a chance against that line-up. Duke may have the best opportunity to hang if it becomes a slugfest. It will also be interesting to see how some new faces get mixed in.

Next up is No. 2 UCLA. The Bruins open the season locally and can come away from opening weekend in good order. The main reason to keep an eye on them is their pitching. Megan Faraimo (24-5) will lead a staff with mostly new faces. They added an Oregon transfer, Brooke Yanez, who missed the entire 2022 season with an injury. Also joining them is prep standout and top recruit Taylor Tinsley. Finally, Lauren Shaw (6-2) will return. We are looking to see who garners the most innings outside Faraimo and how effective they are.

The No. 3 Oklahoma State Cowboys enter the 2023 season with high expectations, and rightfully so. They return a strong group and have added several talented freshmen and transfers. The question, or rather what we will be watching for this weekend, is what roles the new faces will play. In the circle, they return Kelly Maxwell (21-5), who posted a 1.22 ERA with 313 strikeouts over 189.2 innings. New to the team is one of two Alabama transfers Lexi Kilfoyl. In 2022 she went 9-3 with a 2.36 ERA. She was a top prospect coming out of high school and should add experience and depth behind Maxwell. Three other newcomers to watch are Megan Bloodworth (Alabama), Rachel Becker (Purdue), and 17-year-old freshman Tallen Edwards. The Cowboys will face No. 24 Oregon this weekend at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge.

The Florida Gators return most of a team that went 49-19 in 2022 and a trip to the WCWS. Balance, experience, and depth are what the 2023 Gators bring to the table. They open the season down at USF, where they should do well. We will be looking for whether the Gators can find consistency at the plate. Charla Echols (.307), Skylar Wallace (.386), and Kendra Falby (.392) each earned spots on the 2023 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 “Watch List.” The Gators will be poised to make a good run if a few new faces step up. They will also look to improve their power numbers in 2023.

Florida State will open up the season at home, hosting Lipscomb, Longwood, and Purdue. Much like those above, they return an experienced line-up. In the circle, they return Kathryn Sandercock (30-3). Sandercock has a great season in 2022, posting a 1.44 ERA with 159 strikeouts over 194.1 innings. They added Junior Allison Royalty via Arizona State, where in 2021, she went 11-6 with a 3.20 ERA and 121 strikeouts. Consistency at the plate and in the circle will be what we are watching for this weekend. This team has all the potential to make another run at the WCWS.