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Softball's Youth Movement

The NCAA tournament field was revealed last night and it did not include NC State, which was a little disappointing but hardly unexpected. Despite missing out on the post-season, the year went about as well as could have been expected for a team that had to replace an outstanding pitching staff as well as three batters that OPSed .900+ in 2007. That was no small undertaking, and the fact that the team was competitive throughout the conference season and still managed to reach the ACC championship game (aided by some timely bad weather, sure) is commendable. After all, this was a really young team.

Let's take a look at how the 2008 roster breaks down by class:
 # %Tot
FR 7 35%
SO 6 30%
JR 2 10%
SR 5 25%
By plate appearances:
 PA %Tot
FR 488 28.1
SO 598 34.5
JR 40 2.3
SR 609 35.1
Underclassmen accounted for more than 60% of State's total plate appearances this season, and as you might figure, injecting that much youth into the lineup made for a significant drop off in production. Last year's team was the best hitting bunch in the program's history, posting a .273/.357/.441 line (AVG/OBP/SLG)--a .798 OPS. In 2008, the Pack offense hit .229/.310/.356 (.666 OPS; how ominous!), a 132-point dip in OPS.

The hitting by class:
 PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
FR 488 .269 .337 .415 .752
SO 598 .193 .288 .310 .598
JR 40 .219 .359 .469 .828
SR 609 .231 .306 .344 .650
Bolstered by Alyssa Allbritten's strong debut, the freshmen were easily the best hitting group, while the seniors were a bit worse than the overall numbers. So it appears that NC State won't be hurt quite so badly by graduation this off-season. Shanna Smith's production (.322/.440/.593) will be missed, but the other two seniors who ranked in the top ten in plate appearances, Ashleigh Davis and Blair Harkey, OPSed a modest .512 and .490, respectively.

Here are the ten most frequent hitters in 2008:
 CL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Shanna Smith SR 220 .322 .440 .593 1.033
Alyssa Allbritten FR 189 .348 .416 .658 1.074
Allison Presnell SO 166 .255 .356 .362 .718
Kristine Bechtholdt SO 166 .166 .236 .366 .602
Blair Harkey SR 163 .200 .242 .248 .490
Ashleigh Davis SR 145 .222 .274 .238 .512
Lauren Peters SO 137 .144 .211 .161 .372
Claudia Cooper SO 122 .219 .364 .354 .718
Alyssa Ishibashi FR 117 .265 .328 .324 .652
Lacey Holm FR 109 .210 .275 .270 .545
Seven of the ten players listed above are underclassmen; that's a lot of youth thrown into the fire. With a bit of maturation this off-season, the offense should be good enough to get NC State back to the NCAA tournament in 2009.