2022 THE Spring Games

Returning Strikeout Leaders in NCAA Division II

Returning Strikeout Leaders in NCAA Division II

Take a look at the top 10 returning strikeout leaders from 2021 and who you need to have on your radar in 2022.

Jan 14, 2022 by Cori Kennedy
Returning Strikeout Leaders in NCAA Division II

The smell of softball season is in the air and we’re less than a month away from opening day. While we’re all excited for the return of home runs and farmers’ tans, we’re equally as excited for the return of some serious strikeout leaders in NCAA Division II. 

We took a look at the top 10 returning strikeout queens and who you need to have on your radar in 2022.  

Mackenzie Ward, Minnesota State-Mankato

Coming off a dominant 2021 season, Mackenzie Ward will lace up her cleats for one last season with the Mavericks. A season ago, Ward led Division II in strikeouts—retiring 316 batters—making her the second pitcher in MNSU history to reach the 300 strikeout mark in a single season. The All-American and NSIC Pitcher of the Year threw 20 complete games and 10 shutouts as she boasted a 24-5 record and a 0.90 ERA. Ward also held opposing batters to a .157 batting average. The Mavericks fell just short of a WCWS appearance last season after losing to Augustana in the Central Regional Championship.

Samantha Richards, Valdosta State

Blazers junior Samantha Richards returns for the 2022 season with unfinished business. Valdosta fell short last season at the NCAA DII WCWS after losing 8-4 to North Georgia. However, a WCWS visit isn’t out of the picture for the Blazers again with Richards in the circle. Richards earned All-America honors in 2021 and finished the season with a 27-8 record overall, a 1.36 ERA, and fanned 237 batters while walking just 23. Richards was also named GSC Pitcher of the Year, named to the NCAA All-South Region Team and D2CCA Region Pitcher of the Year.

Kelsey Byers, Malone University

Alliance, Ohio-native Kelsey Byers will return to the mound for the Pioneers as an absolute powerhouse. The current senior was named the Great Midwest Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and ended the 2021 season with a 1.96 ERA in 189 innings pitched. She put together a 22-8 mark with a whopping 236 strikeouts. One of the biggest changes in Malone’s starting battery will be losing standout catcher (and older sister) Bailey Byers. While the Byer Battery won’t be in full effect this season, having Kelsey Byers in the circle won’t be an easy challenge for opposing hitters.

Andrea Morales, Rogers State

Senior Andrea Morales should be on your radar this season. In 2021, Morales was dominant and led the Hillcats to a 34-15-1 record and a run to the MIAA Championship Game. She went 23-6, while striking out 232 batters and finished with a 1.74 ERA. Morales racked up nine shutouts and had just 35 walks allowed in 185 innings of work.

Hannah Rose Corbin, Columbus State

It’s not every day you see an athlete play both sides of the ball like Hannah Rose Corbin, and she may be the best double threat in all of NCAA Division II. Not only did she rank eighth in the nation with 211 strikeouts in just over 165 innings of work last season, but she also hit .400 with a .967 slugging percentage. Corbin also led the nation in on-base percentage, was fifth in slugging, and tied for ninth with 16 home runs. There’s no doubt this All-American will be bringing some serious heat to the table for the 2021 season. 

Hannah Beatus, Grand Valley State

When considering ‌Division II WCWS contenders, Grand Valley State seems to find itself in that category more often than not. In the 2021 season, the Lakers once again made a trip to the WCWS where Hannah Beatus played a key role in their success. The All-American, unanimous first-team all-region honoree and GLIAC Pitcher of the Year went 25-5 with a 1.33 ERA to lead the Lakers to their second straight College World Series appearance. Beatus made 30 starts last season, throwing 28 complete games with 11 shutouts where she struck out 205 batters in 204.2 innings of work. With Beatus back on the mound for 2022, Grand Valley State should not be underestimated.

Alyssa LeBlanc, Texas A&M-Commerce

Alyssa LeBlanc is a jack of all trades. During the 2021 season, the pitcher, first baseman, and power hitter led the Lions—and the Lone Star Conference—with 167.1 innings pitched with an 18-11 record on the season with 26 starts in the circle and 34 overall appearances. LeBlanc’s 2.18 ERA was fifth in the LSC and she led the conference in strikeouts with 196. On the offensive end, LeBlanc hit .275 for the year and was second on the team in doubles (10) and home runs (8), and led the squad with 37 RBIs. Did we mention she did all of this as a freshman? LeBlanc’s growth and A&M-Commerce’s success will be tied together as the team heads into the 2022 season.

Kaite Burawski, University Of Bridgeport

Kaite Burawski will be back in action in 2022 after helping her team make its way to the NCAA Division II Tournament for the fourth time in program history in 2021. The junior from Delaware was named the ECC Pitcher of the Year and the ECC Championship Tournament Most Outstanding Player last season. Burawski tallied 194 strikeouts in 147.2 innings pitched, and held her opponents to a 1.88 ERA while limiting batters to a 1.88 batting average. It will be exciting to see what the upperclassman can accomplish this coming season. 

Meghan Anderson, Northern State

Hailing from the NSIC, Meghan Anderson will return to the mound for Northern State this season. In 2021, Anderson appeared in 31 games, making 30 starts on the year while managing to snag 189 strikeouts in 135 innings pitched. She led her team with a 3.16 ERA and was able to hold batters to a .243 batting average. Anderson also rewrote NSU’s record book by breaking the school’s single-season strikeout record, which included throwing a perfect game over Bemidji State. The NSIC is always packed with talent and Anderson continues that legacy going into the 2022 season.

Kyra Lair, West Texas A&M

After helping her squad win the 2021 NCAA Division II Softball Championship, it’s safe to say we’re all excited to see junior Kyra Lair get back in the circle. During her 2021 season, Lair posted a 25-6 record while owning a 2.65 ERA. Through 172 innings pitched Lair also racked up 185 strikeouts. The Lady Buffs took home their second NCAA Championship in program history in spite of being a fairly young squad. You can expect big things from this group with Lair on the mound.