Development of Pitchers

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Brisket
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Development of Pitchers

Post by Brisket »

Not sure how much pitchers can develop, grow, increase speed, etc. in college, but I have a question about Coach Rocha's development of pitchers. She's been at OU since the 2019 season. It seems like, aside from Jordy Bahl, the #1 starter each year under her is a transfer. Juarez, Saile, Trautwein, Storako (1a or 1b to Bahl) were all transfers. She's recruited a number of the top pitchers available each offseason, but Nicole May & Kierston Deal are the only 2 pitchers who Rocha has recruited and have stayed at OU for 3+ years. May was improving each season until her senior year. Deal threw more innings this past season, but I'm not sure we've seen enough improvement for her to be considered an "ace" going into next season.

I suppose my questions are:
A) Is this normal to have that much attrition?
B) Do other coaches "develop" young pitchers over 3-4 years or is Rocha's "specialty" to take mostly developed pitchers like Juarez, Storako, Maxwell & "refine" them - take them from a 9/10 to a 9.5-10/10 so to speak? If so, in this day of the transfer portal, that's not all that bad a thing. Just hate having to rely on the portal each offseason. Seems to be a dangerous way to manage a roster.
AustinTXSooner
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Post by AustinTXSooner »

I'm going to address the portal side of this question. Ever since players were given an extra year for COVID, there has been a glut of players in the portal looking for starting spots. Now that the COVID players are gone, I think we're seeing this year that the number (or maybe available talent) of players in the portal is dropping significantly. We'll continue to see players that don't like their situation, but that number is going to be less than we're used to.

There's been some activity this year because of conference realignment. But the only thing I see going forward that might impact the portal on a regular basis is NIL.

I'm not saying that there won't be good players in the portal. I'm saying they'll be fewer and probably mostly from teams that don't make the WCWS regularly. Even then, I'd expect most of them to be one and done players instead of younger players. A classic example would be a dominating mid-major player that wants to increase the competition level.
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Post by oufanforever »

Rocha arrived at OU in the summer of 2018, so the first class she can realistically recruit for is 2020 class that signed their letter in Fall of 2019.

In 2020 class we had May, she stayed for 4 years and improved from freshman to junior before having a drop off in her senior year.
In 2021 class we had Bahl and Guthrie. Bahl was on her way to be a 4 year ace before transferring home, Guthrie medically retired.
In 2022 class we had Deal and Geurin. Deal showed improvement from freshman to sophomore year, still need more opportunities to pitch and take one more step in her development. Geurin transferred out.
In 2023 class, signed 0 pitchers
In 2024 class, signed Lowry
In 2025 class, committed Bordi, Parker, and Zache.

In terms of grades for HS recruited pitchers, May and Bahl are both hits and showed development under Rocha, Deal is work in progress but showed development under Rocha, Guthrie's grade is incomplete, and Geurin is a miss. We will see how our incoming pitchers in 2024 and 2025 fares.
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Post by OUBeliever56A »

Brisket wrote: Fri Jun 14, 2024 2:31 pm Not sure how much pitchers can develop, grow, increase speed, etc. in college, but I have a question about Coach Rocha's development of pitchers. She's been at OU since the 2019 season. It seems like, aside from Jordy Bahl, the #1 starter each year under her is a transfer. Juarez, Saile, Trautwein, Storako (1a or 1b to Bahl) were all transfers. She's recruited a number of the top pitchers available each offseason, but Nicole May & Kierston Deal are the only 2 pitchers who Rocha has recruited and have stayed at OU for 3+ years. May was improving each season until her senior year. Deal threw more innings this past season, but I'm not sure we've seen enough improvement for her to be considered an "ace" going into next season.

I suppose my questions are:
A) Is this normal to have that much attrition?
B) Do other coaches "develop" young pitchers over 3-4 years or is Rocha's "specialty" to take mostly developed pitchers like Juarez, Storako, Maxwell & "refine" them - take them from a 9/10 to a 9.5-10/10 so to speak? If so, in this day of the transfer portal, that's not all that bad a thing. Just hate having to rely on the portal each offseason. Seems to be a dangerous way to manage a roster.
I would say a couple of things have happened. I will try to lay this out in an easy way. Recruits have not worked out largely, and transfers have pitched very well.

Until a few years ago when the recruiting rules changed, top flight pitchers were committing very early, say at least by the beginning or during their of the sophomore year in High School. OU found pitchers like Ricketts, Gascoigne, Paige Parker, Mariah Lopez and....wait for it, May ...and then wait for it, Bahl. That is really not enough hits with several misses. OU tried to recruit locally for pitching at one time and there were not many hits from doing that.

When Parker graduated in 2018, We had Lopez and Parker Conrad to pitch for the most part. We lost Parker, Chestnut and Finney after th3 2018 year as freshman. Chestnut was the OK POY and Finney was the Kansas POY. Chestnut pitched well, Finney could not find the strike zone. But both transferred.

To have a pitching staff for 2019, OU picked up Juarez and Saile from the pre-portal of today for the 2019 team to help Lopez, Conrad, Mendes (part-time) and Vestal (FR). Vestal red-shirted that year. The staff did well as the Sooners went to the WCWS Finals and lost to UCLA.

Before the 2020 season started, Conrad transferred UAB. Mendes no longer pitched. The incoming freshman in 2020 offered promise. There was Rains (OK POY 2018) and McAdoo (OK POY 2019) and Alana Thiede, a LH Batbuster pitcher. Juarez was hurt and did not pitch after the 3rd weekend. Rains and McAdoo showed promise. Vestal pitched some with mixed results but did not show the #1 player promise. Thiede pitched a little. Saile, Rains and McAdoo were the main pitchers.

In 2021, Nicole May joined the Sooners as a freshman and the the main pitchers were Saile, Rains, May and Juarez, especially after the mid-season as Juarez 'healed' from her injury. McAdoo had control issues and then a hip problem. Thiede and Vestal did not pitch much no real well.

After the 2021 season, as Hope Twautwein transferred into the Sooners, Rains, Thiede and Vestal all transferred out. BUT Jordy Bahl arrived as a freshman for 2022 along with Emmy Guthrie (OK Pitcher). In 2022, the trio of Bahl, Trautwein and May were the pitching staff as McAdoo recovered but then had more hip issues and retired. Guthrie red-shirted and then retired.

With Trautwein graduating, and Bahl and May returning, the 2023 Sooners picked up Alex Storako out of the portal in addition to Kierston Deal and SJ Geurin arriving as a freshman. Geurin red-shirted leaving 4 pitchers to pitched and they did, all four. And they pitched well.

For the 2024 season, Storako had no eligibility left and then to everyone's surprise - Bahl returned to Nebraska to be home. That left May, Deal, red-shirted Geurin on the staff. The Sooners picked up Patyn Monticelli, Karlie Keeney and then Kelly Maxwell. Keeney and Maxwell were 1-year rentals but Monticelli arrived for 3 years left. Ella Parker was originally a LHP that was in the incoming freshman class but she dropped pitched a couple years before arriving. So the Sooners had 6 pitchers.

For the upcoming season, Maxwell, Keeney and May all expired their eligibility. That leaves Deal, Monticelli and Geurin and the incoming Audrey Lowry. But, Geurin jumped into the portal. The Sooners are at 3 pitchers at this point, Deal Monticelli and Lowry.

OU has tried to find pitchers to recruit and really not had much success. They have had to rely on transfers many seasons in a row now. The Sooners need a couple for 2025.

The freshman for 2026 includes three pitchers that should help immediately and maybe the Sooners will have solved the pitching shortage. It has been a long journey.
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Post by AustinTXSooner »

Guthrie pitched sparingly for UCO this year. She's listed as a Redshirt Freshman...sounds like 2 redshirt years.
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Post by BudaSooner »

The Sooners are at 3 pitchers at this point, Deal, Monticelli and Lowry.
And of those 3, both Deal and Monticelli have shown moments of promise, but not enough to make me feel really optimistic about this upcoming season based on results so far. I remember Kierston Deal's press clippings as a freshman, everyone was saying, "she's the Real Deal. And she very well may blossom into an outstanding pitcher this year as a junior, with the added maturity and coaching that she will receive in the offseason. Monticelli? I dunno, for me, the jury is still out on her. Lowry? Hopeful, but who knows?
We definitely need an experienced transfer that can fill out the pitching rotation.
Right now, I anticipate that 2025 OU Softball is gonna need to score lots of runs!
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Post by TropicalSooner »

Here's hoping Lowry shows up on campus in August with a ready-made nasty off-speed, to go with whatever else she has in her arsenal.
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Post by MsProudSooner »

It sounds like many freshmen pitchers don't have the patience or maturity to wait their turn. Before Jordy transferred I can understand a younger pitcher not choosing OU or deciding to move on.

Regarding OSU's success in the portal this year, I'm sure Kenny's pitch was "Come to OSU! You won't have to compete against OU 3 or more times next year!"
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Post by Brisket »

OUBeliever56A wrote: Fri Jun 14, 2024 4:23 pm
Brisket wrote: Fri Jun 14, 2024 2:31 pm Not sure how much pitchers can develop, grow, increase speed, etc. in college, but I have a question about Coach Rocha's development of pitchers. She's been at OU since the 2019 season. It seems like, aside from Jordy Bahl, the #1 starter each year under her is a transfer. Juarez, Saile, Trautwein, Storako (1a or 1b to Bahl) were all transfers. She's recruited a number of the top pitchers available each offseason, but Nicole May & Kierston Deal are the only 2 pitchers who Rocha has recruited and have stayed at OU for 3+ years. May was improving each season until her senior year. Deal threw more innings this past season, but I'm not sure we've seen enough improvement for her to be considered an "ace" going into next season.

I suppose my questions are:
A) Is this normal to have that much attrition?
B) Do other coaches "develop" young pitchers over 3-4 years or is Rocha's "specialty" to take mostly developed pitchers like Juarez, Storako, Maxwell & "refine" them - take them from a 9/10 to a 9.5-10/10 so to speak? If so, in this day of the transfer portal, that's not all that bad a thing. Just hate having to rely on the portal each offseason. Seems to be a dangerous way to manage a roster.
I would say a couple of things have happened. I will try to lay this out in an easy way. Recruits have not worked out largely, and transfers have pitched very well.

OU has tried to find pitchers to recruit and really not had much success. They have had to rely on transfers many seasons in a row now. The Sooners need a couple for 2025.

The freshman for 2026 includes three pitchers that should help immediately and maybe the Sooners will have solved the pitching shortage. It has been a long journey.
Thanks 56... How much of the inability of OU/Rocha to develop recruited pitchers is due to bad luck vs. inability? Given AustinTX's observation about the extra covid years drying up & OU's reliance on portal pitchers, it would seem that OU is in a pretty drastic situation when it comes to recruiting and holding onto pitchers...
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Post by 1KCSoonerFan »

This coming year will have lessons to teach and learn for OU pitching and especially Coach Rocha. Sometimes, discovering a hidden weaknesses is more valuable than knowing an obvious strength. However, I just can't imagine that the exact pitching situation OU is in right now has not crossed Gasso's or Rocha's mind months ago. I mean, I've heard Coach say she has a Plan A, B, C, and D for almost everything in her program. I'm confident she saw this train coming when the light in the tunnel was still itty-bitty.

I just don't know how much control Patty and Co. have/had over the outcomes of their best laid pitching plans in the recent past. I'd throw Erickson as well as Bahl into that hat of chaos. If they stayed, think how much more cozy things might be looking for 2025-26. Patty planned it to be cozy, I think, and then unforeseen changes happened which left the program with a challenge or two. I mean, what can anyone really do about stuff like that? Nothing. Yet, OU has adapted and thrived again and again.

To be honest, I'm not sure how much or how well OU develops pitchers as far as taking an average pitcher and making them a future Olympian (my hyperbole). I'm sure the staff makes almost every pitcher 'better' in some way. The pitchers themselves seem to have glowing things to say for the most part if that counts for anything.

I think what OU does really well with pitchers (at all player positions) is work with the great talent they already have in a positive, encouraging, and accountable relationship; care about them as a person in a meaningful way; and teach them how to master their fears and doubts with mindset. How could anyone not improve?! That builds culture in a team and character in an individual.

I'm not clear how the timing works out with players visiting before the portal deadline. I mean, it could work out that the names we fans see on portal lists may not include all the players that will be in the portal very soon. To be honest, I don't expect the program to find the next MOP pitcher of the WCWS in the portal this year. And the team may only need a 'solid pitcher' or two to do very well. I trust Patty HAS a plan while I don't trust I know what it is.

Chess moves are made far in advance of moving a particular piece on the board. ('The Queen's Gambit' is an excellent movie, btw.) People, and life, don't always stay within a neatly defined board of squares, either. I think Coach might be good at chess. I know she is good at UNO.

And if OU misses this year on a couple portal pitchers for 2025, we may still be sitting "pitcher perfect" for 2026 and beyond.

Rocha has a coaching history before OU - she was super successful at Florida, too, right? So, any discussion of Rocha's prowess at developing talent has to include her career resume. Isn't that fair?

From my perspective, you have to have a pipeline of elite talent to your program to have elite success. You need players that are 'special' and 'gifted' and possess an extraordinary level of dedication, focus, discipline, and physiological attributes to be world class, top shelf, the Best. Do coaches create that? Or do they just polish the diamond
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Post by inconnu »

Just a hunch, but I think a lot of players don't want the pressure of pushing to be their best at all times, in order to beat out competitors on their team. Once a player has attained a NC,some of them aren't dedicated to do it again. In recent years, all of our better players who transfer already have a NC, and just want a better likelihood of being a regular starter. Of course, the Jordy Bahl situation had another unique feature: that of being a dedicated bugeater.
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Post by OU_Tom »

I see next season as a rebuilding season across the board. We lost a ton of talent with all the seniors graduating. There are a bunch of talented freshmen that will joining the team. Then in 2025, we have have a loaded class including several top flight pitchers.

I see OU as having a very good team but I don't see us cruising thru the WCWC like the past few years.
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Post by AllSooner »

With the "4-pete" obtained, I could tolerate a "normal" season or two to rebuild and prepare for future WCWS battles.
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Post by inconnu »

Normal season is likely inevitable, but I sure hope we are able to secure at least one dominating pitcher, to fend off bad smackings.
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Post by TropicalSooner »

Brisket wrote: Fri Jun 14, 2024 2:31 pm Not sure how much pitchers can develop, grow, increase speed, etc. in college, but I have a question about Coach Rocha's development of pitchers. She's been at OU since the 2019 season. It seems like, aside from Jordy Bahl, the #1 starter each year under her is a transfer. Juarez, Saile, Trautwein, Storako (1a or 1b to Bahl) were all transfers. She's recruited a number of the top pitchers available each offseason, but Nicole May & Kierston Deal are the only 2 pitchers who Rocha has recruited and have stayed at OU for 3+ years. May was improving each season until her senior year. Deal threw more innings this past season, but I'm not sure we've seen enough improvement for her to be considered an "ace" going into next season.

I suppose my questions are:
A) Is this normal to have that much attrition?
B) Do other coaches "develop" young pitchers over 3-4 years or is Rocha's "specialty" to take mostly developed pitchers like Juarez, Storako, Maxwell & "refine" them - take them from a 9/10 to a 9.5-10/10 so to speak? If so, in this day of the transfer portal, that's not all that bad a thing. Just hate having to rely on the portal each offseason. Seems to be a dangerous way to manage a roster.
I'll try to answer your questions from where I'm sitting.
A) I don't think it used to be.....but I do think it is now. And you can probably thank 1) the uninhibited universal Transfer Portal, and2) the way 'student athletes' market themselves now either through social media, NIL opportunities, or through Collective incentives.
B) I guess it depends on how good a pitching coach you are. Some schools apparently don't have the best of pitching coaches teaching new pitches or refining the talents that a pitcher already has, and that can cause some unhappiness with said pitchers. While I don't know this for a fact, it appeared to me that is why Ruby Meylan and Sidne Peters left Washington, due in part at least to the lack of improvement in pitching technique and new ideas for them. There may (and probably was) other factors also involved. I also suspect it was a primary reason Kelly Maxwell left OSU with Carrie Eberle coming in as the new pitching coach.

As for Coach Rocha and her "specialty".....I believe personally she is an excellent coach both as a teacher and mentor, whether you are an incoming transfer pitcher, or a newly arriving freshman. I also believe she is an outstanding recruiter. She should be responsible for bringing in Deal, Lowry, and when they sign, Bordi, Parker, and Zache. As for May, perhaps--but I'm not sure if she wasn't a Missy recruit from her Jr High days. '56 probably knows the answer to that. I just don't know when the "no contact before Junior High School" rule took effect. But in any case, I think May has thrived under Coach Rocha, and I do see Deal improving although I wish it was faster. And I'm looking forward to seeing if Lowry can burst out of the chute like Bahl did back in '22. As for Monti, I think she was an intentional "project pitcher" because originally Rocha had recruited Ella Parker to pitch and after committing she changed her major----uh....decided to change to playing the field and hitting--which of course we are grateful for. And I think Keeney was a safety net pickup because Vawter and Maxwell were both overseas for the summer and we got nervous that we might not have anyone besides May and Deal.

As for having to rely on the portal every season to staff your pitching unit, yeah, that's a dangerous game to play. Coach Gasso got bit last year with Jordy's sudden departure so she had lots of holes to fill. But the recruiting front looks really good for the class of '25 coming in so we'll see if we can get back on track with good recruiting of pitchers and then the occasional add-on through the portal only if someone special throws their hat in the ring.
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