The athletes have arrived in Rosemont for the start of AUX Softball with new faces on the roster. Megan Faraimo, Sydney McKinney, Delanie Wisz, Brooke Yanez and Elizabeth Hightower will all make their Athletes Unlimited debut this season.
Following the draft’s conclusion on Friday, the Pick’Em Fantasy League will open up for fans to make their four picks of who they think will earn the most points and climb to the top of the leaderboard in Series 1. If you are signed up and ready to play, don’t let the rookies slip your radar.
Get to know the five newcomers.
Megan Faraimo has the ability to enter the league and make an immediate impact as a pitcher. Her arsenal of pitches covers all four planes, including off-speed options and of course her signature riseball. What’s also unique about Faraimo that will benefit her at the pro level is that she has had the responsibility of calling her own games alongside her catchers at UCLA. That confidence could set her apart and launch her to be not only a reliable arm but a starter in the AUX series.
.@UCLASoftball's Megan Faraimo put on quite the show at Mary Nutter in 2022 racking up EIGHTEEN strikeouts in one game… 😱
…and we expect to see more this year 😈
— FloSoftball (@FloSoftball) January 4, 2023
Faraimo’s biggest asset — and a similar asset for two other rookie pitchers this season — is that most of the hitters at AUX have not seen her throw. If they have, it has been over a year since they faced this righty-hurler’s arm. She’s also a two-way player, like Aleshia Ocasio and fellow UCLA alum Rachel Garcia, doubling her opportunity to earn stat points if she’s put in the batting order.
Her accolade list is long, including back-to-back Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year honors. Her collegiate record finished an impressive 29-3 with a 1.42 ERA and 232 strikeouts over 172.0 innings her senior year. Her 29 wins ranked second in the NCAA.
Faraimo has been put to the test to deliver pitches in the most pressurized situations throughout college but will be tested to adapt yet again to the fast-paced environment of AU.
The first overall draft pick and now the first of the 2023 Draft Class to sign with AU is Wichita State’s Sydney McKinney. She’s a three-time All-American, most recently being named to the NFCA First Team.
McKinney is known for her ability to impact the game on both sides of the ball. She’s one of the best shortstops in the country but being in the middle infield position opens her up to play second base as well in the league. What really could set McKinney apart as a rookie is her hitting.
While she’s not swinging for power, she has speed and is an incredibly tough out. In her senior season, she struck out just eight times in 198 at-bats. She consistently finds a way. McKinney led the country in hits (103) and batting average (.520) for the second straight season.
NAME. A. BETTER. SHORTSTOP.
You can't. Sydney McKinney is HER.
— Wichita State Softball (@GoShockersSB) April 23, 2023
There are just a few AU athletes who make stolen bases a part of their game — only Aubrey Leach and Victoria Hayward had five or more attempts last season. We could see McKinney make that another avenue that she is an asset to teams. She stole 18 bags on 23 attempts in the 2023 NCAA season.
She’s been the leadoff hitter for the Shockers and has clearly shown her ability to make adjustments as a hitter in college. With multiple attributes that can earn her a spot on the field or in the lineup, McKinney is one you don’t want to ignore when making your picks this season.
Delanie Wisz’s biggest asset can be found in her position classification at AU: during AUX she’s listed as a catcher but for Championship season she’s a corner infielder.
That versatility is what she prides herself most on. Wisz said she wants to have the ability to be great anywhere. She certainly got plenty of experience doing so at UCLA, excelling as as a utility player throughout college as a Bruin. She started all 61 games in UCLA’s 2022 season, primarily at catcher (30) and third base (23). What could be interesting to see is if Wisz will suit up behind the plate to reunite with Faraimo; they were a battery last year.
She’s known for her explosive bat and propensity for multi-baggers. She led the Bruins with 2022 season-highs in batting average (.405), home runs (16), RBIs (63), and slugging percentage (.767). Across the country, her stats were good for 12th in RBIs, and 40th in batting average and home runs in the NCAA.
— Tara Henry (@notarabledays) April 25, 2021
Wisz started her pro career with the USSSA Pride, playing one season with the team. This will be her first year competing with AU. She could benefit from the familiarity of the number of Bruins in the league. On top of that, Wisz can proficiently play multiple positions so she has a higher chance of staking her claim in the starting lineup.
Elizabeth Hightower wrapped up her collegiate career with the Florida Gators just a few weeks ago and in a whirlwind couple of days, signed a contract and flew out to Rosemont to compete in AUX.
She had a big load with the Gators during her senior campaign with 167.0 innings pitched (sixth in the Southeastern Conference). She turned in a 2.43 ERA with a 17-9 record in 35 appearances and 30 starts.
Expect to see Hightower mix speeds in the circle. She can make huge shifts in what batters are seeing from her screwball to her fastball and she likes to use that velocity as a surprise. You won’t see Hightower rack up on the strikeouts though — she’s a pitcher that feeds her defense.
🔘 Hightower | vs USF | 5/23/21
🔘 Ocasio | vs Ohio State | 5/19/18
🔘 Gourley | vs FAMU | 5/19/17
🔘 Gourley | vs FAMU | 5/17/14 pic.twitter.com/vlK6XNu9hW
— Gators Softball (@GatorsSB) May 23, 2021
What could turn out to be a huge benefit for her is having Jordan Roberts as a catcher – they worked together during Hightower’s rookie year at Florida. Familiarity can make all the difference for first-year pitchers.
Brooke Yanez was the other piece to the Bruins’ 2023 two-ace rotation alongside Faraimo. She started her collegiate career at UC Davis before transferring to Oregon where she spent the bulk of her career. As a sophomore, Yanez won Big West Pitcher of the Year after going 25-7 with 274 strikeouts and a 1.03 ERA. She earned NFCA Third Team All-America Honors in 2021 on a season marked by 14 complete games and seven shutouts.
The lefty missed the entirety of the 2022 season due to injury prior to transferring so the medical redshirt and COVID year allowed her to finish her career at UCLA.
— NCAA Softball (@NCAASoftball) May 21, 2023
Yanez logged a 16-3 record with 115 strikeouts in 462 batters faced. Those that went up against her in the box averaged just a .175 average. She describes her repertoire as “spinny” more than anything else and as we’ve seen in the past, movement pays dividends at AU for pitchers.
The AUX season begins on June 12 and runs through June 27 in Rosemont, Ill. at Parkway Bank Sports Complex
Savanna Collins is the Digital Media Reporter at Athletes Unlimited. You can follow her on Twitter @savannaecollins.
Pick'Em Right: The Scoring System & AU Softball Fantasy
Parkway Bank Sports © Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2021 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Brooke Yanez, Elizabeth Hightower, Caroline Jacobsen added to Softball rosters
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