Written By: Natalie Hansen

With millions of viewers watching the 2022 Women’s College World Series, fans were eager to catch more high-level softball into the summer months. Athletes Unlimited Softball, through their multi-year rights agreement with ESPN, showcased the top softball talent on TV. In their third season of softball, Athletes Unlimited brought professional women’s softball to the big stage. Fans were able to follow some of their favorite college stars as the players took their talents to the professional level. The athletes played against other professional softball icons in a draft style, 15 game league where players compete to earn the most total points and be crowned the league champion. After having standout college careers concluding in 2022, a dozen players joined Athletes Unlimited for season 3. Here we highlight the top 5 rookies that made the jump from college to Athletes Unlimited in 2022!

What is Athletes Unlimited?

Athletes Unlimited (AU) is a network of professional sports leagues that launched in March of 2020. Unsatisfied with the current professional sports leagues for women, Athletes Unlimited thought that they could do better by providing an player centric model to “bring out the best in athletes” and “deliver the most to fans.” Their goals are to promote athlete wellbeing, civic leadership, athlete representation, and diversity, all while bringing fans closer to the game. Athletes who participate in Athletes Unlimited do so through a profit-sharing program, putting control over the future of the league in the players’ hands. Athletes consist of players who have played professionally in other leagues, national team participants, and rookies who graduated college and found their first professional opportunity with AU.

Rather than solely judging performance based on wins and losses at the team level, the Athletes Unlimited model uses a point system to rank players on an individual level throughout each season. After each week of play, the 4 top point performers become team captains and draft their next week’s roster through a school-yard style pick. By changing teams each week, players get to play with a variety of teammates and the teams stay competitive.

Athletes Unlimited softball had its inaugural season in 2020, and at the end of the season, they crowned softball legend Cat Osterman as their overall champion. In the leagues sophomore season 2021, Aleshia Ocasio was championed with the most total points. In the leagues third season in 2022, games were played at Parkway Banks Sports Complex in Rosemont, IL. The season consisted of 5 weeks of play in which the 4 teams competed. Every week, each team played 3 games, giving the players opportunities to score points.

How do Players Earn Points?

In order to crown an individual champion each season, AU has an intricate point system. The leaderboard is based on total points, which come from three point categories: MVP Points, Win Points, and Stat Points.

Game MVP Points

After every game, fans who are a part of the Unlimited Club vote on the top MVPs. Players who receive the top 3 most votes earn points toward their total score for that week as follows:

  • 1st: +60 points
  • 2nd: +40 points
  • 3rd: +20 points

Win Points

The next category of points is the win points, which are based on team performance. Every inning that a team is winning, athletes on the winning team gain +10 points. A game win is worth +50 points for every athlete on the winning team.

Stat Points

The last category of points is Individual Stat Points that players earn based on individual performance. This category is broken down into offensive points and pitching points.

Offensive Points Include:

  • Single: +10 points
  • Double: +20 points
  • Triple: +30 points
  • Home run: +40 points
  • Stolen base: +10 points
  • Caught Stealing: -10 points
  • Base on balls: +8 points
  • HBP: +8 points
  • Sacrifice Fly/Bunt: +10

Pitching Stats Include:

  • Out: +4 points
  • Earned Run Allowed: -10 points

Each week, the points that each player earned from these categories are added together, and the top 4 players become the captains for the following week. The point system allows the athletes to excel individually and compete for the champion title, no matter what team they’re on for a given week. Prior to the inaugural AU softball season, researchers at Fairfield University Dolan School of Business ran simulations with MLB data to examine individual parity, team parity, and performance under the point system.

How did College Athletes Perform in AU Softball in Season 3?

The rest of this post will highlight the top rookies in AU softball season 3 who also finished their college softball career in 2022. We’ll take a look at how they finished on the AU leaderboard, compared to their college season. Using their college statistics, we calculate the pace that they generated Stat Points at the college level. Then we use this college pace to estimate how many Stat Points they should have earned in AU softball season 3. Lastly, we compare the college pace to the actual and discuss differences between the college and professional level.

#5: Janae Jefferson – Texas

Coming in at #5 is former Texas infielder Janae Jefferson. In AU season 3, Jefferson compiled 1108 total points, ranking her 33rd of 60 AU players in 2022. Of her 1108 total points, 108 came from the Stat Point category. Let’s take a look at how she performed at the college level in 2022 and see how her talents translated to AU softball.

In her 2022 season at Texas, Janae Jefferson led the Longhorns’ offense, posting a .407/.479/.624. Jefferson was walked 11.7% of at-bats, and she only struck out in 4.6% of at-bats. With Jefferson’s speed, she was able to secure a .407 batting average on balls in play while stealing 16 bases. Jefferson led her team in weighted on-base average (wOBA) with .496.

Using the Athletes Unlimited Individual Stat Point system, we can apply the point values to Jefferson’s 2022 college season statistics using the offensive stat formula.

We can see that Janae Jefferson accumulated the largest percentage of her points from hitting singles, a testament to her hitting consistency and elite speed that helps her beat out close plays. Jefferson also used her speed to snag 16 SB (160 points) and 24 doubles (480 points) in 2022. During her college season, Jefferson played in all 70 Longhorns’ games, giving her an average of 27.5 Stat Points/game. Overall, Jefferson had a total of 264 PA for the Longhorns in 2022, meaning that she averaged 7.3 Stat Points/PA. Using this value, we can calculate the total number of Stat Points that Jefferson should have in Athletes Unlimited based on her college pace. Jefferson had 32 PA in Athletes Unlimited, meaning that she was estimated to earn 233.6 Stat Points in season 3.

We can see that in reality, Jefferson accumulated 108 Individual Stat Points in AU season 3, which was 125.6 points shy of her college pace. (Spoiler! All of these athletes are shy of their college pace. It goes to show just how talented the competition is at the professional level in Athletes Unlimited. More advanced projections in the future could account for the difference in level). Overall though, Jefferson continued to show how her consistency at the plate allows her to generate base hits. If she participates in AU in the future, Jefferson needs to find a way to get some of those extra base hits that boosted her college points score.

In her August 28th Instagram post, Jefferson notes that “Rookie Season was a blast, until next time!!!” indicating that we’re not done seeing Janae Jefferson compete at a high level.

#4: Peyton St. George – Duke

At #4 is Peyton St. George, a former Duke Blue Devil pitcher. Across the AU season, St. George racked up 1126 total points, which ranked her 32nd in the league. 126 of St. George’s 1126 points came from Stat Points. We can analyze St. George’s 2022 college stats to understand how she transitioned to the professional level.

At Duke in 2022 St. George handled 45% of the Blue Devil’s innings with a team high 26 games started. Through the season she held opposing hitters to a .205 BAA while striking them out at a 30.4% clip. St. George’s low walk rate (5.9%) and high 1-1 win rate (67.4%) demonstrated her control of the zone all season long. She posted a 2.36 SIERA (Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average), which considers and adjusts for different types of balls in play.

Using the Athletes Unlimited Stat Point formula for pitchers, we can calculate what her total points would have been for her college softball season.

St. George had 46 earned runs in the 2022 college season, translating to -460 points. This was balanced out by the 467 outs that she contributed to. Since each out is worth +4 points, St. George generated 1868 points from outs, bringing her total points to 1408.

Since pitchers work by an inning basis, we can use her college pace to estimate AU Stat Points using points/inning. St. George pitched 155.2 innings for Duke in 2022, meaning that she averaged 9 points/inning pitched. During Athletes Unlimited season 3, St. George had 26 innings of work in the circle. This means that she is estimated to have earned 235.2 Stat Points based on her college pace.

We can see that St. George earned 126 Stat Points in AU season 3, which was 109.2 points short of the estimation. It’s no surprise that facing elite hitters caused St. George to give up more earned runs, but if she returns to the mound for AU in 2023, getting more innings and commanding the zone should be priorities for St. George.

Following the conclusion of AU season 3, Peyton St. George reflected on the season in her Instagram post. She said “Rookie season in the books. Thank you [Athletes Unlimited] for giving me some really hard goodbyes.” We’re eager to see where Peyton St. George’s professional career takes her in the future.


#3: Maggie Balint – San Diego State University

Maggie Balint, former San Diego State University standout comes in at #3. The pitcher finished AU season 3 with 1160 total points, placing her at 28th on overall leaderboard. Of her 1160 total points, 40 came from the Individual Stat Points. We can compare Balint’s AU season 3 performance to her 2022 college season.

In 2022 at San Diego State University, Balint was in the circle 49% of all innings, and she started 30/55 games. Through all of her appearances in 2022 she had a .193 BAA. Balint had a 1-1 win rate of 63.2% and a team high strikeout rate of 36%. Paired with her high K%, Balint also had a low walk rate (5.3%), showing her ability to win big counts and limit free bases. In addition to her impressive pitch analytics, Balint’s control also allowed her to generate an impressive 1.59 SIERA (Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average).

Using the Athletes Unlimited pitching formula for individual Stat Points, Balint would have generated 1660 Stat Points for her 2022 college season at SDSU.

Maggie Balint saw 185 innings of work at SDSU in 2022, meaning that she averaged 9 points/ inning as her college pace. Using this value to apply to her AU season, Balint saw 16 innings of work during season 3, meaning that she had 144 estimated Stat Points.

During AU softball season 3, Balint actually accumulated 40 total Stat Points, 104 points below the estimation from her college pace. Similar to St. George, the rookie pitcher saw less overall innings in the circle than many of the veteran league pitchers. An opportunity for more innings while limiting walks and runs would boost Balint’s Stat Point score.

Also giving love to Athletes Unlimited on her Instagram, Balint posted a series of videos with the caption, “This experience has been unreal! I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to play for [Athletes Unlimited]! This game is growing and it’s growing fast and I am blessed to be a part of it.”

#2: Mia Sky Davidson-Smith – Mississippi State

Coming in at #2 is former Mississippi State Bulldog Mia Sky Davidson-Smith. The slugger totaled 1280 total points in AU season 3, which ranked 21st in the league. Davidson-Smith accumulated 370 of her total points from the Individual Stat Point category, which was the largest number of Stat Points from any of these rookies. A Stat Point powerhouse, we can analyze Davidson-Smith’s 2022 college stats to understand how she was so dominant offensively.

During 2022, Mia Davidson-Smith competed at Mississippi State, bringing a power bat to their lineup day in and day out. Over the course of the season, she generated a .346/.543/.848 and blasted 23 home runs. While she had a 13.3% strikeout rate, she balanced it out with her 19.2% walk rate. Her dominance as a hitter gave her a .584 wOBA, which was over 100 points higher than her next highest teammate.

We can use the AU individual stat offensive points formula to calculate how many points Davidson would have earned during her 2022 college season with Mississippi State.

Under the formula, she would have generated a whopping 2036 Stat Points. Davidson had 234 college plate appearances, meaning that she averaged 8.7 points per PA, which is her college pace. In AU season 3, she had 51 PA, meaning that her estimated Stat Point total was 443.7.

In season 3, Davidson-Smith earned 370 Stat Points, which is only 73.7 short of her estimation. A majority of her Stat Points in college came from her high home run rate and high walk rate. In her future AU seasons, Davidson needs to add in a few more extra base hits to quickly close that gap. A strong hitter with patience at the plate, Davidson-Smith should have no trouble continuing to adjust to pitchers at the professional level.

Mia Sky Davidson-Smith reflected on her experiences with AU softball in her rookie season, posting on Instagram with the caption, “Here’s to a great rookie season! Went by way too fast… Thank you [Athletes Unlimited] for giving me a chance to live out my dream while meeting the most amazing people in the process. Can’t wait to do it again next year!” Davidson-Smith leaves no doubts that she will return for next season of AU softball in 2023.


#1: Danielle (Gibson) Whorton – Arkansas

In our top spot is Arkansas infielder Danielle (Gibson) Whorton. She totaled 1336 overall points, ranking her 18th in the league in 2022. Her top 20 performance was also the highest by an AU rookie who had also competed in the 2022 college softball season. In route to achieving this feat, Whorton generate 216 Individual Stat Points. Whorton’s dominance is no accident. By analyzing her 2022 college offensive statistics, we can see just how well she transitioned to the professional level.

For the Razorbacks in 2022, Danielle (Gibson) Whorton was a dominant offensive leader. Through her 206 plate appearances, Gibson had a .443/.495/.847, and she added 20 HR for Arkansas. At the plate she had a 8.7% strikeout rate and 7.8% walk rate. On balls that Gibson put in play, she had a .415 batting average. Contributing to a stellar Arkansas offense in 2022, Gibson led the team with her .588 wOBA.

With the AU Stat Point formula, we can calculate how many points her college season would have earned.

Danielle Gibson had 206 PA with the Razorbacks in 2022. During the season, her sheer ability to get on base–both through the long ball and consistent base hits, allowed her to generate a would-be 1780 Stat Points. Dividing by her total plate appearances, Gibson averaged 8.6 points/PA for her college pace. If we consider her 38 PA in AU season 3, she would have an estimated stat score of 326.8 points.

During season 3, Gibson Whorton earned 216 Stat Points, which was 110.8 points shy of the estimation. Given that a majority of her college Stat Points came from her ability to hit home runs and consistently put the ball in play, if she returns to AU next season, Gibson Whorton continue to adjust to elite pitching. With more balls in play falling for hits and a closer eye at the plate limiting strikeouts, her hitting dominance would allow her to rack up Stat Points.

In her August 29th Instagram post, Danielle Gibson Whorton shared some heartfelt thoughts about her experience in AU softball this summer. Towards the end of her caption, she comments that “I am proud of myself for how much my mental game grew. It just shows that EVERY athlete at EVERY level climbs their own mountains with their own challenges.” Although she leaves uncertain what exactly the next chapter of her career holds, fans are eager to hear whether she will return to AU in 2023.


Below we can see all five of these players calculated college Stat Points, their estimated AU Stat Points based on the college pace, their actual AU Stat Points, and the difference between the estimated and the actual.


We can see that all of these players earned less Stat Points in AU than their college pace. This demonstrates just how competitive AU softball season 3 was. Even though Davidson, Gibson, and Jefferson were elite hitters in 2022 college softball, they weren’t able to maintain the same level of production in their rookie season of AU. With more experience under their belt, professional pitchers know how to attack top hitters to exploit weaknesses. Transitioning to the professional level is difficult, even for the most elite college hitters. Similarly, Balint and St. George, both aces for their respective college teams, had to adjust to new roles at the professional level. With less overall innings pitched and matchups against tenured professional hitters, these pitchers found areas that they too could improve on. With 60 total players in season 3, the dozen college players who made pro debuts were up against the top softball talent in the U.S. This high level of play demonstrates how AU softball is an opportunity for elite college players to continue to play the game on the professional stage.

What is the Future of AU Softball?

Athletes Unlimited softball season 3 showed fans across the nation how talented these professional athletes are. After 5 weeks of play, Athletes Unlimited crowned Dejah Mulipola grand champion for the most total points (1782). The dozen rookie athletes who transitioned from college to AU in 2022 demonstrated how they not only performed at a high level in college, but that they are ready to compete against softball greats on the professional stage. These top 5 college rookies showed how they were able to battle against more tenured professional athletes and still excel. Like any level of athletics, these players also showed their fans that there is always room to grow as an athlete, both on and off the field. Athletes Unlimited plans to return in 2023, and several players are already signed on through 2 year contracts that were signed prior to season 3. Regardless of whether all these rookies return to AU in 2023, they have shown how Athlete’s Unlimited has become a place for dominate female athletes to compete at the professional level.

Interested in reading more about college softball stars at the professional level? Check out this blog post to read about players who joined WPF in 2022.