Man, what a year for college softball! From the first tournament back in February to the final game in OKC this was a year for the record books.
I’m sure you have your own thoughts about the Women’s College World Series, but if you read on, I’ll share 4 of mine.
8 teams make it the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. They’re the survivors of the 64 teams that make it into post season. And those 64 teams are the survivors – or rather – the thrivers of the 297 Division I teams that start the season full of hope..
It’s quite a journey that starts in February and results in a true champion raising the trophy on a humid night in June.
From upsets in Regionals to come-from-behind winners at Supers, this year’s World Series had some new faces, some unranked surprises and some heavy favorites.
We were all treated to the magic that is Jocelyn Alo. Whether you’re a Sooners fan or you can’t deny her unbelievable talent. This woman hits like nobody before who has ever played the game. And that’s saying something. She not only broke the all-time homerun record – she destroyed it. Names like Laura Espinoza, Stacey Nuveman and Lauren Chamberlain would bring fear into everyone who played them. And yet Jocelyn hit over 20 more homers than Chamberlain, the recent title holder, and 4 of those came at the WCWS in OKC! We are all blessed to be a fan of the game when a rare talent like Jocelyn Alo comes along.
The Oklahoma Sooners are this year’s National Champions having beaten the Texas Longhorns in the Championship Series and claiming their second-consecutive title. While that isn’t news to you, let’s see how you feel about my top 4 takeaways form this year’s Women’s College World Series:
1. Bunts & Bombs:
Home runs were definitely happening this year in BIG numbers, and because of superstar Jocelyn Alo, and her homerun hitting teammates from Oklahoma, homeruns were getting all the press. But hidden underneath those bombs was the bunt. These polar opposites have major impacts on the game, and they were both on full display at the World Series this year. Teams with lots of speed like Florida & Texas bunted to get defenses in motion and help their speed majorly impact the game. This was evident in the number of throwing errors we saw. While we’re definitely in the era of hit-the-crap-out-of-the-ball, the bunt is an under-practiced and vitally important tool. It shows up at this time every year when games are close and 1 run can make the difference in your season..
I was amazed at the number of teams that asked their cleanup hitters to bunt, and even more amazed at how successful they were. Think about how often you have all your players practice bunting, now think about how often your cleanup hitter practices it. Imagine stepping into the box with the game on the line, being given the bunt signal and then having to execute it against a pitcher throwing 70 miles per hour – and you’ll gain an appreciation for just how impressive these players are! If you have dreams of your team playing for the championship, then start practicing bunting now. You’ll thank me later.
2. Playing the Long Game:
Unranked, down to their last out, behind in the 7th, you name it and it happened this year. This was the year of the Comeback Kids, but more importantly, it was a lesson in coaching patience.
You don’t have to look any further than Texas or Arizona to see that your beginning does not dictate your end.
Let’s take the University of Texas. It’s the first time in school history that they made it to the WCWS championship series, and they’re the first-ever unseeded team to reach the championship series. And yet, back in February at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational they lost all 5 games and were outscored 41-17! It certainly could have been a time to panic and freak out but staying patient and realizing that the season isn’t made in February is no doubt what helped them build belief and momentum and get themselves to Oklahoma City.
And then there’s Arizona. They had a brand-new head coach in Caitlyn Lowe, they started Pac12 conference play 0-8 and ended up one of the last teams selected to the group of 64 teams advancing to Regionals. Going 0-5 in February is a very different thing than starting out conference play 0-8 when your team knows this is for all the marbles since the Pac12 does not have a conference tournament. And yet it was the patience and belief shown from Coach Lowe that spread throughout her team as they got it turned around and got themselves into post season play.
Northwestern was out of their Super Regionals numerous times against Arizona Stat before mounting comeback after comeback to win a late inning thriller and earn their berth to Oklahoma City.
No coach wants to lose and yet ALL coaches do. Even Oklahoma, as mighty as they were this year lost games. And it’s not the losses themselves that hurt us but how we as coaches respond to these losses that really determine how our teams move forward. We can all take a valuable lesson from these teams that stayed patient and kept believing when there seemed there was no reason to believe.
As coaches, we are transmitters of BELIEF. We must always give this skill the power because this year was proof of what incredible things can result from doing so!
3. Outies Stole the Show:
While tons of balls made it out of USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, even more would have were it not for the absolutely unbelievable outfield play. From OU’s Jayda Coleman, pictured to the right, to Arizona’s Jasmine Perezchica, the outfielders on all 8 Women’s College World Series teams not only came to play – they came to make a difference!
4. Super Softball:
This was the year that softball blasted through the roof in both attendance and in national popularity. The WCWS has always been popular with softball fans, but we are now on everybody’s radar – and I mean everybody.
Stars like Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Dick Vitale, Kirk Herbstreit and Billie Jean King all tweeted about the softball, and TV viewership was through the roof.
This year’s WCWS averaged an incredible 1 Million viewers! 6 WCWS games averaged more than a MILLION viewers, the Championship Series averaged 1.6 million and Game 2 of the Champ Series was the most-viewed game of the entire 2022 WCWS averaging 1.7 Million viewers with peak viewership at 2.1 MILLION! These numbers are mind-blowing and mean people all over this country love watching college softball. These numbers also mean that softball is here to stay and that we’ll see even more of it on tv next year.
Attendance was record-breaking as well with 12,257 people on hand to watch game 2 of the Championship Series. Nearly every single session averaged 12,000 plus fans – which is absolutely mind-blowing!
College softball at the WCWS is off the charts, and while very few of us will ever set foot on that field, we’re all a part of its record-breaking popularity! Here’s to us – and here’s to softball!!