College Softball More Competitive Than Ever As Teams Begin Season Hoping To End Up In OKC

By Bill Plummer III

FPTV College Softball Teams Fight for WCWS Birth

College Softball More Competitive Than Ever, The Fight To WCWS

More than 290 colleges and universities play NCAA Division One softball and the season began in earnest February 11. The  players on these teams are as different as night and day, but there is a common goal among many, if not all, the schools. It's to earn a berth in the NCAA Championship Tournament and maybe even a berth in the Elite Eight in Oklahoma City in June.

Getting a berth is one thing and then winning a Regional and a Super Region earns a berth in OKC, but it  isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination. Pursuing it ,however, is definitely a challenge that teams accept and are willing to see if they can become one of the final eight in OKC, which has become the Mecca of college softball. More than 30,000 athletes play college softball and that is not surprising considering 371,891 play high school softball with 8.3 percent of them going on to play collegiate softball.

Only one team in the history of the NCAA has three-peated and it was UCLA from 1988-1990. The Bruins have won 11 NCAA titles overall including 1982 when the NCAA  took over the WCWS. That year UCLA fashioned a 33-7 record and had outstanding pitching from Debbie Doom and Tracy Compton Davis to capture the title.

Doom and Compton led UCLA to a second place among team pitching (0.29 ERA) while the Bruins played outstanding defense making only 29 errors in 40 games for a fielding percentage of .983.  Compton and Doom were fifth and sixth in individual ERA while Doom won the strikeout title, averaging 10.1 strikeouts per game in 134.3 innings.

Florida also used outstanding defense and solid pitching to repeat as national champs,  recording a .981 fielding percentage and finishing fourth in team ERA (1.63) while averaging 6.55 runs per game.

It remains to be seen on the field whether Florida becomes only the second team to three-peat, but the Gators have accepted the challenge and know they will have a target on their backs where ever they will play in 2016.'

When UCLA when its first national championship in 1982, 142 teams played Division One softball. In 2016, more than  290 schools will field a Division One team with the competition expected to be extremely competitive across the board and schools spending millions of dollars to built new facilities or upgrade present facilities.

With the increased facilities has come increased participation with more than 1,670 colleges  sponsoring a softball program at the NJCAA, NAIA or Division One, Two and Three, thus making it more difficult than for a team to repeat let alone three-peat now than 20 years ago when UCLA and Arizona dominated college softball..

But there are colleges and universities who will step up to the task and with college softball as competitive as its ever been, teams can't look past any opponents for what used to be a sure W in the won and loss column. Those days are over and the overall competitive level of college softball is what makes it so appealing and entertaining to the thousands of fans who follow their favorite team or teams all the way to Oklahoma City.

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Bill Plummer Bill Plummer A graduate of Indiana University, Ind. Bill has been involved in softball for more than four decades. For 30years he was a fixture at the ASA National Office as a communications coordinator, manager of the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame and historian. In addition, he also served as the editor of the ASA official newsletter, The Inside Pitch, and as the Trade Show Manager. He has written widely about the sport and has contributed to 14 books. In 2009, he authored “The Game America Plays.” In 2012, he co-authored “Best of the Best-Women’s Fastpitch.” In 2014, ” A Series of Their Own. The History of the Women's College World Series.” He has been elected to five halls of fame, including the ASA National. In 1996, he served as the Information Manager for the debut of softball in the Olympics.

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Beer And Wine To Be Sold At WCWS

By Bill Plummer III

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FPTV Article Alcohol Sales Approved At WCWS 2016 By Bill Plummer

Alcohol Sales Approved by the Division 1 Softball Board

You might have missed the announcement, but it was bound to happen as the crowds steadily increased at the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, which has hosted the event since 1990.

In the past no beer or wine was sold at the WCWS. But that has changed with a recent decision by the Division I Board of Directors. Beginning with the 2016 WCWS,beer and wine will be sold at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium as part of a one-year pilot program. The decision also applies to the Men's College World Series in Omaha.

This year’s events will mark the first time alcohol will be available to the general public at an NCAA championship. In order to approve the pilot program, the board members waived the rule prohibiting such sales at Division I championships.

Both TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, home of the College World Series, and the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, which hosts the Women’s College World Series, were selected because each venue has hosted NCAA championships for some time, and the staffs at those events are familiar with Association policies.

Alcohol sales first were permitted in club seats and premium seats at the College World Series in 2013. Both venues are equipped to sell alcohol and do so at other events. The waiver came with some restrictions: Beer and wine will be sold, but not liquor. Sales will take place at concession stands only, not by roving vendors. Sales will be limited to the final championship sites only, not regionals or super-regionals.

Part of the impetus for the decision came from school reports that indicated once they started selling alcohol at events, alcohol-related incidents declined sharply. Theories suggest that making alcohol available in the stadium prevents incidents of binge drinking before events and discourages people from attempting to bring outside alcohol into the venue.

NCAA staff will work with law enforcement in Omaha and Oklahoma City to monitor alcohol-related incidents at both venues in order to compare this year’s statistics with prior years. That information will be provided to the board members to inform decisions on the future of alcohol sales at championship events.

Paving the way for the board to waive the Division I bylaw, the NCAA Board of Governors – the Association’s highest-ranking governance body – first amended its Association-wide policy barring alcohol sales at championships and set the parameters for the pilot. The Board of Governors noted that the number of schools selling alcohol at events has increased dramatically, with more schools considering the move.

The decision does not impact advertising at NCAA championships, either in-venue or on television. The NCAA has limited alcohol advertising at championship sites and during television broadcasts of championship events.

The Association will continue its relationships with the TEAM Coalition – Techniques for Effective Alcohol Sales Management. TEAM is an alliance of professional and collegiate sports, entertainment facilities, concessionaires, stadium service providers, the beer industry, broadcasters, governmental traffic safety experts, and others working together to promote responsible drinking and positive fan behavior at sports and entertainment facilities.

The NCAA also has played a role in the development and provision of programs that address underage and abusive drinking, including the NCAA CHOICES alcohol education grant program, which has awarded more than $7.5 million to support programs at more than 290 Division I programs.

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Bill Plummer Bill Plummer A graduate of Indiana University, Ind. Bill has been involved in softball for more than four decades. For 30years he was a fixture at the ASA National Office as a communications coordinator, manager of the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame and historian. In addition, he also served as the editor of the ASA official newsletter, The Inside Pitch, and as the Trade Show Manager. He has written widely about the sport and has contributed to 14 books. In 2009, he authored “The Game America Plays.” In 2012, he co-authored “Best of the Best-Women’s Fastpitch.” In 2014, ” A Series of Their Own. The History of the Women's College World Series.” He has been elected to five halls of fame, including the ASA National. In 1996, he served as the Information Manager for the debut of softball in the Olympics.

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OU Bounces Back With Three Wins After Two Losses In A Row To Open 2016 Season

By Bill Plummer III

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OU Bounces Back With Three Wins After Two Losses In A Row To Open 2016 Season

OU Bounces Back With Three Wins After Two Losses In A Row To Open 2016 Season By Bill Plummer III

NORMAN, OK–It's been rare when the OU softball team has lost two games in a row to top 25 teams to start the season. In fact, it had never happened until OU opened the 2016 season in the Sportco Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas.'

The Sooners lost twice, first to No.14/13 Minnesota, 1-0, then to No. 20/19 Washington, 10-3, in the Friday (February 12) nightcap.

 In its history, the No. 9/8 Oklahoma softball team had never faced as daunting a start to a season as it has in 2016. After losing in walk-off fashion to No. 14/13 Minnesota, 1-0, earlier in the day, OU lost to No. 20/19 Washington, 10-3, in the nightcap Friday at the Sportco Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas.

After being outscored, 11-3 in its first two games, OU turned the tables and went its next three games, outscoring the opposition, 26-2 defeating Lamar 12-2 in five innings and shutting out Syracuse University 7-0 before concluding the weekend with a win over Long Beach State

Against Lamar OU started fast and scored five times in the bottom of the first and added six more in the third for a 11-0 lead. OU went to a 12-0 lead before Lamar scored twice with the game ended via the run rule after five innings.

The Sooners needed only eight hits to score the 12 runs, and Nicole Pendley was the only player with multiple hits, going 2-for-3 and scoring two runs. Lea Wodach drove in two runs. Lamar pitchers walked 8 batters, and the Tigers committed three errors.

In the nightcap, OU’s Kelsey Stevens pitched a three-hitter, striking out six, and Erin Miller and Whitney Montgomery homered.

Against Long Beach, OU won 7-0 to up its win streak to three as Erin Miller and Sydney Romero starred offensively. Miller went 2-3 with three runs scored including her second homer of the season while Romero had three hits and a pair of runs batted in.

Sophomore Paige Parker and senior Kelsey Stevens combine to hurl the shutout. Parker went the first three innings and allowed just two hits with one strikeout and one walk. Stevens then came on in the fourth and gave up just two hits with one strikeout to improve her record to 2-1.

Oklahoma is back in action next weekend at the Troy Cox Classic in Las Cruces, N.M. Hosted by New Mexico State, the Sooners face the Aggies twice, while also taking on Creighton and Western Michigan.

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Fans Use Social Media for Wrong Reasons


“Fans Use Social Media for Wrong Reasons” Written By Bill Plummer

It is a sad commentary about people and their use of social media, as seen following the outcome of the recent Michigan State-Michigan Big Ten football game. After all, it's only a football game, one team wins and one team loses.

Unfortunately it isn't that simple to some of these people who made hateful, threatening comments to the Australian-born Michigan punter Blake O'Neil, who mishandled the snap from center and lost control of the ball. The ball was picked up by a Michigan State player who ran into the end zone for a game-winning last-second touchdown.

The announcers for both schools and the thousands of fans watching probably couldn’t have believed what had just transpired in front of them. But that’s sports, where things are never predictable. It was the second loss for Michigan and left Michigan State still unbeaten.

Why add insult to injury and say something over social media about the player and his misfortune? Because we have in society people who are sick, and they of course never have made a mistake. But the social media gives them a forum, and they use it for the wrong reasons.

In fact, one fan suffered a heart attack, unmentioned if the fan was a fan of Michigan State or Michigan. The heart attack occurred either during the play or right after. A fan close by came to the person's aid and started CPR immediately while waiting for medics to arrive.

The person was transported to the hospital and survived. Thank goodness for that.

Some of the comments from people on social media were down right disgusting. This was compounded by some hate tweets from fans, some going as far as telling O'Neil to commit suicide. Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett publicly denounced the comments in a letter.

Unfortunately, some people are out of control when it comes to attending athletic events. And some of them are either drunk or almost drunk. What else would you expect? Sane, responsible people who act like adults we would hope wouldn't make such outrageous comments.

What if O’Neil was their son or a relative? How would they feel in the long run? It's time people take athletic events for what they are—sports events—and get realistic about the outcome of the event.

And of course, social media doesn't help in the least. It just gives a forum to say something stupid and hurtful. There will always be a small percentage of people who don't understand what athletic events are all about and that winning at all costs doesn't work.

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USA National Team Takes Silver in 2015 Pan American Games Softball

Team USA Silver 2015 Pan Am Games

Photo by ASA/USA Softball

“USA National Team takes Silver to Canada in 2015 Pan American Games Softball” Written By Bill Plummer

In past Pan American Games softball competition, the USA women's team had dominated. Since softball was added to the Pan American Games in 1979, the USA had won the gold medal eight times and was trying for its ninth Pan Am title recently in Toronto, Canada.

The USA had defeated Canda twice, 7-0 and 5-2, in the round robin competition and were the odds-on favorite to win another gold medal. But sometimes the best laid plans go astray, and a team favored ends up losing. In this case, the USA National Team, which suffered a 4-2 loss to host Canada.

Since 1979, Canada and the USA had met 22 times in the Pan Am Games with the USA winning 20 of the games. The only losses came this year and in 1983 when Canada won its first women's gold with a 5-4 win over the USA. In 13 of the 22 games Canada was shutout including a 7-0 defeat this year.

The Gold medal win is the Canadian Women’s Softball Team’s first since 1983, ending a run of seven consecutive for the United States. It also comes on the heels of a pair of Gold medals won by the Canadian Men’s Softball Team who were crowned WBSC Men’s World Softball Champions in Saskatoon three weeks ago and Pan American Games Champions in Ajax last week.

The two wins by the men and the gold medal by the women's team caps an outstanding year and couldn't have come at a better time with this year the 50th anniversary of Softball Canada.

The game was scoreless through seven innings and each team had six hits in the game. In the eighth, however, Canada scored four times collecting half of their hits and three runs off former Alabama ace Jaclyn Traina, who hurled two innings. Sara Nevins had started for the USA and allowed three hits and no runs through four and two-third innings before Jessica Moore hurled an inning and one third before Traina replaced her.

For Canada, Sara Groenewegen went the distance and allowed six hits with seven strikeouts and three walks in eight innings.

She hurled 123 pitches and 79 of them were strikes. Traina hurled 51 pitches with 34 strikes, Moore 12 and eight and Nevins 73 and 49. The USA left seven runners on base while Canada stranded six.

“It's tough to coach against good fortune,” said Head Coach Ken Eriksen (Tampa, Fla.). “We hit the ball really well today, just couldn't catch any breaks. When you hit the ball right at them, it's hard to make things happen. Unfortunate things happened for us while fortunate things happened for them.”

It was a pitcher's duel through the majority of the game as USA's starter Nevins (Pinellas Park, Fla.) retired Canada in order to start the game while Canada's Groenewegen returned the favor in the bottom half of the frame. The first runner of the game would get on in the bottom of the second inning as Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) hit a two-out single but was thrown out in an attempt to leg it out into a double.

The U.S. would get a leadoff runner on in the bottom of the third as Janelle Lindvall (Stevenson Ranch, Calif.) hit a hard ground ball that sneaked by the third baseman but a pair of fly outs and stolen base attempt kept the U.S. from dealing any damage to keep the game scoreless through three complete innings. Canada would get their first base runner in the top of the fourth inning on a two-out single by Kaleigh Rafter, but a fly ball to Moultrie in left field kept the runner from advancing.

Two runners would get on base for Team USA in the bottom of the fourth inning as Raven Chavanne (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) reached on a bunt and advanced to second base on a line drive by Lauren Gibson (Pasadena, Md.). With two on and one out, a hard hit fly ball to centerfield recorded the second out before Sierra Romero (Murrieta, Calif.) roped a line drive that the first baseman leaped up to snag for out number three. The U.S. would get another two on base in the bottom of the sixth as Chavanne reached on an error by the shortstop and a two-out walk to Gibson, but another deep fly ball from Arioto kept the game scoreless heading into the final inning.

Both sides would get runners on base in the seventh inning but failed to plate any runs to push the game into extra-innings. With the ITB rule in effect, Canada started the top of the eighth with a runner on second base. The first batter would reach on an error by the defense to put two on with no outs before a ground out to Romero at third advanced the runners a base. An intentional walk loaded the bases before Canada pushed across the first runs of the game with a hard hit two-run single from Joey Lye. With runners on second and third, an intentional walk to Rafter loaded the bases for the second time in the inning with one out. A sac-fly pushed across another run for Canada before a two-out single plated the final run for Canada to give them the 4-0 lead.

Down by four runs, Team USA started with Kellie Fox (San Diego, Calif.) on second base per the ITB rule. A walk to Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) put two on with no outs before Chavanne dropped in a fly ball single to left field to plate Fox to close the lead to 4-1. Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) advanced the runners with grounder to the third baseman before Gibson collected an RBI on a ground out to second base. With two outs and a runner on third, a walk to Arioto put runners on the corner, but a strikeout drew the game to a close with Canada earning their second Pan American Games Gold.

“It's disappointing but our team was in it all the way until the end and that's all you can ask for,” said Moultrie. “We didn't give up and we were still in the game. We're disappointed, but still very proud of our team. We're still building and in years to come this will be a good learning experience for us.”

Three U.S. pitchers saw time in the circle today with Nevins compiling five strikeouts while allowing just three hits through four and two-third innings pitched. Moore (Sutter, Calif.) entered in relief in the middle of the fourth, recording two strikeouts through one and one-third innings pitched. Traina (Naples, Fla.) suffered the loss, issuing one strikeout through two innings of work.

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Lauren Haeger Made Her Mark at Florida

“Haeger Made Her Mark at Florida” Written By Bill Plummer

OKLAHOMA CITY – Lauren Haeger made her presence felt in 34th annual Women's College World Series in more ways than one and because she did the Florida Gators repeated as NCAA softball champions.

The 5-11 Haeger compiled a 4-1 pitching record jn the WCWS with an eye popping 1.18 ERA and also starred on offense batting .571 with 15 total bases, six walks and six RBI.

For the year, Haeger was the third leading hitter on the team with a .348 batting average and led in homers (19) and RBI (71). As a pitcher, she compiled a 32-2 record losing only to Tennessee and Michigan. She hurled 12 shutouts and fanned 214 batters in 222.1 innings pitched. Opponents batted only .185 against her and she finished with an ERA of 1.63.

Haeger was a double-threat all the way around and head coach Tim Walton perfectly summed up Haeger's performance.

“Lauren left her mark,” Walton said of the only player in college softball history to win at least 70 games as a pitcher (73) and hit at least 70 homers (71). “She’s one of the greatest Gators that ever played and put a uniform on.”

For her career at Florida, Haeger was 73-12 from the mound with an ERA of 1.72. She struck out 531 batters in 572.1 innings and hurled 23 shutouts. She won more games this year that she did her first two years, 31-7, as she became the stopper for the Gators and it was her time to shine in the circle as well as at-bat. Offensively, she had a career .326 batting average with 243 hits including 71 homers with 260 RBI and 388 total bases.

With Haeger graduating, don't worry about the Gators not being a contender once again for top honors. They have two quality pitchers in Aleshia Ocasio (18-3) and Delanie Gourley, (10-2), who will anchor the pitching staff next year plus incoming freshman kelly Barnhill, rated as the No. 1 prospect in the country. Barnhill compiled a 29-5 record her senior year of high school with an ERA of 0.59 striking out 534 batters in 224 innings.

The Gators aren't rebuilding. They are just reloading and will try for a three-peat in Oklahoma City.

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