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.
|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.|