This year in Pac-12 softball
UCLA capped a stellar Pac-12 softball season by winning the 2019 NCAA Championship for the program’s first national title since 2010 and its NCAA-leading 12th all-time crown. No. 2 seed UCLA swept No. 1 seed Oklahoma (16-3, 5-4) in its fifth-straight Women’s College World Series appearance and national-best 29th all-time trip to Oklahoma City. No. 3 seed WASHINGTON and No. 6 seed ARIZONA were among the last eight teams in the postseason, marking the 23rd time at least three Pac-12 Softball teams advanced to the WCWS. The Bruins title marked the Pac-12’s 13th NCAA championship of the 2018-19 academic year and 526th national title in Conference history.
PAC-12 POSTSEASON HISTORY: The Pac-12 has won the most national titles of any Conference, claiming 24 out of 38 possible NCAA Softball titles behind an NCAA-best five different Pac-12 programs. UCLA leads the country with 12 titles followed by Arizona in second with eight while ARIZONA STATE owns a pair and CALIFORNIA and Washington each have one. This season marked the 30th time at least one Pac-12 team was in the Championship Series.
League teams own the top-three most Women’s College World Series appearances in NCAA history with No. 1 UCLA (29), No. 2 Arizona (23) and No. 3 Washington (14) followed by Arizona State and California in a five-team tie for fourth (12). No league has sent more teams to the WCWS in the last three years (10) after Pac-12 teams accounted for half of the field in 2018 and matched the SEC with three participants each in 2017. The Pac-12 has either sent the most or tied for the most teams in the WCWS six of the last 10 years and 15 of the last 20. At least one Pac-12 team has advanced to the WCWS every year since the inaugural tournament in 1982 for a streak of 38 years.
PAC-12 IN 2019 NCAA TOURNAMENT: Along with the trio advancing to the WCWS, Arizona State and STANFORD received at-large bids in the 64-team field, marking the 24th-straight season that five-or-more Conference teams have participated in the NCAA Championship. National Champion UCLA posted a 10-1 postseason mark, including an undefeated run through the WCWS culminating with head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez capturing her 600th career victory in the Bruins’ title-clinching win over the Sooners.
The Huskies swept through the regionals and super regionals, allowing one run over five games, and went 2-2 in the WCWS to finish with their third-straight 50-win season. Arizona State made its 31st NCAA Tournament appearance and went 2-2 in the Tuscaloosa Regional. Stanford made its 17th all-time NCAA appearance and first since 2013 with guidance from Pac-12 Coach of the Year Jessica Allister, who completed her second season at the helm. The Cardinal finished 1-2 in the Gainesville Regional.
The Pac-12 finished with three teams in the top five of the final USA Today/NFCA and USA Softball/ESPN rankings with unanimous No. 1 UCLA, No. 3 Washington and No. 5 Arizona. Arizona State ranked No. 24 in the USA Today/NFCA poll and received votes along with Stanford in USA Softball/ESPN poll.
All three Pac-12 teams swept their respective NCAA Super Regionals to advance to the Women’s College World Series, marking the third-straight year at least three league teams reached the WCWS. Arizona dominated Ole Miss (5-2, 9-1) in the Tucson Super Regional to return to the WCWS for the first time since reaching the 2010 Championship Series.
There were three Pac-12 matchups in the WCWS, including two extra-inning contests. The Wildcats topped Washington, 3-1, when NFCA Catcher of the Year Dejah Mulipola launched her 23rd home run of the season at the top of the eighth inning. UCLA went on to beat Arizona, 6-2, to move to the WCWS semifinals.
Pac-12 Co-Champions UCLA and Washington battled in a spectacular 10-inning pitching duel that decided which team advanced to the Championship Series. UCLA’s National Player of the Year Rachel Garcia lived up to her reputation, tossing a complete game with 16 strikeouts off a season-high 179 pitches before hitting the three-run walk-off homer to send the Bruins to the Championship Series. UCLA avenged its 2017 WCWS loss to Washington as the Huskies finished their season in Oklahoma City for the third consecutive season.
UCLA had several record-setting performances in the postseason. The Bruins’ 16-3 victory over Oklahoma in Game 1 marked the largest margin of victory in a Championship Series game all-time and tied the second-largest of any WCWS game. UCLA tied its own record for most total runs in any WCWS game by a single team, including its 2010 title run over Florida (16-3). UCLA also tied the WCWS record for home runs in a game (4), which it accomplished in both games against Oklahoma in the final series. The Bruins clinched the crown with a walk-off single by Kinsley Washington in the bottom of the seventh that scored Jacqui Prober from second base for a 5-4 victory. UCLA now sits at 99-37 all-time at the WCWS.
Historic performances from league players continued as Taran Alvelo broke Washington’s WCWS record with 16 strikeouts in the Huskies’ 1-0 win over Oklahoma State. Gabbie Plain tossed the sixth postseason no-hitter in program history in an 8-0 win over Mississippi State, marking her fourth career no-hitter.
UCLA’s Bubba Nickles, Rachel Garcia, Aaliyah Jordan and Kinsley Washington and the Washington duo of Taran Alvelo and Sami Reynolds were named to the 2019 Women’s College World Series All-Tournament Team. UCLA’s Garcia was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2019 WCWS after going 5-0 with four complete games, 36.0 innings pitched, 28 hits, nine runs, 10 walks and 33 strikeouts. Pac-12 student-athletes have accounted for 14 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player awards with Arizona and UCLA now tied for the most with five apiece.
NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: UCLA’s Garcia garnered a trio of major national awards for the second consecutive year as the 2019 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, espnw Player of the Year and Honda Sport Award winner for softball. The redshirt junior also earned the inaugural NFCA National Pitcher of the Year honor after being tabbed the NFCA National Player of the Year last season. Garcia also became the fourth player to win National Player of the Year and the WCWS in the same season (Lauren Haeger, Florida; Danielle Lawrie, Washington; Keilani Ricketts, Oklahoma).
ALL-AMERICA HONORS: 13 Pac-12 student-athletes appeared on the NFCA Division I All-America teams for the second-most of any conference and most league representatives since 2015. Seven are on the first team, four on the second team and two on the third team. UCLA’s Rachel Garcia, Washington’s Sis Bates and Arizona’s Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza were three of seven total unanimous first-team selections. UCLA and Washington garnered NFCA Division I Regional Coaching Staffs of the Year for the West and Pacific regions, respectively.
CANDREA’S CATS CONTINUE STREAK: Arizona extended its postseason streak to 33 consecutive appearances, the longest active streak in the country and longest all-time streak in the NCAA history, dating back to 1987 when head coach Mike Candrea was in his second year. On April 19, head coach Candrea joined Michigan’s Carol Hutchins as the only two coaches in NCAA softball history to reach 1,600 career wins and he became the fastest coach of any sport in any division in NCAA history to reach the milestone. Candrea is an 11-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year honoree, was inducted to the NFCA Hall of Fame in 1996 and coached the U.S. team that won gold at the 2004 Athens Games.
PAC-12 CO-CHAMPIONS: UCLA competed in a hard-fought series against Arizona (3-5, 5-4, 1-3) and clinched the program’s 10th Conference crown after winning game two on Friday. The Bruins finished the regular season at 46-5 overall and 20-4 in league play. Washington thrived under pressure, as the Huskies needed all three wins to remain in contention for the title and took care of business, sweeping Stanford (5-2, 8-0, 3-0) to win its fourth all-time Pac-12 title and first since 2010. The Huskies went 45-7 overall and reached the magic 20-4 league threshold, marking the second-most Conference wins in program history. This marks the second co-champions in Conference history, joining the 2005 season that saw Arizona, California, Oregon State and Stanford all finish with a 13-8 league record.
PAC-12 POSTSEASON HONORS: The 2019 Pac-12 postseason awards were announced as voted on by the league’s coaches. UCLA’s Rachel Garcia collects her second-straight Player of the Year honor and becomes the first player in Conference history to win both Player and Pitcher of the Year in the same season. Bruins teammate Megan Faraimo was tabbed Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, marking their third consecutive rookie honor. Washington’s Sis Bates garnered Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. Stanford head coach Jessica Allister was voted Pac-12 Coach of the Year after leading the Cardinal to eight Conference wins, which are more than the previous four years combined (7). Arizona’s Reyna Carranco, who remains out with a broken left hand and broken right thumb, was crowned the Pac-12 Batting Champion with a .433 average during the regular season.