What we learned from the 2022 Pac-12 softball season
The 2022 college softball season has concluded, and it was a memorable year for the Pac-12, which crowned a new conference champion and saw one-third of the league reach the Women's College World Series.
Here are some takeaways from the year...
There's plenty of parity in the Pac
The Pac-12 is the deepest league in the country and might be the deepest it's ever been.
Consider these facts...
- The Pac-12 was the only conference in the country in which all of its teams finished with a .500 record or better.
- Seven of the league's nine teams reached the NCAA Tournament.
- Those same seven teams all finished in the Top 25 of the final NFCA Coaches Poll. Five finished in the Top 15.
- The Pac-12 tied the Big 12 for the most participants in the Women's College World Series (3).
- Arizona State won its first Pac-12 championship since 2011 and hosted Super Regionals for the first time since 2018.
- Stanford and Oregon State reached Super Regionals for the first time since 2011 and 2006, respectively. The Beavers beat the Cardinal to reach the WCWS for the second time in program history.
- Arizona finished tied for last with Utah in the Pac-12, yet still managed to reach the WCWS for the 25th time in school history — and win a game while there.
- Utah's 23 wins were its most since 2017. The Utes run-ruled UCLA in the regular season despite the teams sitting on opposite ends of the conference standings.
- The Bruins reached their seventh straight WCWS, the longest active streak in the country.
- Cal finished with a winning record (28-27-1) despite having zero seniors on its roster.
- Oregon and Washington reached the NCAA Tournament, with UW earning a national seed (13).
All nine Pac-12 teams have something to be proud of — and something to build on moving forward.
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) June 16, 2022
The future is bright, too
While Baylee Klingler, a redshirt junior, was the Pac-12 Player of the Year — we'll have more on her in a second — many of the other top hitters in the conference are underclassmen. Arizona's Allie Skaggs, for instance, broke out in her second season to tie Klingler for the Pac-12 lead in homers (24).
ASU freshman first baseman Cydney Sanders was third in the Pac-12 in homers (21) and batting average (.425).
Cal shortstop Tatum Anzaldo, a sophomore, and Oregon State second baseman Kiki Escobar, a freshman, tied for second in the league in hits (74).
In fact, nine of Pac-12's 11 hit leaders have at least one more year of eligibility, UCLA's Delanie Wisz and Briana Perez being the exceptions.
Same with 10 of the league's 11 top home-run hitters (Wisz the exception there).
The Pac-12 is graduating some terrific pitchers like Holly Azevedo (UCLA), Gabbie Plain (Washington) and Mariah Mazon (Oregon State), but its top two win leaders — Alana Vawter (Stanford) and Megan Faraimo (UCLA) — will be back in 2023.
Meanwhile, freshman pitchers like Sarah Haendiges (Oregon State) and Stevie Hansen (Oregon) made the all-conference team. As did Utah sophomore Mariah Lopez.
Klingler joined Pac-12 royalty
The Husky shortstop became just the third Triple Crown winner in Pac-12 history after leading the conference (or tying for the league lead) in home runs (24), RBI (71) and batting average (.434). Only UCLA's Stacey Nuveman (1999) and Arizona's Jenny Dalton (1996) have accomplished that feat.
Klingler also played spectacular defense at one of the sport's toughest positions, earning a spot on the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team.
She still has one more year left of eligibility, too, so it's exciting to think about what she can achieve in 2023.
She may be the early frontrunner for National Player of the Year.
Arizona is in good hands with Caitlin Lowe at the helm
The Wildcats were the only Pac-12 team breaking in a new head coach in 2022. And while they got off to an 0-8 start in conference play, they rallied incredibly well, finishing 8-16 before beating No. 15 Missouri and Mississippi State in Regionals and Super Regionals, respectively, to return to the WCWS for the third straight season.
It made Caitlin Lowe the first first-year head coach to lead her team to Oklahoma City.
And with a top-10 recruiting class coming in and a roster teeming with talented underclassmen, Arizona is well-equipped for its future under Lowe after 30-plus years of excellence under Hall of Fame coach Mike Candrea.
The beginning, and end, of an era
Starting in 2023, the Pac-12's automatic NCAA Tournament bid will no longer be the regular-season champion. Instead, the conference will be holding the inaugural Pac-12 Softball Championship. All nine schools will have the chance to host the tournament, with Arizona's Hillenbrand Stadium getting the first crack next spring.
The nine-team, single-elimination event will allow the league to showcase its talent in one event.
And with so much talent and parity in the Pac-12 right now, the possibilities truly are endless.
Mark your calendars!
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) June 13, 2022