The wait for fan-favorite matchups and rivalries is over; the 2020 NCAA Softball Season has started. The season opened February 6, and some early tournaments have already concluded in the warmer parts of North America, including the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament in LA and the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in Mexico. There are many interesting things to look forward to this season.
Last season had many amazing and unexpected postseason performances. Minnesota made their first Women’s College World Series appearance; Florida, the five seed, got trampled 15-3 against Alabama, the eight seed, in their first elimination game (going 0-2 in the tournament); and UCLA’s Rachel Garcia had an unbelievable performance against Washington, in which she pitched a 10-inning shutout and hit the walk-off home run that sent UCLA into the final.
UCLA softball went on to win their 12th National Championship after defeating Oklahoma in the WCWS final, sweeping them in two exciting games: the first being a 16-3 UCLA blowout and the second being a walk-off 5-4 win to give UCLA the trophy. In addition, Garcia won Most Outstanding Player.
Unfortunately, many of last season’s heroines will not be returning next season. Seniors Garcia, Arizona’s Dejah Mulipola, and UCLA’s Bubba Nickles will be heading off to play on the USA National Softball Team, preparing for the 2020 Olympics where softball will return to the biggest stage for sports after it was recalled from the 2008 Games. Being the only three collegiate players to make the roster, they are expected to contribute to the USA’s first gold medal since 2004 this summer in Japan.
However, this season’s incoming freshmen and returnees are sure to pick up where last year’s seniors left off. Prominent newcomers include Florida’s Rylee Trlicek, Oklahoma’s Macy McAdoo, Alabama’s Lexi Kilfoyl, and UW’s Kelley Lynch.
As shown with their impressive freshmen campaigns, this year’s sophomores, such as Shealyn O’Leary, Montana Fouts, Danielle Williams, and Natalie DenHartog, are sure to carry their teams forward. They are only going to get better and their teams are likely to improve and head far into the 2020 postseason.
So far, the first weeks have been full of upsets and excitement, including No. 1 Alabama being taken down by No. 8 Florida State in extra innings. There’s been a lot of shuffling of the top 10 teams as many teams have been exceeding or not meeting expectations.
Locally, 2018 Blake graduate Nicole Kidwiler will start her sophomore season at Towson. After going 27-27 last season, the Tigers look forward to improving in the CAA. Not far from here, Courtney Wyche, 2019 MoCo graduate, is starting off her freshman campaign with the Terps. Maryland softball is preparing for what will be a very competitive year in the Big 10, including facing Top-25 Michigan.
Between the home runs and the no-hitters, there is so much more to see this upcoming season. From the first pitch in February to the final matchups in May, get ready for NCAA Softball.