Five Of The Best WCWS Finals In History
Since 1982, the Women’s College World Series has been the highlight of the college softball season. Although COVID-19 prevented the 2020 version of the WCWS from taking place, each year the tournament has been held has added its own memorable twists and turns to the history of the event.
Here are five of the best WCWS finals in the history of college softball's premier event.
Fresno State had made 10 appearances in the first 17 editions of the WCWS, but had failed to break through and take the ultimate prize. However, in 1998, Fresno State turned the corner as a program.
After taking down Minnesota and California in the regional, Fresno State arrived at the WCWS as a rather familiar face in the college softball landscape. Fresno State survived a scare from Washington in the semifinals to set up a matchup with two-time defending champion Arizona in the winner-take-all final.
Behind Amanda Scott’s complete game, three-hit effort, Fresno State captured its first and only national championship in program history. Nina Lindenberg’s solo home run was the lone difference maker in the national championship, as Fresno State secured the 1-0 victory. It was the first softball championship for a mid-major team since Cal State Fullerton’s title in 1986.
Since that day, no team outside the Power Five conferences has won a national title, and Fresno State’s blueprint for mid-majors has helped the next generation of powers.
UCLA has forever been the gold standard in college softball. It won the inaugural national title back in 1982 and has won 11 more along the way. However, one of its more impressive national titles came in 2003 at the expense of then-Pac-10 rival California.
After losing the opening game to Cal in the WCWS, UCLA bounced back by winning four straight elimination games to set up a rematch with the Golden Bears in the final. From there, UCLA pitcher Keira Goerl hurled nine innings, no-hitting Cal en route to the ninth national championship in program history.
The 2003 final is one of the best of all-time and Goerl’s performance in the circle is one of the best ever championship stat lines that the WCWS will ever see. UCLA has had its fair share of amazing moments in Oklahoma City, but the 2003 title will go down as one of its best ever.
The 2007 Women’s College World Series will forever go down as one of the most defensive-minded series in the history of the competition. Only one game in the entire tournament saw the losing team score more than one run, a 7-4 Baylor victory over Texas A&M in the opening round.
Tennessee’s pitching, anchored by senior ace Monica Abbott, halted opposing batters throughout the entire NCAA Tournament. The Volunteers shut out eight of their first 10 opponents in the NCAA Tournament, including their first four opponents in Oklahoma City. Tennessee, owners of a 63-8 record in the 2007 season, was in the driver's seat after advancing unscathed to the championship series and took the first game of the best-of-three over top overall seed Arizona.
In Game 2 of the championship series, Abbott was once again brilliant. A defensive-minded game lasted 10 innings with Abbott throwing all 10 for Tennessee and Taryne Mowatt hurling the entirety of Arizona’s 1-0 victory. Despite striking out 11 and allowing just four hits in 10 innings, Abbott settled for just her fourth loss of the season after an Arizona run in the top of the 10th inning gave the Wildcats a 1-0 victory and forced a decisive winner-take-all Game 3.
Ultimately, it was Arizona who would complete the back-to-back national championship run the next night. Its fourth matchup with the Wildcats in the tournament once again saw Tennessee go scoreless and come up short of its first national title.
From 2006-2010, Tennessee was eliminated by Arizona three times in the WCWS and has still yet to win that evasive national title. Even in defeat, Abbott’s 2007 senior season will forever be remembered as a dominant individual performance and the 2007 WCWS will always be known for the pitching dominance that was on display.
Oklahoma’s run in 2016 was one of the best in the history of the tournament. Led by sophomore ace Paige Parker and freshmen studs Shay Knighten and Sydney Romero, the Sooners had a young, but talented roster. Before the WCWS finals, Oklahoma hadn’t dropped a game in the entire tournament. But an upstart Auburn squad would force the Sooners to the brink.
In Game 1, Oklahoma escaped with a one-run victory behind Parker’s pitching efforts in front of a then-record WCWS crowd of 8,367 in Oklahoma City. But Auburn would bounce back the next night with an 11-7 victory in eight innings.
It would ultimately end with another stellar performance from Parker in Game 3 to secure a one-run victory over Auburn for Oklahoma's third national championship of the decade. Each game of the championship series was settled in dramatic fashion and featured two of the top four seeds in the tournament.
If the 2016 Oklahoma team was good, the 2017 team was perhaps even better. With the returns of Parker, Romero and Knighten, Oklahoma had the makings of another deep NCAA Tournament run.
Awaiting Oklahoma in the final series was top-ranked and perennial powerhouse Florida. Game 1 of the 2017 WCWS finals will forever go down as one of the greatest softball games ever played. It took a Knighten home run off of Kelly Barnhill in the top of the 17th inning to give the Sooners a 1-0 lead in the series. The 17-inning game took more than five hours and saw four pitchers throw more than 100 pitches each.
Oklahoma survived another close contest the next night, securing a 5-4 win to take back-to-back national championships and the program's fourth in program history.
The 2017 WCWS will always be one of the wildest ever, and its second national title in two years cemented Oklahoma’s legacy as one of the best college softball programs in history.