What Could Have Been For Oklahoma City In 2020
The 2020 college softball season got off to one of the wildest starts in NCAA history before it was abruptly canceled in March due to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. But for several weeks, college softball was as good as it has perhaps ever been, as teams across the country had upset one another in droves during the out-of-conference portion of the season.
Though parity was the theme of the college softball season in 2020, we believe the playing field would have eventually leveled out across the board, sending eight perennial powers to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City at the end of May.
See below for the eight teams we believe could have competed for a national championship this year.
UCLA’s team in 2020 was arguably more impressive than its national title–winning squad from last year, and that's with the Bruins missing Rachel Garcia and Bubba Nickles for the season. With Megan Faraimo leading the Bruins in the circle (0.85 ERA, 13-1 record, 149 K), multiple returning players from last year’s national championship team thriving, freshman Maya Brady (.356 BA, 7 HR) flourishing and graduate transfer Jenavee Perez (.828 slugging percentage) hitting bombs, UCLA could have made some serious noise again in Oklahoma City.
The Longhorns were having an amazing year under second-year head coach Mike White with wins against UCLA and Washington. Miranda Elish was leading the way for Texas in the circle with a 1.25 ERA, 96 K and 11 wins. She also had the third-highest batting average on the team and four home runs. All-American Janae Jefferson was outstanding at the plate as well with a team-best .544 batting average and only four strikeouts on the campaign.
Arizona also had strong OKC potential this season. Starting with Oklahoma transfer Mariah Lopez, the Wildcats were stacked with talent, which included sluggers Jessie Harper and Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, as well as reigning Pac-12 batting champion Reyna Carranco.
Washington showed bits and pieces of its potential for greatness in 2020, and debuted freshman star Kelley Lynch and transfer Baylee Klingler this year. Along with those two standouts, the Huskies boasted a team this season that also featured All-Americans Gabbie Plain and Sis Bates. Bates missed some games with a concussion, but she still led the team with a .529 batting average and a perfect fielding percentage.
Even in a shortened season, ULL proved that it had a legit pitching duo. The pairing of Summer Ellyson and Megan Kleist was dangerous. Kleist’s 2.31 ERA might not have been the most impressive, but she was still getting back into things after sitting out a season and had plenty of postseason experience from her time at Oregon. Gerry Glasco’s team doesn’t play in a Power Five conference, but that didn’t stop ULL from playing the best teams in college softball early in the campaign. In 2020, the Ragin' Cajuns earned wins over LSU, Oklahoma State, Texas and Florida twice despite only playing 24 games.
Florida entered this season in an unfamiliar place without an All-American in the circle. Natalie Lugo and Rylee Trlicek proved that didn’t matter. Those two hurlers led a Florida pitching staff to one of the best team ERAs in the nation. Pair that with an offense led by Kendyl Lindaman, Hannah Adams and Michigan State transfer Charla Echols, who earned a spot as one of SA’s Top 10 players this season, and the Gators were in a great position to make a run to OKC.
In 2019, Oklahoma State rode the train to OKC conducted by Texas A&M transfer Samantha Show. It appeared 2020 was writing a similar story for the Cowgirls. This shortened season had senior transfers Alysen Febrey (Georgia) and Carrie Eberle (Virginia Tech) leading the way. Febrey set her career-high in home runs in just 24 games and Eberle, the 2019 ACC Pitcher of the Year, had a sub-one ERA. Add in the bats of Sydney Pennington and Kiley Naomi, and Oklahoma State had one of the most potent offenses in the country.
Alabama had all the hype coming into the 2020 season. The campaign started slow for the Tide, but after the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational, things started going in the right direction. Alabama’s talented roster was bound to figure it out. Bailey Hemphill and Montana Fouts never hit their peak performance this season, meanwhile, freshman Lexi Kilfoyl stepped up in the circle, KB Sides made a huge jump at the plate and Alexis Mack found a spot at her new home.