2020 Top 50 College Softball Programs Countdown: 46-50Analysis
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It’s time to unveil our inaugural Top 50 College Softball Programs rankings.
For the purpose of this exercise, we don’t care what happened in the 1970s or 80s, or even the 90s — that’s ancient history to a potential recruit in 2019. Tradition is nice, but it’s more important to establish a tradition of consistent winning in the last decade, and especially in the last five years. Our ultimate goal here is to identify the programs in the best shape right now, with an eye toward the next five to 10 years.
So we began by awarding programs points for making regionals and having postseason success in the last five years, and a fewer amount of points for success between six and 10 years ago. That gave us a starting point; then national writers Tara Henry and Rhiannon Potkey made adjustments based on evaluations of coaching staff quality and stability, facilities, scholarship/financial aid situation, conference dynamics, momentum, and recruiting and player development proficiency.
We tried to take many factors into consideration and debated our rankings internally at length. Reasonable minds will disagree on the rankings, and we want to hear your take, so weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments section below.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll count down from No. 50 to No. 1. Today, we take an in-depth look at No’s 46-50.
No. 46 Ohio State
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Conference: Big Ten
Head Coach: Kelly Kovach Schoenly — 252-161-1 (Eight Seasons)
Field: Buckeye Field (1,620)
Postseason appearances: 14
Last Decade: 2010, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
WCWS Appearances: 1 (1982)
With four consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes have been consistently solid under the guise of Kelly Kovach Schoenly. In 2019, Ohio State posted 17 wins in the Big Ten, tabbing the most conference wins since 1994. Of the 13 All-Americans in program history, two were named in the 2019, including Lilli Piper and Emily Clark.
The Ohio State Complex underwent a $5.9 million renovation back in 2009, doubling its previous capacity. Back in 2017, a single-game record crowd of 1,836 fans packed the stadium to watch the Buckeyes take on Michigan. The entire series drew a crowd of 4,979 fans, the highest attended in school history.
No. 47 Cal State Fullerton
Location: Fullerton, Calif.
Conference: Big West
Head Coach: Kelly Ford — 262-163-1 (Eight Seasons)
Field: Anderson Family Field (1,000)
Postseason Appearances: 29
Last Decade: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
WCWS Appearances: 6
NCAA Titles: 1
Kelly Ford is the third head coach in program history, taking over the reins from Michelle Gromaki back in 2013. Ford led the Titans to their fourth consecutive Big West Conference championship in 2019, winning every conference series for the second straight season.
The Titans host the Judi Garman Classic every year at Anderson Family Field, drawing Top 25 teams from all over the nation. The complex, which is shared by Fullerton Baseball, provides a great experience for fans who are able to watch both games at once. Recently, the Titans have received extra strength from Taylor Dokins, who has been fighting cancer for the last four years. Read more about Dokins story, here.
No. 48 Long Beach State
Location: Long Beach, Calif.
Conference: Big West
Head Coach: Kim Sowder — 437-295-1 (14th season)
Field: LBSU Softball (500)
Overall Tournament Appearances: 24
Last Decade: 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018
WCWS Appearances: 5
Long Beach State checks in at No. 48 behind conference rivals CSUF with two Big West championships in the last decade. The Beach entered the conference in 1989 after two seasons in the Western Collegiate Athletic Association WCAA and three seasons in the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (PCAA).
The Beach posted its best record under the guise of head coach Kim Sowder in 2018, going 43-14. The 2018 squad included All-American selection Taylor Rowland, Big West Pitcher of the Year honoree Cielo Meza and the Big West Freshman Player of the Year, Naomi Hernandez.
No. 49 Fresno State
Location: Fresno, Calif.
Conference: Mountain West
Head Coach: Linda Garza 124-79-1 (Four seasons)
Field: Margie Wright Diamond (3,288)
Overall Tournament Appearances: 33 (30 straight from 1982-2011)
Last Decade: 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017
WCWS Appearances: 12
NCAA Titles: 1 (1998)
The Bulldogs dominated the Mountain West for three decades during the Margie Wright era. Wright spent 27 years as the Fresno State skipper and was one of the NCAA’s all-time winningest softball coaches. With 30 straight NCAA tournament appearances from 1982-2011, the ‘Dogs are home to one of the nation’s largest fan bases. The stadium averaged at least 1,000 fans per single-date for 26 consecutive seasons.
From 2010-2019, the Bulldogs qualified for regionals just five times and have yet to make it to supers. However, 2020 looked to be a promising year as Fresno State went 21-4, upsetting No. 2 Texas at the Judi Garman Classic. Look to see the Bulldogs dominate the Mountain West conference in 2021.
No. 50 Oregon State
Location: Corvallis, Ore.
Head Coach: Laura Berg — 209-182-1 (Seven seasons)
Field: OSU Softball Complex (750)
Tournament Appearances: 14
Last Decade: 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018
WCWS Appearances: 1 (2006)
In the last decade, OSU has been to the NCAA tournament five times and produced two All-Americans, Hope Bradner (2018) & Dani Gilmore (2014). With Olympic Gold Medalist Laura Berg at the helm, the Beavers set a program attendance record in 2018, as 1,410 fans witness a matchup with Oregon on March 31.
Player to watch in 2021: Mariah Mazon
Mazon was 10-6 with a 1.18 ERA, 130 strikeouts and 25 walks in 113 innings pitched. She finished the season highly ranked in the NCAA in solo shutouts (third – six), saves (sixth – four), strikeouts (seventh – 130) and ERA (32nd – 1.18). She also led OSU at the plate with a .377 batting average with 29 hits, 15 RBI and eight runs scored. Mariah Mazon GC Shutouts (12) No. 8 in record books – led by Brianne McGowan (36).