Arizona's Jessie Harper (Arizona photo)

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NCAA Sets Standard For 2020 Recordkeeping

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There is something about the long ball that captures the imagination. More than any other statistical category, home run records get the most attention. 

Oklahoma All-American Lauren Chamberlain set the standard in Division I softball, belting 95 career home runs in 220 games from 2012-15.

Arizona senior Jessie Harper was making a run at the record this year before the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Harper had 10 home runs through 25 games played, pushing her career total to 76.

She will get a chance to add to that total next season because the NCAA granted eligibility relief for spring sport athletes.

Harper has announced she will return to the Wildcats, meaning she needs 20 home runs to break Chamberlain’s NCAA record. 

The NCAA decided that if players use their extra year of eligibility, their stats from the shortened season will count for their career totals. 

“Nothing compares to a pandemic, but it’s consistent with if a player played in a number of games and was injured and received a medical redshirt and got an extra year,” said David Worlock, the NCAA Director of Media Coordination/Statistics. “They played parts of five seasons and their career stats would still count.”

Among the other NCAA decisions made for records include: 

  • no statistical champions will be awarded for single-season records or recognized in record books
  • no averages, percentages and per-game single-season categories will be eligible for single-season records
  • single-game record that were NCAA records will be recognized 
  • any career records established in 2020 that meet established minimums will be in the record book
  • coaching records will include any games played in 2020 and a year will be added to the number of years coached

Harper has started all 207 games in her Arizona career, and has played at least 59 games in each full season at Arizona.

If she gets near those totals next season, Harper will have played at least 46 games more than Chamberlain. 

But Chamberlain established a high bar for power productivity. She has the fewest games played among the Top 10 all-time Division I career home run hitters by 16 games.

Three of the top five on the list participated in at least 250 games, including UCLA’s Stacey Nuveman, ranked No. 3 all-time, with 90 home runs in 264 games (1997, 99, 2001-02) and Arizona’s Leah Braatz, ranked No. 5, with 85 home runs in 271 games (1994-95, 97-98).

In her three full seasons prior to this year, Harper hit 19 home runs as a freshman, 18 as a sophomore and 29 as a junior. 

Although she doesn’t know Harper personally, Chamberlain has been keeping a close watch on Harper’s pursuit of her record.

“The fan part of me has followed along, even if it is my home run record to lose. It keeps softball in the headlines and I understand how hard it is for anybody to do that,” Chamberlain said. “I understand the pressure that comes when you start to get close. I am no doubt supporting her.”

Chamberlain has mixed emotions about having the stats from this season count toward Harper’s overall career totals. 

“I don’t think it’s fair for anybody if that happens. It is not fair to her because she is going to break it and it is going to have an asterisk. I don’t agree with that happening,” Chamberlain said. “I think she is going to get it. I really do, and I don’t think she needs those stats from this year.”

Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, Worlock said the NCAA didn’t make the decisions lightly. The NCAA statistics staff, which includes 16 people, had to set parameters for spring sports and any winter sports that were cut short before completion of the season.

“And we are probably the most veteran group of any department in the NCAA as far as average years of service,” Worlock said. “We also have a statistical advisory board made up of Division I, II and III SIDs that we run things by and we didn’t get any objections to this approach when it was decided upon.”

  • Rhiannon Potkey is a Senior Writer at D1Softball. She can be reached at [email protected]

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