The Women’s College World Series Is Worth Caring About, Even If The NCAA Doesn’t
1:26 PM EDT on June 6, 2021
I'd like to call your attention to a great softball highlight. Unseeded James Madison, in its first Women’s College World Series appearance, has so far upset two college softball powerhouses and provided the best play during this tournament. Redshirt senior pitcher Odicci Alexander pitched the entire game against fifth-seeded Oklahoma State, allowing only three hits, in a performance that culminated in this unbelievable game-saving diving tag to get the penultimate out and prevent the tying run from scoring in the seventh inning:
The team's WCWS life started auspiciously on Thursday, when Alexander pitched a complete game and held the tournament's one-seed, Oklahoma, to a season-low three runs (the Sooners led the country with 11.1 runs per game this season). The Dukes wound up winning that one by a score of 4–3. And on Friday, they did it again, stunning the fifth-seed Oklahoma State in a 2–1 win.
James Madison plays the decorated Sooners—who've won three of the past seven World Series—again Sunday in the semifinals. The Dukes are underdogs in every sense, but they didn’t come out of nowhere. The team has won its conference every year since 2016, made the NCAA tournament every year since 2013, and advanced to the super regional twice before this season.
Naturally, it's almost impossible to watch women play sports without being reminded of the many indignities those sports have to endure at the hands of their uncaring overseers. I was reminded of this last night at 1:30 a.m. Central, when I turned on ESPN and was surprised to see live college softball. "Wow, what a fun pre-bedtime treat!" I thought to myself, taking in what I assumed was a West Coast game. But this was not a West Coast game. This was 1:30 a.m. local time, an absolutely ridiculous time to be playing a WCWS game. Oklahoma State vs. Florida State, an elimination game which was originally slated to begin around 9:30 p.m Central in Oklahoma City, home of the Women’s College World Series, didn’t actually start until 11:50 p.m. (the previous game started late because of a lightning delay) and finished at 2:18 a.m on Sunday. By the time the victorious Seminoles got the last out, they had just 13 hours until the semifinal started at 3:30 p.m. And oh by the way, that win was FSU's second of the day, since they’d played an earlier game against Arizona Saturday afternoon.
“Thanks so much for staying with us folks, it’s been a long day,” ESPN’s Beth Mowins joked on the broadcast, as the camera caught two Sooners fans dozing in the stands at the end of the Seminoles-Cowgirls game. “We want you to decide, are they here for the night game or are they already here for tomorrow’s game, Sooners vs. JMU? Softball fans, they are the best.”
And they deserve better! Especially the athletes!
If this also pisses you off, read this Washington Post story about all the inequities in the softball World Series compared to the baseball one. The two championships have equal TV viewership numbers, yet the women lack basic amenities like a sensible schedule that includes actual rest, and showers and bathrooms at the stadium. “What’s lower than an afterthought?” one college softball coach told the Post. “That’s us.”
James Madison had the luck to play both of its games at decent hours (11 a.m. and 6 p.m.) and get a day off, but not all teams were as fortunate. The Washington Post points out that the WCWS takes place over seven days, compared with 12 for the men. In the women’s tournament, teams get a single rest day, and if they lose an early game, like the Seminoles, they're asked to play doubleheaders . As heinous as it is to make teams play a game starting close to midnight, it's almost a shame OSU-FSU didn't go into extra innings. We might've seen the first game that lasted so long the groundspeople had to turn the lights off rather than on.
James Madison meets Oklahoma again today in the semifinal, which just started at noon Central. You can tune in on ESPN to root for a classic underdog, and show the NCAA that they should really consider treating women athletes with respect.