Pac-12 announces conference tournament for softball to begin in 2023
At long last, the Pac-12 will have a postseason softball conference tournament, the league announced Thursday.
The four-day event—set to commence in 2023—will begin with a play-in game between the eighth and ninth-place teams and feature opening-round matchups hosted on Pac-12 campuses with the site of the Pac-12 Softball Championship game to be rotated annually between the league’s nine softball-playing schools.
“The Pac-12 could not be more excited to add a softball championship to its lineup of postseason events,” Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff said in a release. “This new championship will offer student-athletes an amazing experience against top-notch competition, elevate the league’s softball brand in advance of the NCAA Tournament, and provide fans the opportunity to celebrate the incredible success of Pac-12 softball with a marquee event on our campuses.”
Teams will play once per day. The play-in winner will advance to an eight-team, single-elimination bracket with the quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship matches taking place over the next three days. The winner of the Pac-12 Softball Championship will get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
It’s an important move for the conference and long-overdue.
Pac-12 sides have combined to win 24 of the 39 NCAA softball championships all-time, 19 more than the next closest league, and every Pac-12 team has made appearances in the Women’s College World Series. Of the 13 different programs to have won an NCAA softball championship, five are from the Pac-12: UCLA (12), Arizona (eight), Arizona State (two), Cal (once), Washington (once).
“The creation of the Pac-12 Softball Championship is significant in that it will boost the exposure of Pac-12 softball at a critical point in the season,” said UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “This flagship event on our campuses will not only deliver a championship experience for student-athletes, but will also provide an exciting atmosphere in which fans can enjoy premier competition as Pac-12 programs vie for a conference title.”
The Bruins opened the season ranked No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Softball Top 25. Inouye-Perez led the Bruins to a 47-7 record and a spot in the WCWS last season. Four other Pac-12 teams were also ranked in the preseason poll: No. 7 Washington, No. 11 Arizona, No. 17 Oregon, and No. 21 Arizona State. Stanford and Oregon State also received votes.
With five in the initial rankings, the Pac-12 had the second-most of any conference behind the SEC’s eight. The SEC has held a conference tournament since 1997.