STrib: Sold on Softball: the Game is Booming on TV

Ignatius L Hoops

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Jim Paulsen:

Sara Moulton had just finished her freshman season of what became an All-Big Ten and All-America pitching career for the Gophers softball team.

On the TV at a postseason team gathering in 2011 was the Women's College World Series. She remembers settling in next to her father to watch. Questions began to form.

"I didn't know there was such a thing," said Moulton, now an owner and trainer at Strike Zone Sports, a softball training facility in Eagan, where she went to high school. "We just finished a rebuilding year, but I remember thinking, 'Why can't we play there?' It was so exciting. I wanted to be there."

A dozen years later, college softball is ubiquitous on springtime TV. On weekends in May and June, as many as 10 televised games can be found, on various ESPN channels, the Big Ten Network, the SEC Network, the Pac-12 Network, even broadcast networks.

The reason? People watch. The 2021 Women's College World Series was the most watched on record, averaging 1.2 million viewers per game, more than that year's College World Series baseball tournament
[...]

Softball participation numbers and viewership have surged at the same time the sport has seen changes in rules, equipment and availability.

Hall, who led the Rangers to the Class 4A title in 2022, said the decision to move the pitching rubber back 3 feet from home plate — from 40 feet to 43 feet — in 2011 was a watershed moment. Softball pitchers previously had a decided edge over hitters. No-hitters were common, perfect games not unusual.

Now?

"It's a more interesting game," Hall said. "We still have our share of dominant pitchers, but not nearly as many as there used to be. It's added offense to the game."
 

I don’t watch a lot but it is an entertaining and competitive game, much more so than college baseball I think. Talent is much more evenly divided than other women’s sports too. The seven inning game also makes it pretty efficient with games frequently over in less than two hours. That’s a winner for TV.
 

I don’t watch a lot but it is an entertaining and competitive game, much more so than college baseball I think. Talent is much more evenly divided than other women’s sports too. The seven inning game also makes it pretty efficient with games frequently over in less than two hours. That’s a winner for TV.

Fastpitch is a lot faster moving in terms of time between pitches and play on the diamond, too. After watching fastpitch for about 14 years now, I get frustrated watching snail-paced baseball games. There's only so many times the pitcher can grab his nuts or the batter unstrap and re-strap batting gloves before I turn the channel. I'll give a plus to cheering in the dugout, too.
 

Fastpitch is a lot faster moving in terms of time between pitches and play on the diamond, too. After watching fastpitch for about 14 years now, I get frustrated watching snail-paced baseball games. There's only so many times the pitcher can grab his nuts or the batter unstrap and re-strap batting gloves before I turn the channel. I'll give a plus to cheering in the dugout, too.
The pitch clock has taken care of pro baseball's pace of play. Now it's college's turn to go to the pitch clock.
 



Much more enjoyable to watch softball as opposed to baseball. Absolutely love the pitching vs baseball. Don’t need as many arms and obviously they can come back sooner. Was watching an Iowa Junior College Championship baseball game today and thought it would never end.
 




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