The home run keeps creeping into prominence in the game of college softball.
Over the last decade, home run numbers have been on the incline, and the days of the Women's College World Series being decided by a string of 2-1 pitchers' duels are gone.
This week's WCWS, which begins at 11 a.m. Thursday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, features some teams with pop — a list that begins with the top-seeded Oklahoma Sooners.
OU has more home runs this year than any team in the field of eight, led by sophomores Lauren Chamberlain and Shelby Pendley with 27 and 22 homers, respectively.
But has softball's era of the power hitter truly arrived, to the point that a team can come to OKC, blast a bunch of homers, and walk out with a national championship?
“I don't think you can do it with the home run. We've tried to do it a couple times with home runs, and it didn't work so well for us,” said Florida coach Tim Walton, whose team finished as runner-up in 2009 and 2011.
“Not all the games are gonna be 1-0 like they were anymore, but you have to pitch and play defense. Home runs come and go, especially on a stage like this.”
History agrees. Florida hit a record-tying 14 home runs in the 2011 tournament and went home as the runner-up after a pair of lopsided defeats at the hands of Arizona State in the championship series. ASU had nine homers in the tournament.
OU led the field in homers last year with seven, and while that might not sound like a lot, it's tied for fourth-most in a single WCWS.
But the pitcher is still the most important player on the field — as one coach joked, “that's why they draw a circle around her.”
“There are some really powerful teams here,” said Arizona State coach Clint Myers, whose team is just behind OU in power numbers. “But this is still a game where good pitching beats good hitting.”