ASA Hall of Fame Stadium is renovated and seating is expanded. Media coverage is greater and attendance keeps growing — the 2013 WCWS set a single-game attendance record of 9,698.
Lotief said he thinks that’s the reflection of a larger trend.
“The additions to the stadium and really how this venue and the sport has grown has really been phenomenal,” Lotief said. “That really tracks what’s going on with softball throughout the country.”
Although the sheer changes in number are striking, the nationwide change in culture is also noteworthy.
“I think we’ve come such a long way in terms of equity for female athletes and opportunity for female athletes,” Lotief said. “We’ve still got a ways to go, but it keeps getting better and better and better.”
OREGON CARRYING PAC-12 BANNER
For the first time in tournament history, California and Arizona do not have schools representing the state.
As a result, only one Pac-12 team is in the field: top-seeded Oregon.
“I’m glad to be the one,” Oregon coach Mike White said. “Truthfully, I thought that UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona all had great teams this year. That tells you about the parity in the game right now. It’s great for the game.”
Coaches throughout media day credited the conference with helping shape the game to what it is today.
“I would say also all the kids back in the day would watch UCLA and Arizona, but not everybody could go there,” Gasso said. “So some of these pretty good athletes would start to venture out and you could see to me when we would get one of those.
“They just see the vision of the World Series, but they also see the vision of leaving home, starting a life and becoming their own free adult.”
Oregon hopes to become the first Pac-12 team to win the national title since 2011 when Arizona State beat Florida. That was the final year of a six straight years the conference won the championship.
“Is there any extra pressure on us? I don’t think so,” White said. “The game doesn’t know how many Pac-12 teams are here.
“We’re going to go out and play well, and do our best we can. If we’re the last one here, great. If we’re not, there’s going to be a worthy champion walking out of here at the end.”
LOW-SCORING GAMES GONE NO MORE?
The days of every game being a low-scoring affair could be gone, and Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson believes there are multiple reasons for the offensive increase.
She said the increase of video services that allow teams to scout better, salary increase for coaches and the NCAA has promoted more offense.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the norm anymore, but I don’t think pitching is down,” Lawson said. “I think there are some outstanding pitchers out there. I think the times are different.
“I think that over the last 20 years, all the major changes in the rulebook have been to promote hitting in our sport because there was such a lack of offensive production.”
With the uptick in scoring, Lawson said the sport is better moving forward.
“You’re seeing the fan base go up tremendously,” she said. “I think the offense has actually contributed to all the spectators we’re getting in the sport.”
Baylor coach Glenn Moore when asked how to handle the middle of the Florida batting order, with four players who have hit double-digit home runs this season: “Hit the first three and hope you get lucky with the fourth.”
Cody Stavenhagen contributed to this report