Whether it’s due to proximity or tradition, NCAA softball rivalries take shape across the country. Here are the top five:
5. Louisiana vs. LSU
Louisiana has finished the last 17 seasons ranked in the Top 25 while LSU has done so every year since 2005. Only 83 miles separate the two campuses, and the two teams met in NCAA DI Softball Championships regional action in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2017. The Tigers lost their first six meetings against the Ragin’ Cajuns but won the final two in the series last season to advance to Super Regionals.
4. Washington vs. Oregon
This rivalry is the top matchup in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon finished fifth in the Women’s College World Series in 2012, beating the Huskies along the way for the first time ever in the postseason. Washington is the definition of a name-brand NCAA softball program, reaching the NCAA tournament in 24 consecutive years. The Huskies have never had a losing season.
3. Northwestern vs. Michigan
Michigan is the crown jewel of Big Ten softball. Under Hall of Fame coach Carol Hutchins, the Wolverines have not lost 20 games in a season since 1994, and they were the first team from east of the Mississippi River to win the Women’s College World Series (in 2005).
Northwestern is a top-tier program, but over the past 20 years, the Wildcats have taken a backseat to the Wolverines. Northwestern has reached the NCAA tournament 11 times since 2000 but has only won the Big Ten championship twice in that time period. The Wildcats are always out to take that top spot from Michigan, making this the best game you’ll see around the Great Lakes.
2. Alabama vs. Oklahoma
The Sooners have made 15 Women’s College World Series appearances in their illustrious history and are the two-time defending champs heading into 2018.
Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide have been rolling through the SEC for years. Alabama has never had a losing season since its inception in 1997.
It may be odd that two schools 700 miles apart have such an intense rivalry, but these schools rival as a result of the postseason success of their programs, not their proximity. The Sooners and Tide have faced each another nine times since 2012, and Alabama holds the edge in their recent games 5-4. Some of the matchups between Alabama and Oklahoma have been at the highest level. In the 2016 Women’s College World Series, Alabama and Oklahoma faced off in the third game of the Women’s College World Series championship series. It was an instant classic won by the Sooners on Shay Knighten’s three-run home run in the eighth inning.
1. UCLA vs. Arizona
Pac-12 foes UCLA and Arizona have combined for 20 national titles and have appeared in the Women’s College World Series championship final a combined seven times. Under head coach Mike Candrea, the Wildcats have won more than 1,600 games in 31 seasons. Kelly Inouye-Perez is in her 12th season at the helm for the Bruins and in 2010 she led UCLA to its 12 national title.
The past four years have been strong for this rivalry. Both the Bruins and Wildcats have finished in the top 15 of the final NFCA poll for four consecutive seasons. The Bruins and Wildcats have combined for 53 Women’s College World Series appearances.