WCWS shows softball growth for non-US programs
OKLAHOMA CITY » USA Softball executive director Craig Cress hopes the Women’s College World Series offered a glimpse of the sport’s future.
In Game 1 of the championship series last week, Florida State pitcher Meghan King faced Washington’s Gabbie Plain. In Game 2, King’s opponent was Washington’s Taran Alvelo. King earned wins in both games and led Florida State to its first national title
he impact went well beyond the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex. King and Alvelo are Americans with Puerto Rican ties who will try to help the U. S. territory qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Plain is a freshman from Australia who is a part of her country’s national program.
Two other World Series pitchers — Florida’s Aleshia Ocasio and Arizona State’s Giselle “G” Juarez — are on Puerto Rico’s squad. Other World Series participants who play for Puerto Rico are Florida State’s Carsyn Gordon and Korina Rosario and Florida’s Jamie Hoover. Washington’s Morganne Flores is a Puerto Rico team member who was injured and didn’t play for the Huskies this season. Canada and Mexico also had national team representation in Oklahoma City.
Softball was in the Olympics from 1996 to 2008, but left out in 2012 and 2016 before returning for the Tokyo Games.. The United States and Japan are the only nations to win gold, with the United States winning three times and Japan winning once. Cress said the World Series success for players with national teams outside the mainland U.S. is the kind of progress needed to help softball remain in the Olympics long term and become a truly global sport.
“I think the main reason that got voted out was that it’s looked at as an American sport,” Cress said. “And the IOC (International Olympic Committee) is not made up of ( just) Americans, obviously.”
The United States will head to Japan for a series June 20-23, and the Paris 2024 Olympics delegation will be represented. Cress said his group will join Japan in trying to convince the Paris officials that softball and baseball should be on the program.
As the United States looks at the big picture, the short-term goal is a spot in the 2020 Games. Others have scoured the United States for players with heritage from their countries, with plenty of help from American coaches and officials. Florida State coach Lonni Alameda connected with former Florida State player Jessica Boulware (formerly van der Linden), a pitching coach for Puerto Rico, on King’s behalf. Now, King is a key member of Puerto Rico’s squad.
“She loved it, stayed with it, and it has helped her so much,” Alameda said. “International softball is just a whole ‘nother level. She’s just really comfortable.”
Tommy Velazquez, president of the Puerto Rico Softball Federation, paid attention as King dominated the World Series with four wins, a save and a record for lowest earned run average.
“She is an amazing pitcher,” Velazquez said. “I think we both are growing in the process. She is learning about international competition and international teams, the big scenario. Our team received an outstanding pitcher and our performance increased automatically.”
King will help as Puerto Rico prepares for the World Championships in August in Chiba, Japan. Mexico, Canada and Australia are among the 16 nations that will compete in the Olympic qualifying tournament.