Greatest NCAA Softball Teams of All Time
The Women's College World Series is the annual tour de force event for college softball held at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in downtown Oklahoma City every spring.
The NCAA championship has been held in Oklahoma City since 1990, but college softball crowned its first official champion in 1982. Since then, fans have been treated to some thrilling moments.
Along with dynasties created, there also have been upsets and underdogs that rival the NCAA's best moments. These are the greatest college softball teams of all time from the pool of national championship winners.
15. 1998 Fresno State
Head coach: Margie Wright
Key players: Nina Lindenberg, Laura Berg, Amanda Scott, Becky Witt
Overall record: 52-11
Bottom line: One of just two teams to win the Women's College World Series outside of schools from Power Five conferences, Fresno State was actually 0-6 against top 10 opponents during the regular season but played a purposely tough schedule, with 15 games against top 25 opponents, going 8-7 against ranked teams.
That gauntlet proved to be the difference in the Bulldogs' season. Over three games in the NCAA regional and five games in the WCWS, Fresno State went 7-1 with wins over four top 10 teams, including a stunning 1-0 upset of No. 1 Arizona in the national championship game as the Wildcats were trying to win a third consecutive title.
14. 2002 Cal
Head coach: Diane Ninemire
Key players: Jocelyn Forest, Candace Harper
Overall record: 56-19
Bottom line: We like to save spots for underdogs on these lists, and there may have been no bigger long shot to win a national championship than the 2002 Cal team coached by Diane Ninemire.
Cal finished fourth in the Pac-10 and just three games above .500 at 12-9 in league play. But the Golden Bears caught fire at the end of the season, sweeping a three-game homestand against Oregon and Oregon State to close out the regular season. Then, the Golden Bears didn't lose a single game in their NCAA regional or in the Women's College World Series.
Cal's 11-game winning streak to end the season was capped by four consecutive wins over top 10 teams at the WCWS and a 1-0 win over No. 2 Arizona in the national championship game.
13. 1987 Texas A&M
Head coach: Bob Brock
Key players: Shawn Andaya, Julie Smith Liz Mizera
Overall record: 56-8
Bottom line: This was the second national championship won by Texas A&M in the 1980s under head coach Bob Brock following the 1983 team.
Brock's 1987 squad lost back-to-back games to Louisiana Tech and defending national champion Cal State Fullerton in early March before reeling off 20 straight victories.
Along with two national championships at Texas A&M, Brock's teams also finished as national runner-up twice. He would go on to coach 17 more seasons at Sam Houston State.
12. 2018 Florida State
Head coach: Lonni Alameda
Key players: Kylee Hanson, Jessie Warren, Sydney Sherrill
Overall record: 58-12
Bottom line: Florida State became the first ACC team to win the Women's College World Series in 2018 after having been a mainstay at the WCWS almost since its inception.
The Seminoles showed they were a team that could handle adversity at critical times. In the NCAA super regional against LSU, they lost their first game and bounced back to win two straight.
In the Women's College World Series, they lost their opener to UCLA and bounced back to win six straight games, capped by sweeping Washington in a best-of-three series for the national championship.
11. 1984 UCLA
Head coach: Sharron Backus
Key players: Debbie Doom, Sheila Cornell
Overall record: 45-6-1
Bottom line: UCLA won a national championship with a star pitcher who also possessed one of the greatest sports names of all time. All-American pitcher Debbie Doom set an NCAA record that stood for 15 years by throwing 102 consecutive scoreless innings.
Doom, who won three national championships at UCLA, pitched 215.3 innings in 1984, giving up just 3 earned runs with a 0.10 ERA and 24 shutouts. She also had a perfect game, a no-hitter, and UCLA's 0.18 team ERA is still an NCAA record.
After losing the season opener to Cal State Northridge, the Bruins reeled off 21 straight wins.
10. 1986 Cal State Fullerton
Head coach: Judi Garman
Key players: Susan LeFebvre, Chenita Rogers, Connie Clark
Overall record: 57-9-1
Bottom line: Cal State Fullerton was the first school to win a national championship outside of the Power Five conferences and one of only two in Women's College World Series history alongside Fresno State in 1998.
The Titans were at their best when it mattered most. They swept through the NCAA West Regional and the Women's College World Series, giving up just one run over seven games.
Cal State Fullerton's dominance on the mound was thanks in large part to All-American pitchers Susan LeFebvre and Connie Clark. It was actually the third consecutive national title for Clark after she led Central Arizona Junior College to back-to-back titles under head coach Mike Candrea, who would eventually win eight national championships at the University of Arizona.
9. 1999 UCLA
Head coach: Sue Enquist
Key players: Courtney Dale, Stacey Nuveman, Amanda Freed, Christie Ambrosi
Overall record: 63-6
Bottom line: UCLA had four first-team All-Americans in 1999, led by pitcher Courtney Dale, who went 33-1 with a 0.98 ERA and was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year.
Catcher Stacey Nuveman hit 31 home runs that season as the Bruins hit 95 home runs that year in total. Nuveman was eventually named to ESPN's All-Time NCAA Softball Team and still holds the NCAA career record with 653 total bases.
UCLA's other two All-Americans were outfielder Christie Ambrosi, who led the nation with 103 hits, and utility player Amanda Freed. It was also UCLA's first national championship without legendary head coach Sharron Backus, and the first since they were forced to vacate their 1995 title due to using an ineligible player.
8. 2013 Oklahoma
Head coach: Patty Gasso
Key players: Keilani Ricketts, Lauren Chamberlain, Shelby Pendley, Brianna Turang
Overall record: 57-4
Bottom line: Oklahoma was the favorite to win the Women's College World Series from the opening pitch of the 2013 season after coming just a hair's breadth from winning it all in 2012, when the Sooners lost to Alabama in three games in the best-of-three national championship series.
Oklahoma authored one of the great moments in Women's College World Series history in Game 1 of the championship series against Tennessee. Trailing by three runs in the 11th inning, Oklahoma rallied to win on a walk-off home run by Lauren Chamberlain for a 5-3 win in the 12th inning. Chamberlain hit 30 home runs in 2013 and ended her career with 95 home runs — an NCAA record that stood until fellow Sooner Jocelyn Ato broke it in 2022.
All-American pitcher Keilani Ricketts was an amazing story that year as well. After losing back-to-back games to lose the 2012 national championship series against Alabama, she was named WCWS Most Oustanding Player in 2013.
7. 2015 Florida
Head coach: Tim Walton
Key players: Kelsey Stewart, Lauren Haeger, Aleshia Ocasio, Aubree Munro
Overall record: 60-7
Bottom line: The second of back-to-back national championships for Florida and head coach Tim Walton came in 2015 and is pointed to as the more dominant of the two teams, which featured many of the same players.
No player shined brighter during that stretch than second baseman Kelsey Stewart, a softball phenom out of Maize (Kansas) High School. She was a two-time All-American and ended her career as Florida's all-time leader in hits, runs, total bases, triples, stolen bases, batting average and on-base percentage.
Florida's season wasn't without adversity. Four of the Gators' seven losses came during a seven-game stretch at the end of March.
6. 2005 Michigan
Head coach: Carol Hutchins
Key players: Jennie Ritter, Tiffany Haas, Jessica Merchant, Nicole Motyca
Overall record: 65-7
Bottom line: Michigan became the first and only team from the Big Ten to win the Women's College World Series in 2005. The Wolverines were actually the first team from the Big Ten to even play for a championship, with the NCAA changing the format for the finals to best-of-three for the first time in 2005.
Michigan wasn't just the first team from the Big Ten to win the championship. They were also the first team east of the Mississippi River to win it all. They did it led by four All-Americans, including junior pitcher Jennie Ritter, who was named National Player of the Year. Second baseman Tiffany Haas also set the school single-season record with 91 hits.
It was Big Ten Freshman of the Year Samantha Findlay who shined brightest on the biggest stage. She became the first freshman position player named Women's College World Series Most Outstanding Player when she drove in all four of Michigan's runs in a 4-1 win over UCLA to win the national championship, including hitting a three-run home run.
5. 2001 Arizona
Head coach: Mike Candrea
Key players: Jennie Finch, Toni Mascarenas, Lauren Bauer, Leah Manuma, Nicole Giordano
Overall record: 65-4
Bottom line: After losing to No. 1 UCLA on April 8, Arizona closed the season on a 26-game winning streak capped by a win over the Bruins in the national championship game.
Arizona may have set the NCAA single-season record with 126 home runs and featured five first-team All-Americans, but no star shined brighter than right-handed pitcher Jennie Finch, who quickly became as famous as any softball player ever has been.
Finch's fame in the nascent days of the internet was great and all, but it overshadowed the most dominant pitching season in NCAA history.
Finch went 32-0 with 279 strikeouts and a 0.54 ERA in 2001 on her way to being named national player of the year as well as the most outstanding player at the Women's College World Series, where she threw a four-hit shutout in a 1-0 win over UCLA for the title.
4. 2008 Arizona State
Head coach: Clint Myers
Key players: Kaitlin Cochran, Katie Burkhart, Mindy Cowles, Jackie Vasquez, Krista Donnewirth
Overall record: 66-5
Bottom line: Arizona State won the first Women's College World Series in school history in 2008 by going bombs away at the plate. The Sun Devils scored 480 runs and hit 99 home runs and set the NCAA record with an 11-0 win over Texas A&M to clinch the national championship.
All-American outfielder Kaitlin Cochran was the tip of the spear when it came to the offense, with a .439 batting average one year after winning the NCAA batting title with a .492 batting average. Cochran also scored 86 runs in 71 games and set the NCAA record with 29 intentional walks.
3. 1992 UCLA
Head coaches: Sharron Backus and Sue Enquist
Key players: Joanne Alcin, Yvonne Gutierrez, Lisa Fernandez, Kathy Evans
Overall record: 54-2
Bottom line: The team with the greatest winning percentage in NCAA history featured arguably the greatest all-around player in softball history. That would be Lisa Fernandez, a pitcher/third baseman who was also an elite hitter.
Fernandez's name still dots the NCAA record book. She won 42 consecutive games over 1992 and 1993 and pitched 65 consecutive scoreless innings in 1992, when she went 29-0 with a 0.14 ERA.
UCLA started the season with a 33-game winning streak, and the Bruins' only two losses were to Arizona. T hey avenged those defeats with a 2-0 win over the Wildcats in the NCAA championship game.
2. 2021 Oklahoma
Head coach: Patty Gasso
Key players: Jocelyn Alo, Tiare Jennings, Jayda Coleman, Kinzie Hansen, Grace Lyons
Overall record: 56-4
Bottom line: The Oklahoma Sooners rewrote the NCAA record books in 2021 on the way to winning the fifth national championship in program history.
Out of 60 games, Oklahoma homered in 58 of them and set the NCAA single-season records for batting average, team slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs, runs per game, home runs per game, total bases and home runs, with 161.
The Sooners were at their best when they got to the Women's College World Series, where they set records with 15 home runs, 49 runs and 67 hits — and they needed every one of those. Oklahoma only lost four games the whole year, and two of those came at the WCWS, to James Madison in the opener and to Florida State in the first game of the best-of-three national championship series.
National player of the year Jocelyn Alo was the star for the Sooners. She had a 40-game hitting streak and led the nation with 27 home runs.
1. 1994 Arizona
Head coach: Mike Candrea
Key players: Susie Parra, Leah Brantz, Amy Chellevold, Laura Espinoza, Leah O'Brien
Overall record: 64-3
Bottom line: Among college softball experts, this team is cited as the greatest of all time, and in deference to them, we are sticking with the company line.
It's easy to understand why they think the way they do. Arizona went 64-3, had a 31-game winning streak and outscored opponents 38-2 while going 7-0 in their NCAA regional and the Women's College World Series.
The Wildcats were led by pitcher Susie Parra, who went 33-1 with a 1.04 ERA, 244 strikeouts and was named Pac-10 Player of the Year.
The Wildcats featured a staggering five first-team All-Americans with Parra, catcher Leah Braatz, first baseman Amy Chellevold, shortstop Laura Espinoza and outfielder Leah O'Brien, who was named to ESPN's All-Time College Softball Team.