Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic: Takeaways and Review


Peyton Rohr, Staff Writer

College Softball has been on the rise for the last few years, with both its views and attendance showing massive increases over the last few years. While the NCAA tournament in May and June are the climax of the season, collegiate softball is known for its extremely competitive tournaments in February before conference play begins. Teams across the country try to schedule as many games against ranked opponents as they can to face early adversity and boost their chances of getting chosen for the tournament, leading to World Series matchups less than a month into the season. The Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic is one of these tournaments. The tournament boasted a lineup of 28 teams, 9 of which were ranked in the top 25. Across the 4 days, 66 games were played in Cathedral City, California, full of upsets, extra inning nail biters, and run-rule victories. I watched a good majority of the games, here are the main takeaways:

Florida was not ready to compete with the best
Coming into the weekend, Florida was ranked #3 in the country. They boasted one of the most prolific offenses in the country, but hadn’t been tested by other ranked opponents. When faced with the challenge, they absolutely folded. Missing key player Skylar Wallace, their offense was lackluster. Florida went 1-3 on the weekend, and got shut out twice. The first came from a no-hitter at the hands of Megan Faraimo and UCLA, who run-ruled Florida in 5 innings, 10-0. They also lost 8-0 to #22 Oregon. The worst loss came at the hands of unranked Cal State Fullerton, who hit a walk-off home run to win 5-4 in 8 innings. Florida was simply not ready for the competition they faced, and does not seem prepared for the loaded SEC conference teams they are going to play.

Look out for Cal State Fullerton and the mid-majors
Cal State Fullerton has looked great this season, coming into the Mary Nutter with wins over 2 SEC teams, Ole Miss, and at the time, #8 Tennessee. They continued this string of success over top teams with a 5-0 shutout victory over #22 Oregon, and an extra-inning battle coming out on top 5-4 over #3 Florida. Fullerton is not the only mid-major who can play, the last couple years of college softball have been defined by the rise of the non-power 5 schools who are competing with and beating the titans of the SEC, PAC-12, and Big 12.

Oklahoma does not take losing lightly
Oklahoma softball has been the unanimous number 1 team in the country in the polls for the last two years. Last week they suffered a loss to unranked Baylor, and UCLA finally broke through and took the number one spot. Oklahoma took that personally. The marquee matchup of the Mary Nutter was between #1 UCLA and #2 Oklahoma. Fans around the country could not wait for the battle of the greats. Oklahoma made UCLA look like a bottom-tier college team. They blasted 6 home runs and beat UCLA 14-0 in 5 innings. They knocked Megan Faraimo, arguably the best pitcher in the country, out of the game in less than 2 innings. It was an absolute offensive clinic. Coupled with a phenomenal performance by Alex Storako, who gave up 0 runs, 3 hits and struck out 5, they left no doubt that the Sooners deserved to be back on top. Storako also left no doubt that she deserves to be considered one of the top pitchers in the country.

College softball needs better streaming
The Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic is one of the biggest preseason tournaments there is, and it draws a large crowd. However, the tournament contracts with FloSoftball, a streaming service and news site for softball lovers everywhere. While it is nice to have all the games in one spot, the lack of coverage on networks like ESPN takes away viewers from the sport, as many softball watchers do not want to pay for the pricey subscription. The game between UCLA and Oklahoma made history as the first game to be aired on MLB Network, who decided to re-air the game on their channel. Many fans had to settle and only watch this game, even though the tournament was loaded with highly anticipated top 25 matchups that won’t appear again until the postseason. FloSofttball’s coverage was also lacking at times, with zoomed out camera angles and subpar commentary. If ESPN picked up the tournament, it would draw thousands of viewers and help build publicity for the sport.

As far as individual and team performances went, there were many to note, but I have decided to crown a pitcher, player, and team of the weekend.

Pitcher of the Weekend: Stevie Hansen (Oregon)
The pitcher of the weekend was by far Stevie Hansen of Oregon. She was an absolute workhorse in the circle throwing 22 innings in 3 days. She went 4-0 with a 1.27 earned run average, with complete game wins over Florida and Northwestern, giving up 1 run across the two games. She was faced with challenge after challenge and absolutely rose to the occasion. Her performance on the weekend earned her the honor of Pac-12 pitcher of the week, no easy feat to accomplish in a conference of star-studded pitchers.

Honorable Mentions: Brooke Yanez (UCLA), Alex Storako (Oklahoma)

Co-Players of the Weekend: Kayla Koalik (Kentucky) & Alex Honnold (Missouri)
Player of the weekend was a bit more challenging, as the tournament was loaded with some of the best players in the country. However, I had to share the award with Kayla Koalik of Kentucky and Alex Honnold of Missouri. Koalik batted .588 on the weekend, highlighted by a 5-5 performance against Washington. Her performance against Washington also secured her spot as the all-time hits leader in Kentucky program history. Koalik made history and had a pretty good weekend to boot, giving her the co-player of the weekend nod.
Alex Honnold of Missouri absolutely exploded at the plate, batting .642 on the weekend, getting at least one hit in every one of the 5 games Missouri played. She had 9 hits and scored 7 runs, providing the bulk of Missouri’s offense at the tournament.

Honorable Mentions: Tiare Jennings (Oklahoma), Jayda Coleman (Oklahoma)

Team of the Weekend: Oklahoma
The team of the weekend was by far Oklahoma. They went 5-0 on the weekend with 4 run-rule victories, completely blowing out #1 UCLA to cap off their dominant performance. Oklahoma is a dangerous team because they easily have the best offense in the country, which is also extremely well-rounded. They have both speed and power, a dangerous combination for any pitcher and defense to deal with. Not only do they have a prolific offense, they have an elite pitching staff with 3 pitchers that could easily be the ace at any other program. Reigning national freshman of the year Jordy Bahl, Michigan transfer Alex Storako, and Junior Nicole May anchor the staff and perplex most hitters. They are the favorites to win the national championship and they left no doubt of that this weekend.

Overall, the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic had another successful year, even avoiding the downpour of rain that hit every other pocket of Southern California, only canceling one game due to inclement weather. Thousands of fans flocked to the tournament to watch their favorite teams and enjoy some great softball, which the Mary Nutter definitely delivered. They have already announced the dates for next year’s tournament, and the Mary Nutter will continue to be a staple in preseason softball for years to come.