Skip to main content

New WCWS Format Guarantees Rest Days, Tees Up a Strong Tournament Finish

Prompted by last year’s scheduling mishap, the adjustments provide flexibility for weather delays and ample recovery time for players.

No one needed any extra motivation in the Women’s College World Series. But there’s been something to sweeten the deal for teams at the beginning of the tournament this year—win, and you’re guaranteed the next day off.

The WCWS previously had seven days to crown a champion from eight teams in Oklahoma City each year. But coaches pushed for change after a scheduling mess in 2021, sparked by a rain delay, which highlighted just how little flexibility was built into the tournament. The NCAA responded this year by extending the WCWS to nine days. It’s a change that allows for some wiggle room in the event of bad weather and takes away the need for a team to play a doubleheader if it loses on Day 1. And there’s a benefit for a team who opens the tournament by cruising—the chance to lock in some early days off.

“It just gives us a chance to recover, take a breath, stay out of the sun, get our pitchers recovered. It's a time to prepare,” Oklahoma second baseman Tiare Jennings said after the Sooners beat Texas on Saturday to earn a day off Sunday. “I think the day off definitely has helped us for sure. I really like the adjustment to this tournament.”

Oklahoma’s Tiare Jennings celebrates with an index finger toward the sky

Oklahoma's Jennings celebrates after hitting a home run against Texas.

There is, of course, no roster that has as much experience in this context as defending champ Oklahoma. (This is the sixth consecutive WCWS appearance for the Sooners.) But the change makes the tournament feel new even for them.

“I don't even know what to do, because having been here, it's just like chaos,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso says of the WCWS’ past format. “It [was] get to your hotel, O.K., get your stuff, let’s get ready, look at video, eat fast.”

And now, with the new luxury of days off after victories in these early games?

“I’m like, What are we supposed to do? Lay around the hotel? What are we going to do here?” Gasso says, laughing. “It is great for your pitchers.”

That’s particularly appreciated this year for the Sooners. The bulk of their pitching duties in the regular season were split between National Freshman of the Year Jordy Bahl and fifth-year senior Hope Trautwein. But so far in the postseason, since Bahl suffered a forearm injury in early May, they’ve had to lean on Trautwein. To have one day off after their first victory, over Northwestern, and another after their second, over Texas, made their path smoother than it might have been under the old format: While Bahl did appear in relief against Northwestern, her first time in the circle in nearly a month, Trautwein made both starts and pitched a complete game in the second one. That isn’t anything new for teams trying to put their best on the field in the WCWS. But it’s much more comfortable with days off in between.

That goes for any team who relies heavily on one pitcher—like, say, Oklahoma State and Kelly Maxwell. (The ace pitched every inning of the Cowgirls’ wins over Arizona and Florida.) But the new format can benefit a team no matter its roster construction. A little more opportunity for rest is preferable for everyone—pitchers and position players alike—and helps ensure the best product is on the field. That was one of the reasons coaches pushed for the change when the NCAA invited them to discuss potential new WCWS formats after last year.

“That was extreme, what happened last year. We all got on a call and kind of threw out different ideas,” UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said after the Bruins earned themselves a day off with their win over Northwestern on Friday. “We realized in that championship, nobody was starting their starters. It was last person standing. You should be able to be at your best at the end.”

In addition to these earlier chances for rest, the new format also creates a guaranteed day off for both teams that advance to the finals: After Monday’s semifinals, Tuesday will be a free day before the championship series starts Wednesday. With nine days of softball, instead of seven, there’s a chance for teams to run their best out all the way to the finish.

“I'm grateful we were able to have a voice and do what's best,” Inouye-Perez says. “People work too hard to get here to this point to be able to have that type of a finish simply because you're exhausted.”