Since 1982, only nine different teams have won the Division I College Softball Championship. This spring, though, there is a good chance that a new team will be crowned as the best college softball team in the country.
The University of Florida, with an outstanding 55-3 record, is the top-ranked school in the 64-team tournament, which starts on May 15. The last eight teams remaining in the tournament play in the Women's College World Series, which takes place in Oklahoma City from May 28 to June 3.
The Florida Gators are not only trying to become the 10th team to win the WCWS, but would also be the first team from the Southeastern Conference to win it. And even if Florida doesn't win the title, there is a good chance that another SEC school could. The SEC placed nine teams in the tournament, the most of any conference in the country. Earlier this month, Florida beat Alabama to win the SEC Tournament.
Florida and the rest of the SEC, including powerhouses Alabama, Tennessee and Florida State, are trying to put an end to the Pacific-10 Conference's success in the WCWS. Since the tournament began in 1982, the Pac-10 has won 20 of the 26 titles. The UCLA Bruins have won a record 10 championships, including back-to-back crowns in 2003 and 2004. Arizona, UCLA's rival in the Pac-10, has won eight titles, including in 2006 and 2007. Arizona State, which also plays in the Pac-10, won the tournament last year.
Florida is best known for its pitching and defense. Pitcher Stacey Nelson, perhaps the country's best pitcher, is a driving force behind the Gators' success. Nelson leads the nation in ERA, allowing just .430 runs per game. That is less than one run allowed every two games! She has won 35 games for Florida, including 17 shutouts.
Over the next three weekends, Nelson will just be one of hundreds of super star college softball players trying to lead her team to the WCWS and the National Championship. There are many great teams from great conferences playing in this year's tournament, all trying to show that championship teams come from all over the country, not just the Pac-10.
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