Saturday, June 11, 2016

2016 WCWS Uniform Recap

Another season of collegiate softball has come and gone, with the Women's College World Series wrapping up last week, with the Oklahoma Sooners taking home their third National Championship trophy.

Much like last year, I was lucky to make the trip back to Oklahoma City to follow the Auburn Tigers to their first WCWS Finals appearance. Though the outcome wasn't what we had hoped for, the trip was a fun one and full of tons of softball.  With eight teams and fifteen games played over the last week, there was plenty to enjoy. Plenty of uniforms to discuss as well, which is always the fun part.

WCWS 2016 Uniform Recap - ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City
Stadium shot by Dakota Sumpter / Auburn Athletics
After surviving the Super Regional round, eight teams, including four SEC teams, were granted a trip to Oklahoma City, where the WCWS would be held at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium just north of downtown OKC.

The NCAA softball rules state that during post season play, teams swap the home and away designations, and there uniforms must match their designation, home teams wearing white and away teams wearing dark, colored uniforms. For the WCWS, the NCAA supplies two sets of jerseys with sleeve patches, with any alternate jerseys ultimately being up to the team's discretion to whether or not they wear the patch. After last year where only Florida wore alternate tops without the WCWS patch, multiple teams this year played a game or two missing the patch.

The biggest issue, to me at least, with the patches at this event is that the patch placement isn't actually uniform throughout the team. Because television and marketing rule the world nowadays, the patch is placed on the sleeve that would face the camera when the player is at bat. For example, a right-handed batter would have their left sleeve forward, towards the pitcher and camera, and a leftie would have their right sleeve forward. In theory, it's not that bad, as the patch is always present. But in practice, it's simply annoying, and more than just the different sleeve practice. For teams that already wear a sleeve patch, like the SEC teams and their conference patch or Alabama with the program anniversary patch, the WCWS patch is just stacked on top. In Auburn's case, the right handed batters would have two patches on the left sleeve, while the right sleeve is completely blank. I understand the reasoning, but it would be nice if the NCAA would let teams put the patch on their sleeves as they decide, similar to football teams and their bowl game patches.

The first game of the 2016 edition of the WCWS pitted Georgia against Florida State. The Bulldogs wore their black tops and red bottoms, and the Seminoles in all white. Georgia is one of the few teams that have not only gone with uniform stirrups, but wears them over colored sanis, rather than the typical white. For this game, Georgia wore their black stirrups and black sanis. Georgia would continue their recent hot streak by defeating FSU 5-4.

2016 WCWS logo softball at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium
Michigan Athletics
Game 2 featured Auburn and UCLA in a rematch of last year's game, both team-wise and uniform-wise. The Tigers wore their white uniforms - albeit a new design from this season - while the Bruins went with their all black uniforms with the sublimated UCLA logo on the chest. The Bruins wore black stirrups with blue ribbon stripes over black sanis. Auburn would defeat UCLA once again, this year by a 10-3 score.

The nightcap for day one was delayed due to rain. Oklahoma and Alabama would delay and then resume their game in the middle of the 2nd inning. Alabama went crimson-over-white, as Oklahoma went all white. Oklahoma moved on to the next round by shutting out Alabama 3-0.

After having to wait a day, LSU and Michigan finally faced each other. LSU wore their purple tops and pants, as the Wolverines went with their white tops with blue and yellow sleeves over blue sansabelt pants. Michigan thankfully brought back my favorite aspect of last year's uniforms with the M-logo'd socks. LSU also sported white stirrups with purple ribbon stripes over white sanis. Michigan would advance to face Oklahoma by defeating LSU 2-0.

Georgia Softball at 2016 WCWS - ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City
Mike Holliday
Saturday started off by pitting Florida State and UCLA in an elimination match. UCLA went with their all white uniforms with blue sleeves, white pants, and white stirrups with blue ribbon stripes over white sanis. FSU wore their red tops and white pants. After an 8-4 loss, the Bruins were the first team knocked out of OKC.

The second elimination game was between Alabama and LSU. Alabama wore their white "Bama" script jerseys and white pants, while LSU went purple over anthracite with purple stirrups, which is honestly one of my least favorite looks of the entire season. LSU's purple tops were missing the WCWS patch. LSU would send Alabama home with a 6-4 win.

Moving to the winners' bracket, Auburn and Georgia faced off in the first game. With Auburn wearing their blue tops and pants with white belts and socks, Georgia went white over black, with white stirrups and black sanis. Georgia's white jerseys would also be missing the WCWS patch. Auburn would continue on in the winners' bracket with a 4-3 win.

The other winners' bracket game was against Oklahoma and Michigan. The Sooners went all crimson with white shoulder yokes and abdomen stripes on the tops, while the Wolverines went white over blue again. OU would also sport white stirrups with crimson ribbon stripes over white sanitary socks. Oklahoma would advance with a 7-5 win.

Michigan versus LSU, 2016 WCWS - ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City
Michigan Athletics
Sunday would see another set of elimination games, first between Florida State and Michigan. Heavy underdogs FSU, wearing their all white uniforms, would knock out #2 seed Michigan, donning their blue tops for the first time in the tournament, with a 1-0 shut out win.

The second game, between LSU and Georgia, saw an all white versus red on black game. LSU's white uniforms would be paired with white striped purple stirrups, as Georgia would wear black sanis underneath red stirrups. Georgia would be sent packing after a 4-1 loss.

Just a few hours after their win, Florida State would face off against Auburn, where the Tigers would win 8-7. FSU wore their garnet jerseys and white pants, and Auburn went all white again.

The following game would pit LSU against Oklahoma for the other spot in the Finals. Wearing their white tops and purple pants and white stirrups over white sanis, the LSU Tigers would fall 7-3 to the Sooners, who sported their all-crimson look. Also, I still absolutely love LSU's purple helmets. This game featured a bit of controversy, as LSU was told they could not wear their gold jerseys, as they were "too bright" for the NCAA's liking, per Baton Rouge news anchor Jacques Doucet.

Doucet would soon follow with the NCAA's uniform color rules as the true reason.

Twelve games and four days later, the Finals were set. Oklahoma, the third seed, would face off against fourth seeded Auburn, in a best 2-of-3 series to determine who would walk away with the trophy.

Auburn versus Oklahoma, 2016 WCWS Finals - ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City
Individual photos via @NCAASoftball
Monday night's game one would see Auburn sporting their blue tops, blue pants, and white socks and belts for the third time in the tournament. Oklahoma would go with their typical white tops and white pants and red stirrups with white ribbon stripes. After another outstanding outing by Sooner pitcher Paige Parker, Oklahoma would lead the series 1-0 after a 3-2 win.

The second game of the series would bring all the drama. A 6-run 2nd inning for OU, in all crimson, would only be matched by 11 unanswered runs by the Tigers, in their white uniforms, including a walk-off grand slam in the 8th inning. With the series now tied 1-1, we would move on to a winner-take-all game three on Wednesday.

The final game of the 2016 NCAA Softball season featured Oklahoma back in the all whites, and Auburn mixing it up going with their all grey uniforms. The Tigers won the SEC Championship while wearing the grey uniforms, as well as winning fifteen games throughout the year, so the change was understandable. Auburn's grey tops would be the final jersey to be lacking the WCWS patch. Unfortunately for the Auburn Tigers and the fans that traveled the 800 plus miles from Alabama, Oklahoma would come out on top, winning their third championship, in a 2-1 game.

Hope to see you next year, OKC, with the Tigers bringing home the hardware...

2016 WCWS logo flag sits atop ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City
Zach Bland

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