Offense has been on the rise in college softball for much of the past decade, but a record five no-hitters on Friday on the first full day of the NCAA tournament offered a glimpse of the way the sport used to be played at the whim of pitching aces.
Washington’s Taran Alvelo, UCLA’s Rachel Garcia, Florida’s Delanie Gourley, Baylor’s Gia Rodoni and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Alex Stewart all threw no-hitters in wins to open regional play in the 64-team tournament. The previous record for no-hitters on the first full day of the tournament was four in 2007 (in both instances, one of the 16 regionals began play Thursday).
Only Rodoni and Stewart had to pitch all seven innings to record their no-hitters Friday. Alvelo, Garcia and Gourley each pitched five innings, their teams victorious by the rule that ends a game if a team is ahead by eight or more runs after the fifth inning.
Garcia was an error shy of a perfect game in UCLA’s 8-0 win over Lehigh. It was the first career no-hitter for the redshirt freshman ace of the fifth overall seed. It was also the first career no-hitter for Baylor sophomore Rodoni and Louisiana-Lafayette senior Stewart.
By contrast, Gourley’s no-hitter in a 9-0 win over Florida A&M wasn’t even her first postseason no-hitter against the same opponent. A senior for the tournament’s top seed, Gourley also threw a five-inning no-hitter against Florida A&M as a freshman in a 2014 regional.
Stewart was the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter Friday away from home, beating McNeese State on a neutral field in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in a regional hosted by LSU. The top 16 teams in the tournament are seeded and host double-elimination regionals.
There were only three no-hitters in the past two NCAA tournaments combined.