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WCWS semis doubleheaders threaten player safety, coaches say

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Oklahoma bounced back from losing a Women’s College World Series semifinal to UCLA on Monday, dominating the Bruins in a game that started 30 minutes after the first one.

Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said the turnaround should not have been so quick.

The Sooners handled it fine, but Gasso still called it a player safety issue. She likes that the NCAA’s Division I Competition Oversight Committee added a day between the semifinals and finals, one of several popular changes made before the season. But she would give it up for time between the semifinal games.

“The last time we played a doubleheader was in March, and we are in the final four and we’re playing a doubleheader 30 minutes after — I mean, you’re playing two games with a 30-minute break to decide who is going to play for a national championship,” she said. “I didn’t like that.”

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Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso, second from right, talks with her team during the fourth first inning of an NCAA softball Women's College World Series game against UCLA on Monday, June 6, 2022, in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso, second from right, talks with her team during the fourth first inning of an NCAA softball Women’s College World Series game against UCLA on Monday, June 6, 2022, in Oklahoma City.
(AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

In a schedule quirk last year, a rain delay pushed back the start times for the first semifinal games, so the NCAA moved the second semifinal games to the next day. Gasso believes that kind of arrangement should be permanent.

Texas made the most of the new format, beating Oklahoma State twice on Monday night to qualify for the best-of-three championship series. But even Longhorns coach Mike White isn’t sure that part of it is ideal.

“Winning that first game for us was huge, but not having the ability to come back and regroup can hurt some teams,” White said Tuesday. “You play all year for it. So maybe eliminating double-headers altogether would be a good thing.”

Coaches lauded the other changes the committee made before this season. In the past, the teams that won on the opening day Thursday had to play again on Friday. This time, the Thursday winners didn’t play again until Saturday.

“I know the committee is working their tails off,” Oklahoma State coach Kenny Gajewski said. “We got this format changed. It’s awesome. I mean, it’s rewarding the winning teams, and that’s what we should do.”

With the old schedule, the teams that lost on the opening day Thursday faced elimination games in the early session on Saturday and had to play a second game in the late session on Saturday if they won. This year, no team played twice on the same day until the semifinals.

Last year, Oklahoma State played Florida State in the late game on Saturday, and it didn’t end until 2:20 a.m. local time after a rain delay pushed the start time back. Now, the schedule has the flexibility to account for those kinds of issues.

Coaches say the expansion from a maximum of seven days to a maximum of nine days has made for a better tournament.

“I’m grateful we were able to have a voice and do what’s best,” UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “People work too hard to get here to this point to be able to have (a poor) finish simply because you’re exhausted.”

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