Doss: Softball Olympians Return to the Pac-12

Already-strong UCLA and Arizona will benefit from the return of three Team USA players

Posted on May 8, 2020

Kim Doss
  By Kim Doss, SportsPac12

The Olympics have played a bit of havoc with two Pac-12 softball teams for the past year. From the time it was announced that Arizona’s Dejah Mulipola and UCLA’s Bubba Nickles and Rachel Garcia were going to be part of the U.S. contingent in Tokyo, the two clubs have been slightly unsettled.

How long would they be gone? Would they return for their senior seasons? Garcia is the best player in college softball. Mulipola is the best catcher in college softball. It’s difficult to take players like that away from their teams and not have a big impact. That won’t be a problem in 2021, though.

Garcia

On Thursday, it was announced that all three of the college players on Team USA would be allowed to compete for their schools before joining the national team for the delayed Olympics. It made both UCLA and Arizona strong contenders for next year’s Women’s College World Series if not the national title.

Mulipola

“It’s such a blessing that I not only get to return this upcoming year to play my last season with some of my best friends, but also that I get to train for the 2021 Olympics in addition to it all,” Mulipola said in the Arizona’s release. “I’m looking forward to being back in Tucson and I’m excited for my senior year with the best coaching staff and fans in the world.”

Nickles

UCLA has already shown what they can do with Garcia and Nickles in the fold. They went into the 2020 season as the defending champions. The Bruins continued to show what they could do even without those stars, going 25-1 in the shortened season and winding things up at No. 1 in the polls.

According to Softball America, they had both the national pitcher of the year in Megan Faraimo and the national freshman of the year in Maya Brady. Adding a multiple winner of player of the year awards and the team’s leading home-run hitter back into that mix is enough to intimidate almost anyone.

Arizona returned to the WCWS for the first time since 2011 last year. This year, they added some important pieces that they expected to lift them back to the final tournament. The headliner was Mariah Lopez, the right-handed pitcher who transferred from Oklahoma. She helped them go 22-3 and embark on an 11-game winning streak headed into Pac-12 play. The Wildcats were No. 4 at season’s end.

As always, the two programs are bringing in impressive recruiting classes for 2021. Arizona’s has been deemed No. 1 by some. The Wildcats add that group to seven returning seniors. Four of those seniors have been a first or second team All-American at least once in their careers.

Washington will be waiting for the Wildcats and the Bruins, but the teams on the southern end of the conference look like they could renew their historic battles for national championships with the loaded rosters they will carry into the 2021 season.




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