In this off-season edition of Around the Bases, we discuss the UCF Knights’ historic final ranking and TV viewership, as well as Gianna Mancha making her pro debut.
1st: UCF Softball Finishes in Top 15 in the Polls
In the final poll of the college softball season, UCF set a new program record. In the NFCA poll, the Knights finished 14th, which is the highest finish for any UCF softball, team breaking the 2015 team that finished 16th.
The USA Softball/ESPN Poll had UCF finished tied for 15th with Stanford. UCF finished with a 49-14 record, winning their first-ever regional and making it to the Super Regionals where they would lose to eventual national champion Oklahoma.
2nd: UCF-Oklahoma Super Regional Was a Big TV Draw
A lot of people watched UCF Softball during the NCAA Tournament.
The Knights' loss to Oklahoma in Game 2 on May 28th drew 861,000 viewers on ESPN, making it the 6th most-watched softball super regional telecast ever. It was the sixth most-watched cable program of the whole day on Saturday.
How big is that number?
More people watched UCF Softball at Oklahoma on Saturday than every 2021 UCF Football game except for the Gasparilla Bowl win over Florida (3.2 million viewers) and the UCF-Louisville Friday night game on September 17th (1.8 million).
It drew more viewers than the War on I-4 telecast on Black Friday (711,000), the season opener vs. Boise State on September 2nd (841,000), and the Friday night win over Memphis on October 22nd (793,000).
Most Watched NCAA Tournament Super Regional Games ever
Most-Watched NCAA Softball Super Regional Games Ever
|Texas at Arkansas||Game 3||2022||1,018,000||ESPN|
|Texas at Alabama||Game 3||2019||1,005,000||ESPN|
|Washington at Oklahoma||Game 2||2021||901,000||ABC|
|Tennessee at Florida||Game 2||2019||891,000||ESPN|
|Arizona at LSU||Game 2||2015||885,000||ESPN|
|UCF at Oklahoma||Game 2||2022||861,000||ESPN|
College Softball had three of the top seven cable programs on May 28th in the Age 18-49 demo, with Texas-Arkansas ranking 5th (0.23), and UCF-Oklahoma ranking 6th (0.18) according to ShowBuzzDaily.com.
The two-game series between the Knights and Sooners averaged 698,000 viewers, making it the second most-watched super regional of the year behind only Texas and Arkansas, which went three games and averaged 756,000 viewers.
3rd: UCF-Michigan Softball Outrates UCF-Michigan Men Basketball
UCF’s dramatic 11-inning regional win over Michigan on May 21 was watched by 356,000 viewers on ESPN2. The game started at 11 a.m. ET and it still drew more viewers than the MLB game on FS1 (326,000) between the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants, and MLB Network’s game between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox (274,000).
The Knights' win over the Wolverines in softball also outrated UCF's win over Michigan in Men’s Basketball which drew 323,000 viewers back on December 30th.
It was big exposure for the UCF Softball program whose most-watched game on national TV prior to this season was an NCAA Tournament loss to Florida in 2016, which drew 246,000. Add that to record-breaking season attendance, which was among the nation’s best all year, and many eyes were on UCF Softball in 2022.
The exposure for UCF will continue into 2023 as the Knights will return to ESPN’s Clearwater Invitational Tournament:
The '23 @ClearwaterInv field includes@AlabamaSB | @ArizonaSoftball | @RazorbackSB@UCF_Softball | @DukeSOFTBALL | @FSU_Softball@IndianaSB | @RaginCajunsSB | @umichsoftball@HailStateSB | @HuskerSoftball | @CowgirlSB@USFSoftball | @AggieSoftball | @UCLASoftball@HokiesSoftball pic.twitter.com/xWY6JMQN2C— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) June 8, 2022
Home: Gianna Mancha Debuts in Pro Softball
SIGNED! ✍️ The Smash It Sports Vipers have marked pitcher and draftee, Gianna Mancha out of the University of Central Florida. Looking forward to seeing you in the circle, @ggiannaaa_ pic.twitter.com/p8VG1axpRM— WPF (@wprofastpitch) June 7, 2022
Gianna Mancha made her debut in WPF as a starter, going 4.2 innings without giving up a run while striking out three.
I spoke to Mancha about deciding to play pro ball and reflecting on her college career: