ESPN’s Beth Mowins reflects on growth of softball as WCWS Finals begin

Analysts Michele Smith and Jessica Mendoza join play-by-play commentator Beth Mowins to call College Softball World Series action this week. (ESPN)
Analysts Michele Smith and Jessica Mendoza join play-by-play commentator Beth Mowins to call College Softball World Series action this week. (ESPN)
Super Regionals, Super Ratings
ESPN’s complete coverage of the NCAA Division I Softball Championship Super Regionals (May 22–25) generated significant increases over last season’s telecasts. ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS’ combined telecasts — every game from the eight sites — reached 26,347,000 viewers, a 30-percent increase over 2013 (versus 20,229,000 viewers). The networks’ Super Regional coverage averaged 413,000 viewers, a 17-percent increase over last season (versus 352,000 viewers).

OKLAHOMA CITY – Beth Mowins called her first Women’s College World Series in 1994. Looking back, Mowins – who is calling the best-of-three 2014 WCWS Finals beginning tonight – playfully wonders how it even got on the air.

“Coming here those first few years, there were four of us,” Mowins said. “We didn’t even have a production truck, we had a production van.”

Today, in the midst of ESPN’s 14th year of televising every game, the scene is quite different. ESPN is here with a full production crew, two trucks and bountiful resources to televise up to 17 games over seven nights (beginning last week).

Mowins will once again call the WCWS Finals alongside analysts Jessica Mendoza, Michele Smith and reporter Holly Rowe. The best-of-three series between No. 5 Florida and No. 2 Alabama gets underway tonight (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Taking stock of the scene last week, Mowins said, “There are hundreds of us now and we have a compound.”

Is she surprised at the astonishing growth of the sport and the production involved?

“It doesn’t surprise me because as a fan of the game, you know how entertaining it is, how fun it is,” she said. “It is really just the people making the commitment to the sport and more and more people appreciating how fun this is to watch and cover.”

OGE Energy Field at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, the site of the WCWS, announced a series of renovations recently to improve fan and media experience. It will keep the event in Oklahoma City through 2020, another sign the event continues on the upward track.

“It has just been great to see how much the sport and event has grown,” Mowins said.