2024 Puerto Vallarta College Challenge

When Does College Softball Start?

When Does College Softball Start?

When does the college softball season begin? Here’s what to know about when NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III begin and end in 2024.

Jan 19, 2024 by Matt Cannizzaro
When Does College Softball Start?

The quest for national titles in college softball will begin in early February for three levels of NCAA competition, and FloSoftball will have coverage all season.

Many eyes will be on the talented squad from the University of Oklahoma, which will enter the 2024 campaign as the No. 1-ranked Division I team in the country. 

The Sooners will bring with them a record 53-game winning streak that includes closing the 2023 season with a third consecutive national championship, but only time will tell if they can become the first team in history to win four in a row. 

Like many teams across the college softball landscape, Oklahoma will kick off its 2024 season in tournament play, an early-season tradition that often allows teams to shake off the rust in a warm or tropical climate and against teams they might not see otherwise during the regular season.

When Does Division I College Softball Start?

Division I softball teams can begin practicing on whichever date was later—Sept. 1 or the first day of classes for the fall semester (or Sept. 15 for schools that start later)—and their seasons typically are divided into two segments, nonchampionship and championship, though they’re limited to 132 total days of competition. 

The nonchampionship segment allows 45 consecutive days for play to take place during September, October and November, with restrictions on how many hours student-athletes can spend each week doing sports-related activities.

During this period, teams are allowed eight contests (games and scrimmages), but they must travel by ground, unless there are no other Division I schools within 400 miles. These contests do not count as official games on their records.

As an example, reigning national champion Oklahoma had a fall schedule in 2023 that included two games against outside opponents and six intrasquad scrimmages in a novelty format. 

Last year’s national runner-up, Florida State, played eight games across October and November, hosting seven opponents at home in Tallahassee, Florida, while making one road trip to South Alabama. 

In 2024, the championship segment of the Division I season officially will get underway Feb. 8 and allow a maximum of 56 contests before postseason play.

On the way to the Division I national championship in 2023, Oklahoma played 62 games, compiling a 61-1 record. 

The Sooners lost to Baylor 4-3 on Feb. 19 and then rattled off 53 consecutive wins, including defeating Florida State 2-0 (5-0, 3-1) in the best-of-three series for the Women’s College World Series title in Oklahoma City. 

Oklahoma’s latest title defense will begin Feb. 8 at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 

The event will feature 15 teams split into two groups. More than 30 games will be played across two segments (one for each group). The first, including the Sooners, will run Feb. 8-11. The second will be held Feb. 14-18.

Along with the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, FloSoftball will be streaming several other NCAA Division I college softball tournaments, including the Mark Campbell Collegiate Invitational (Feb. 10), THE Spring Games (Feb. 15-March 27) and the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic (Feb. 22-25).

When Does Division II College Softball Start?

Softball teams in Division II were not permitted to begin practicing for the championship segment of the 2024 season before Jan. 10 or the first day of classes, whichever came first. Their first competition with outside competition may not happen prior to Feb. 1.

Division II teams also have the option for a nonchampionship fall schedule that can take place between Sept. 7 (or the fourth day of classes) and Nov. 15.

Reigning Division II national champion North Georgia did take advantage of the extra reps and faced four other schools from Georgia in September and October, but their formal title defense will begin with six games at the Gulf Shores Invitational in Gulf Shores, Alabama, from Feb. 2-4.

Teams in Division II may play a maximum of 56 contests, not counting the postseason.

On the way to the national title in 2023, North Georgia played 71 games, compiling a 64-7 record. The Nighthawks defeated Grand Valley State 2-0 (7-3, 3-0) in the best-of-three final showdown in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The win was their second national title (2015).

GVSU, which was 48-8 last season, won’t kick off its 2024 campaign until Feb. 17, when the Lakers head to Harrogate, Tennessee, for two days of competition at the Lincoln Memorial Tournament. 

When Division III Softball Start?

In Division III, teams may practice as early as September, though there are restrictions on how many hours/days each week players can practice/play.

Teams at this level play less games, with there being a limit of 40 (games, scrimmages, exhibitions), before the conference and national tournaments. 

On the way to the Division III national title in 2023, Trine University was 46-6, which included 16 postseason games. 

In the fall, the Trine players and coaches hosted clinics for aspiring players to learn a variety of fundamentals and skills from the national champions. 

The Thunder’s 2024 campaign won’t begin until March 1, when they head to Columbus, Georgia, for the NFCA Leadoff Classic.  

Another example, last year’s Division III runner-up – Salisbury (49-6 in 2023) – will kick off its 2024 season with a home dual-doubleheader against Rochester and Messiah on Feb. 23-24.

What Is The NCAA Women’s College World Series?

The NCAA Division I Softball Championship each spring (late May into June) begins with the year’s best Division I softball teams situated into a 64-team bracket. The announcement of the teams and finalization of the bracket for 2024 will take place May 12. 

Through regional and super-regional play, the field is whittled down to eight final teams. The winners from the 16 four-team regionals (double-elimination format) advance to the super-regional round, where two teams (at eight locations) battle in best-of-three series.

The eight remaining teams move on to the final round of the postseason, known formally as the NCAA Women’s College World Series. This phrasing is used exclusively for Division I, and this portion of the postseason takes place USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium – OGE Energy Field in Oklahoma City each year. 

When Was The First NCAA Women’s College World Series?

Though there previously was a women’s collegiate softball championship from 1969-1981, softball didn’t officially receive NCAA recognition until the 1981-1982 school year, when it was one of 12 women’s sports added to the NCAA championship program. 

Based on that formality, the Women’s College World Series, as it is known today, crowned its first champion in 1982. The honor of that first title went to UCLA, which defeated Fresno State for the first of its record 12 softball national championships. 

The first six editions of the WCWS were contested in Omaha, Nebraska (1982-1987), followed by Sunnyvale, California (1988-1989). With the exception of 1996, when it traveled to the softball venue for the Olympic Games in the Atlanta area, the WCWS has been held in Oklahoma City each year since 1990.

UCLA leads all teams with its 12 national titles, including three consecutive from 1988-1990. The most recent came in 2019.

Arizona is second in victories with eight, while Oklahoma is close behind at seven. In 2023, Oklahoma became the second team to win three straight titles, and the Sooners now are looking to become the first team to win four in a row. 

When Is The 2024 NCAA Women’s College World Series?

In 2024, the final eight teams in Division I softball will converge on Oklahoma City from May 30-June 7, though the final day may not be necessary.

Oklahoma defeated Florida State 2-0 in the best-of-three finale in 2023 (5-0, 3-1).

What Does The Postseason Look Like For Division II And Division III?

Division II and Division III also have season-ending bracket-style tournaments, but the Women’s College World Series name and longstanding location are reserved for Division I.

In Division II softball, 64 teams are seeded into the bracket, and double-elimination regional events are held at 16 regional sites across the country. This all begins to unfold in May.

The 16 regional champions move on to compete across eight super regionals, with each featuring two teams and a best-of-three format. 

The eight remaining teams advance to the national finals, which includes two four-team brackets and a location that changes based on a bid process. This round traditionally is held on the fourth weekend of May and ends with a best-of-three series between the last two teams. 

In 2024, the final portion of the Division II Softball Championship will be held at Boombah-Soldiers Creek Park in Longwood, Florida, from May 19-25.

In 2023, the event concluded in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 2019, 2021 and 2022 (the 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19), Denver played host.

The NCAA Division II Baseball Championship first was held in 1982 to conclude softball’s first season as part of the NCAA program. 

Sam Houston State won the inaugural Division II national championship, while North Georgia won the most recent.

When Division III debuted its championship in 1982, Eastern Connecticut State came out on top. The defending champion in 2024 is Trine University. 

The current version of the NCAA Division III Softball Championship includes 62 teams, with four teams at 15 regional events and two teams at the last one, competing in a double-elimination format. 

As with Division II, the 16 regional winners in Division III action advance to the super-regional round, where best-of-three series at eight sites determine the eight teams that will head to the neutral, and rotating finals site.

In 2024, the Division III softball national champion will be determined at Bell Park at Taylor Field in Marshall, Texas. This portion of the event will take place May 30-June 5. 

The final round for Division III in 2023 was held in Marshall, as well, following back-to-back visits to Salem, Virginia. 

Trine downed Salisbury in last year’s best-of-three final, 2-1 (0-2, 6-2, 1-0). Trine was the national runner-up to Christopher Newport in 2022.

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