2022 Year in Review: Men’s, Women’s softball world champions crowned in the same year for the first time in history

2022 Year in Review: Men’s, Women’s softball world champions crowned in the same year for the first time in history
The final softball event of the year was the II WBSC U-12 Mixed Softball World Cup.

In 2022 both the men’s and women’s softball world titles were awarded in the same calendar year for the first time in history. The World Games softball competition in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, awarded the title of Women’s Softball World Champion and the XVII WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup in Auckland, New Zealand, was played after more than three years. The final softball event of the year was the II WBSC U-12 Mixed Softball World Cup.

The World Games

On 13 July 2022, USA clinched The World Games gold medal after a 3-2 win over Japan in the final, winning not only the gold medal, but also retainning the women’s softball world title. Janae Jefferson`s bases-clearing double in the bottom of the second inning was the game-winning play for the US Women's National Softball Team in the final of The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Haylie McCleney was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of The World Games 2022 softball competition. The local outfielder hit .553 with 4 runs and 5 RBI as USA’s everyday leadoff hitter. 

Chinese Taipei earned the bronze medal in the competition, behind a superb performance of young ace Hsia-Ai Ke. The Asian squad topped Australia, 6-0, in the Bronze Medal Game. This was Chinese Taipei’s first podium at a world championship level in 20 years and third overall. They finished third in the 2002 Women's Softball World Championship and runner-up in 1982 on home soil. 

During The World Games, the US National Team pitcher Monica Abbott was awarded with the WBSC's Order of the Golden Diamond Award, that recognises those people who have contributed to the development of international baseball and softball.

One of the highlights of the tournament was the amazing Hoover Met Stadium, a baseball facility transformed into a world-class softball field for the event. “One thing that I love about this stadium is that we’re able to play on a dirt infield,” said Abbott. “We’ve been able to play in a baseball stadium and we’re still having the traditional full dirt infield without the mound behind. And to have the dugouts close enough so you feel connected. It’s the intimacy of the game, the intimacy that the fans feel being close to the athletes and to the action.” 

Record attendance

The softball competition was the most successfull event in The World Games 2022 in terms of attendance, recording an event-leading 50,755 tickets allocated, representing 13.45% of the total tickets allocated in The World Games. Softball also had the most tickets sold to the public, with 11,449 (9.87% of the total tickets sold). Softball led all sports in tickets sold to sponsors with 39,306 (15.03% of the total). 

The gold medal game between USA and Japan drew the highest attendance of The World Games 2022 with more than 10,000 spectators flocking to Hoover Met Stadium to witness USA’s victory over Japan.

The World Games, a perfect glimpse of much-expected Olympic softball return at LA28 

The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, a multi-sport event in the US, represented for softball athletes a glimpse of how a possible return to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles 2028 would be. It was inevitable for everyone to start thinking about this opportunity.

“We’re positive softball is going to be at the Los Angeles Olympics,” said Mexican Olympian Stefania Aradillas, who experienced the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 and found some similarities in Birmingham. “Softball puts on a great show, fills stadiums, is a familiar sport and is extremely competitive, with every country playing at the same level. We deserve to be there.”

Australia’s Ellen Roberts, an Olympian who competed in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, also found common things with the Olympics, especially being around with athletes from different sports and countries. “It’s a good time for the new players trying to understand what it’s like to be at a multi-sports event,” she said. 

However, Roberts recognised that playing in the Olympic Games, for softball, is “the biggest event you can play as a softball player. It means everything to us as softball players. Being back in the LA28 Olympic Games would give girls and boys another opportunity to compete for their country in the world’s best sporting stage,” she said.

XVII WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup

Fourth-ranked Australia produced an outstanding performance to beat four-time winners and world No. 3 Canada 5-2 to claim the WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup in Auckland, New Zealand. As they did all week, the Australians got off to a fast start with two runs in the first inning, and never let the powerful Canadian team back into the contest, with a brilliant Jack Besgrove in the circle.

Aftert a fantastic performance throughout the tournament, Australia’s Marshall Kronk was named the WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup Most Valuable Player (MVP). “It is unbelievable, it’s pretty special. Just winning the world championship is greater than any other individual, I’m speechless,” said Kronk after the closing ceremony. “This title is very special. It’s been 13 years since the last tournament, and coach Bob Harrow passed this year, so it’s very special to win for him.”

Five-time winners USA claimed third place with a 2-0 victory over defending champions Argentina, to bag their first World Cup podium in over two decades. Brad Kilpatrick pitched a complete-game shutout, while center fielder Yusef Davis hit a clutch go-ahead homer in the fifth inning to give USA the lead.

The WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup in New Zealand was a huge success in TV ratings and viewership, setting new records in audience, subscriptions and views on GameTime, the WBSC-owned OTT platform. It was also the first ever WBSC event to have an indigenous host broadcaster and Whakaata Māori TV did an outstanding job.

In addition to the record-breaking viewer numbers via GameTime, the WBSC Men's Softball World Cup 2022 featured impressive global media coverage, especially in the Philippines where the highlights of their national team's victory over Denmark passed 1.2m views on Facebook. It was one of two games the Philippines won as they finished 10th, their best finish since 2009.

The new format, where only 12 teams qualified for the grand finale in Auckland, created increased competition for the honour of becoming world champion. And the competition will get even better going forward with the next World Cup featuring more teams (18), spread across three groups of six before eight teams advance to the Finals.

II U-12 Mixed Softball World Cup

The final day of the II WBSC U-12 Softball World Cup on Sunday at Jin-Long Stadium was full of drama and entertainment as the medal games both went to extra innings, with hosts Chinese Taipei winning back-to-back titles after beating the Czech Republic, and Singapore claiming the bronze medal against Hong Kong.

Yi-Cheng Liang was the game-changer in the sixth inning for Chinese Taipei as he scored the winning run to secure the title with a 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic. “There was a lot of pressure for me and I was so nervous when I reached second to third base, but when I was able to run to the home plate, I felt relieved and so happy,” Liang said.

The bronze medal game between Singapore and Hong Kong also went down-to-the-wire, with the Southeast Asian squad rallying to a 9-8 victory in extras. With the game locked at 6-6 going into the tie breaker, Singapore's Edwin See loaded the bases with a single, leading to a three-run score in the top of the sixth. Hong Kong replied with two runs of their own only to fall short with Colin Cheung being tagged out at home plate.

Chinese Taipei’s pitcher Yuan-Tsi Tien was named the II WBSC U-12 Mixed Softball World Cup Most Valuable Player (MVP) after pitching the complete game in the World Championship Final, leading his team to a second-consecutive U-12 softball world championship.