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Inaugural Pac-12 softball tournament to be held at Hillenbrand in 2023

arizona-softball-2023-inaugural-pac-12-tournament-hillenbrand-stadium Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The inaugural Pac-12 softball tournament is slated to be held in 2023. Arizona fans won’t have to go far to see it, as the league announced that the first tournament will be held at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium next spring. The games will be held May 10-13, 2023.

The Pac-12 is a latecomer to the world of conference softball tournaments. Most major and even mid-major conferences have been holding them for years, and they have had the tendency to get a great deal of national attention while the Pac-12 was still playing regular-season games.

In the past, former Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said that the coaches felt a conference tournament was unnecessary. The nine schools that compete in the sport play a true round-robin schedule with eight three-game series. However, in 2021, Candrea admitted that it might be time for the conference to look at it again after he and other coaches felt Pac-12 teams were underseeded.

“You know, I don’t know, the way things are nowadays, you could be absolutely right,” Candrea said on May 16, 2021 when asked about the influence of conference tournaments on seeding. “With the influence that ESPN has on our game, it’s getting pretty interesting. I mean, I was okay for a while there, but then I just... Because I do a ranking every week for USA Softball, and so I kind of compare what my rankings were, and today I just did one, and the first five I was pretty accurate. Then after that, man, it was like, ‘How can Washington be at 16?’ You know, that hurts. And then to send Oregon to Texas. Come on. But, I don’t mean anything. All I do is coach here.”

Former Arizona shortstop Jessie Harper was even more forceful in her comments about tournaments that day.

“To me, it seemed like the SEC tournament, ACC tournament, had a lot to factor into these...the rankings and stuff like that,” Harper said. “I mean, we all watch the SEC tournament.”

The Pac-12 will now see if the introduction of a tournament can help with the seeding. Two of the three Pac-12 teams who made it to this year’s Women’s College World Series were unseeded and had to qualify by winning on the road.

Pac-12 baseball began holding its tournament in 2022 in Scottsdale, Ariz.