Jennie Finch Bolsters WCWS’s Record TV ratings

Feature photo courtesy of C5813.

Former Arizona Wildcat pitcher Jennie Finch’s commentating in the Women’s College World Series contributed to the tournament’s record-breaking television ratings.

The viewership for Games 1 and 2 of the WCWS finals between the back-to-back national champions, the Florida Gators (No.1) and the Michigan Wolverines (No. 3) set record television ratings for college softball.

ESPN released data on Tuesday that said Florida’s 3-2 win over Michigan in the first game of the best-of-three championship series had the most television viewers of any finals Game 1 in WCWS history, according to The Detroit News.

According to the data, Game 2 also saw “its highest overnight rating in eight years,” Angelique Chengelis wrote in the same article.

At a time when college athletics and women’s sports are piquing in popularity, softball took advantage of both cultures and continues to grow in coverage.

“It’s incredible to see the growth of the game,” said Jennie Finch, who commentated on WCWS games. “There’s so much softball on TV and you love it. These young girls are growing up [when] it’s an everyday thing to see college softball on TV.

“I didn’t have that opportunity,” she said. “I had to watch Major League Baseball, and that was the closest thing I could get to seeing and learning about our game.”

Finch represented the Capital One Cup, which awards the most successful men’s and women’s college athletic programs a trophy and $400,000 in scholarship money, while commentating the WCWS games.

The WCWS national champion and Olympic gold and silver medalist used her experience to give viewers a player’s perspective.

But the most challenging part about commentating, for Finch, was separating herself from the announcing. She said she wanted to keep the spotlight on the players and teams vying for the top spot in Oklahoma City.

“I kind of had to remember the reason why I’m here is because I was once in their shoes doing that,” Finch said. “You know you try to give the player’s perspective, but … I wanted to truly showcase the story and what makes our game great, and what makes these athletes who they are…”

Finch harped on the exposure television and social media brought softball in recent years. She said viewers saw the passion and hard work of the players, and “how quick the game is with the pitcher only being at 43-feet and 60-foot base paths.”

Retired now for five years, Finch’s commentating was a pseudo passing of the torch to the current generation of players, who are integral to the continuing growth of softball’s fan base.

The Florida Gators riding pitcher Lauren Haeger’s complete game to win back-to-back national championships in a do-or-die Game 3 captivated softball fans Wednesday night.

“It’s not ESPN giving us time,” Finch said. “It’s the viewers that are viewing it and tuning in asking for more.”

“So it’s a true testament to the athletes in our sport, but yet fans as well because they are what make it tick and what puts us on TV ultimately.”

With stars like Haeger and ambassadors like Finch, softball fans will demand more. And the record-breaking TV ratings will continue to come.