As we unveil ESPN's Greatest All-Time College Softball Team, we are also polling our NCAA softball experts about the best players they have seen and the best moments over the past 38 Women's College World Series.
We asked former players Amanda Scarborough, Jen Schroeder, Michele Smith, Haylie McCleney, Natasha Watley and Lauren Chamberlain about the best pitchers they faced, the best hitters they have seen and what they think are the best moments in WCWS history.
Here are their answers.
The best pitchers we faced
Amanda Scarborough: To me, it's Cat Osterman. She's so long and has such a big presence when she's in the circle with her competitive attitude. Then you factor in the movement on her pitches -- I had never seen anything like that before in my life. You couldn't trust your eyes. As a hitter, you can have an intuition that a pitch is going to come, but her drop ball was impossible to hit. I think the first time I faced her, it put me on my heels a little bit because of the movement.
Jen Schroeder: I don't want to take anything away from Monica Abbott because I think her pitching has matured so much and I think she's better in pro ball, but Cat Osterman was a woman among girls. She was truly in a league of her own. I remember the first time I faced Osterman. It was at that Palm Springs tournament where everyone who's everyone was there. I remember swinging and not knowing how badly I missed the ball. She could throw the same pitch three times in a row and I felt like I didn't have a chance hitting it at all. There was so much spin. You would see the ball come out of her hand, and where it would end up was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It felt like she was halfway to the batter's box by the time she released it.
Michele Smith: I would say Shawn Andaya from Texas A&M. She had this amazing rise ball and it was almost unhittable, especially back then when I faced her at 40 feet. She was not very big in stature, but she knew how to use every ounce of her body. It would always be in the 68-69 mph range from 40. Yeah, good luck hitting that.
Haylie McCleney: She was my teammate but I would say Jaclyn Traina. Our scrimmages were the most competitive thing ever, and I don't think I ever got a single hit off Jackie. I think she struck me out 15 of the 20 times that I got to face her in scrimmages. Her drop ball was nasty. When I was in the box, I would purposely try to swing below where the ball was coming at me and I still remember the ball going underneath my bat. I'm really glad she's on my team because I would hate to be someone in the other dugout.
Natasha Watley: I'm going to go with Jennie Finch. Jennie was tough. She had every pitch. She had a drop ball. She threw a rise. She would bust you in a curve, she had a great changeup. I think what made her so good is that every single time you faced her, she had a different game plan. It wasn't like a pitcher where you could say, "OK, she has a great screwball, that's what I'm going to get." No, she was different, and she was unpredictable -- and she threw hard.
Lauren Chamberlain: Blaire Luna at Texas was tough for me throughout my career. She had a lot of movement on her ball -- the angle that it came in made it difficult as a hitter. And she was pretty even-keeled, you never saw her flustered. As a hitter, you want to sense some frustration from the pitcher that you're facing to know that you're getting to them, and she never let me get that satisfaction.
And if I can pick one more, Jackie Traina at Alabama. Her drop ball was very, very good, and she had a lot of speed and movement behind it. It was a battle every single at-bat. It was Bama's best facing OU's best every time we matched up. I loved competing against her.
The best hitters
Scarborough: You always knew Lauren Chamberlain would have a chance to hit the ball out of the ballpark at any second. The numbers say that, but when you watch her dig in, you watch her quick hands and her ability to adjust in the middle of at-bats to different pitches, you know that she's something special. She always played with this glow and energy in the box. It was so much fun to watch her compete and hit with her big smile and her big swing. Whenever you have that extra bit of confidence or sly smile, as a pitcher, you're like, What is she feeling so good about? She recognized pitches so well that you couldn't get anything by her. It never seemed like she was going to swing and miss.
Schroeder: Based on what they did statistically in the NCAA, professionally and at the Olympic level, Stacey Nuveman is the greatest hitter of all time, hands down. Based on who made the biggest impact in college softball, I would say Lauren Chamberlain. She's the only player I remember who could change the game with one swing.
Smith: The best college hitter I ever saw was Stacey Nuveman. She had an ability to hit any ball that was thrown. She had to become a great "bad ball" hitter because nobody was going to pitch directly to her, and if she was going to get a hit, she was going to have to swing outside the strike zone. She knew how to leverage counts, take a walk and hit the ball to all fields. Because she was on a good team like UCLA, she was going to be somewhat protected in the lineup. If she would have been on a team in which she was the only hitter, they would have been able to pitch around her all the time.
McCleney: The toughest out for us to always get was Lauren Chamberlain. She's one of those hitters that every time she came up, you were playing at the warning track -- and for good reason. As an outfielder, I liked facing her (even though she beat us a couple of times) because I knew there was a pretty good chance the ball was going to come my way at some point.
Watley: Stacey Nuveman. Yes, she had the home run record at one point, but she hit for average. She was a smart hitter who could hit to all fields. There's a lot of home run hitters where it's either a home run or nothing. But her batting average -- she leads UCLA all time in average. She was always on base. Yeah, she got walked a ton, but when she didn't get walked and she actually got pitched to, she got hits. And a good majority of them were home runs. That's the definition of a great hitter to me.
Chamberlain: I always admired -- and still do -- Stacey Nuveman. That's whose record I was chasing. I remember seeing clips of Stacey Nuveman and Team USA. She's prolific. That's my GOAT hitting-wise. I wish that we could get all the greats and put them in the same year and face off, just to see.
The best WCWS moments
Schroeder: Mine isn't even a championship moment: 2019, UCLA vs. Washington, Rachel Garcia's walk-off to take the Bruins into the championship series. Both teams were leaving everything on the field. Washington had gone back and forth between Gabbie Plain and Taran Alvelo, and Rachel was just dominant. The fact that she could throw 10 shutout innings and get it done in the box, it was epic. You reflect on watching Lisa Fernandez become Lisa Fernandez, and this was a moment like that. You witnessed Rachel Garcia writing history books.
Garcia's walk-off homer sends UCLA to championship
Rachel Garcia crushes a walk-off 3-run home run as UCLA advances to the Women's College World Series championship series.
Scarborough: There's a lot to love about that 2005 Women's College World Series. That was the first time the champ series had been a thing, and it started with a bang. I was a freshman in college, and even though we lost in the super regionals, I remember watching every single game that year. I loved watching Jennie Ritter compete. Sam Findlay, too. Michigan was playing UCLA, the perennial powerhouse, and when you saw someone take down UCLA, you thought, Did the tide just turn in college softball? I just got goosebumps all over again. It was such a good, competitive series to watch.
Smith: I think amazing catches sear in your mind, so I would say Jessie Warren's diving catch to turn a double play in Game 1 of the 2018 championship series. You look at the number of games Florida State had to win -- it lost the first game in the super regionals and its World Series opener -- they were on this magical run. It was the seventh inning and Washington gets the leadoff runner on, and you could feel the tide start to turn. Washington bunts and Warren comes out of nowhere, perfectly lays out, gets her glove underneath the ball, immediately pops to her knees and doubles up the runner at first. It was the moment, the year they were having and everything coming together to make that one play stand out.
Jessie Warren's double play for FSU
Florida State's Jessie Warren makes an incredible diving catch and throws to first for the double play in Game 1 of the Women's College World Series.
McCleney: There are so many to count. Chamberlain's walk-off against Tennessee was awesome to see. But I think Alabama's first national championship in 2012, to be the first team out of the SEC to do it, I think that was special. This was the year before I got there. The way that it happened -- how big of an upset it truly was because nobody was supposed to beat Oklahoma that year -- I think that turned the tide, no pun intended, to making the SEC the best conference in college softball, and I think we have been able to sustain that momentum as a conference ever since 2012.
Watley: I think our elimination game against Texas in 2003. Literally, this was our last chance. We were the home team, this was our last at-bats. We were about to go home. And Monique Mejia, who was always our little unsung hero, doesn't get the recognition and hype that she should have -- she duked it out. She was so feisty and got a hit to start our rally. Up to that time, we were all shut down. I think I K'd two times. I don't even know how many strikeouts Cat (Osterman) had that game. If you saw the momentum of that game, there was no way we were winning.
WCWS Top Diamond Moments: Watley's Slide, 2003
UCLA's Natasha Whatley's bottom of the 7th slide against Texas.
Obviously the conversation goes, "I can't believe Cat threw to you." I would have thrown to me that game, too. She was shutting us down. We weren't even touching it. Even my last at-bat, the first pitch I swung so hard and missed. I was taking so many deep breaths, trying to regather. And then that next pitch, it literally felt like slow motion. The game slowed down, and then it sped up so fast because we tied the game and then won so fast.
Chamberlain: Honestly, you're probably expecting my walk-off against Tennessee -- and it is. The stage, the moment, the height of it all. The lead-up to the walk-off was incredible, getting the three runs back (in the bottom of the 11th inning). You dream of hitting walk-offs, and to do it on the World Series stage is the ultimate feeling.