The Women’s College World Series is entering the super regional stage, meaning there are only 16 schools remaining in the tournament. LBS had the chance to speak with former national champion Jennie Finch last week before the tournament began. Finch, a two-time gold medalist, is currently an Advisory Board member for the Capital One Cup, which awards a combined $400,000 in scholarships to the schools that win the competition.
I talked to Finch about this year’s tournament, whether softball will make it back into the Olympics, and about her personal life. Yes, Finch is living the country life and even threw a “Duck Dynasty” party recently. More on that later.
I asked Finch what she thought of No. 1 Oklahoma, which lost last year in the championship to Alabama.
“I expect to see them there at the end,” said Finch. “They have three of their players in the top-10 finalists for Player of the Year. It’s pretty amazing to have one person on that list, let alone three. It shows you the depth of talent of their program.”
Sooners Lauren Chamberlain and Keilani Ricketts were announced on Thursday as two of the three finalists. Michelle Gascoigne was their other player who was a top-10 finalist.
“They’re playing with a little chip on their shoulder having come up short last year,” Finch said of Oklahoma. “So they have the pitching and the incredible offense to go along with it.”
Finch believes there is a strong competitive balance in the sport, which is different from how things were in the past.
“There’s a lot of great programs out there. It’s not only the Pac-12 now, you’re seeing the Big Ten be very dominant. Nebraska, Michigan — there’s a lot of talent there. And of course the SEC.
“There’s not a lot of separation whereas in the past there was between maybe the top eight teams down.”
Finch didn’t exactly pinpoint a sleeper team in the tournament, but she did mention Florida State as a potentially dangerous team. The Seminoles beat South Alabama in their region and face No. 4 Texas in the super regional. Finch likes pitcher Lacey Waldrop and the team’s offense.
“I got to cover [Waldrop] a couple times this year and their offense is on a roll. They seem to be in good shape.”
I asked Finch about softball’s ongoing fight to get back into the Olympics. Softball, along with baseball, was not played at the 2012 Summer Games and is not on the program for 2016. They’re making an effort to get back in for 2020.
“We’ll know this summer. There’s a vote coming up in July. We’ve joined forces with baseball and there’s now the WBSC — World Baseball Softball Confederation. Hopefully we can work together now as a team and help each other out and continue to build our campaign to get it back in.”
Finch was unable to give a percentage guess at the chances of softball getting back in.
“I don’t know. There’s so much that goes on within the IOC and on. Unfortunately I’m not in the small loop of it. I’m on the athlete board for the WBSC. I know wrestling is trying to do the same thing that we’re trying to do, so it’s going to be a battle,” Finch said.
“I believe that we belong there and that baseball and softball are played in over 140 countries. This is the big Olympics that we need to get it back in. The longer we wait the longer the funding will be gone.”
Finch has been retired from softball since 2010. She still serves as a commentator for games and role model for aspiring softball players. She also has become very active with her family life and athletic competitions. She and husband Casey Daigle have three children — two sons, and a daughter who was born in January.
“Being the mom of three kids and trying to balance work and everything else. Definitely blessed to still be able to be around the college game and college atmosphere. College athletics are a special, special thing.
“I have a triathlon in July coming up. It’s been pretty wild [training for it]. I did a marathon about four months after I had my second son. Now I’m adding biking and swimming, which I hadn’t done before.”
The big question I had to ask Finch about was the “Duck Dynasty” party she was tweeting about earlier this month. She and Casey threw a themed birthday party for their oldest son, who decided at the last minute that he wanted a “Duck Dynasty” party.
“My 6-year-old who turns seven, it was going to be Skylanders party, and he calls me and says he wants to change his party from Skylander to ‘Duck Dynasty.’ I’m like, ‘Sure, whatever.’
“We pulled my husband’s camo boat inside our barn and decked out the whole party with camo and neon orange and had a fun ‘Duck Dynasty’ party. My son dressed up as Si [Robertson] and we had beards for everybody. It was quite fun for sure.”
Other photos Finch shared on Instagram showed that the kids had a grenade water balloon toss, deer antler toss, and held crawfish races at the party.
Though Finch was born and grew up in Southern California and went to college at Arizona, she now lives in Louisiana. She says the transition to the Louisiana life has been natural and enjoyable.
“We live in Louisiana and my husband’s a big time Southern boy and was born and raised here. He loves to fish and hunt and all of that, so we’re rarely inside, which is nice — I love it. We have animals here — there’s goats and cows and chickens, ducks, geese. We have horses. We just got two rabbits. So we’re living the Southern life in the country.
“I’ve fallen in love with it. My roots are centrally-based. My grandparents are from Iowa, and I was actually the only one in my family born in California, so I always kind of had the Midwestern upbringing. I always loved going back there to the cornfields and being outside with the tractors and the pigs and everything. Now I can live it daily here in Louisiana and I love it. It’s incredible. We’re blessed to be here and to be raising our kids here.”
Finch is headed to Eugene, Ore., to cover the super regional between Oregon and Nebraska this weekend.
If you’re interested in supporting softball and baseball for the Olympics, you can visit Playball2020.com.
Fans can check their school’s rank in the Capital One Cup standings by visiting CapitalOneCup.com. More information can be found on their social sites: Facebook.com/CapitalOneCup and Twitter.com/CapitalOneCup.
Photos: Instagram/Jennie Finch; Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE