Jenni: College softball is worse off without Jordy Bahl

Jenni: College softball is worse off without Jordy Bahl

The former Oklahoma ace who transferred to Nebraska is out for the season after one game.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Feb 13, 2024, 2:55pm CST

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Feb 13, 2024, 2:55pm CST

(A version of this story originally appeared in Jenni Carlson’s newsletter. Subscribe here.)

Everything about Jordy Bahl looked so familiar. The stalking behind the pitching rubber. The arm swings. The constant bouncing. The tucking of the glove at the hip. The deep knee bend before the unleashing of a pitch.

But then came a moment not seen before — the flamethrower’s left leg buckled as she planted and she crumpled to the dirt.

It was a sickening moment Friday as Bahl pitched for the first time for her new team, Nebraska. No doubt the shockwaves would’ve been felt more acutely around our state if she was still at Oklahoma, and yet, it was still a gutpunch. An injury that sidelined Bahl wouldn’t be good for college softball.

Tuesday afternoon, we learned the awful truth.

Bahl has a torn ACL and is done for the season.

There was a bad feeling over the weekend that might be the case. Nebraska coach Rhonda Revelle told the Husker Radio Network on Saturday that Bahl had a knee injury and that the knee would be evaluated once the team returned to Lincoln. The Huskers were playing in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in Mexico when the injury occurred.

Not many details, but it didn’t sound good.

And it wasn’t.

Losing Bahl is devastating to Nebraska, which added the two-time first-team All-American after she decided to leave OU and return to her home state. She instantaneously turned the Huskers into a Women’s College World Series contender. Even though no one had any idea how good they really might be, the mere presence of Bahl gave them a chance to make it all the way to Oklahoma City.

That’s how good she is.

And her excellence has made her one of college softball’s biggest names. Let’s see. Maya Brady at UCLA. Kiki Milloy at Tennessee. NiJaree Canady at Stanford. Valerie Cagle at Clemson. Tiare Jennings and Jayda Coleman at OU. Even though there are lots of good players in the sport, you can still count the true superstars on two hands.

Losing one of them isn’t good news for the college game.

Frankly, Bahl is to college softball what Caitlin Clark is to women’s college basketball. Both are supremely talented players who have taken their teams to great heights and have pushed the limits on all sorts of records. Both are also extremely competitive to the point that if they aren’t on your team, you probably don’t like them very much.

But you’ll still tune in to see them play.

College softball needs as many of those entry points as it can muster. Because for as much as the sport has grown in popularity, more popularity is never a bad thing. 

Jordy Bahl being in the circle makes college softball more popular. 

Her being at Nebraska added another program to the list of growing teams that deserve attention, too. Even though OU has become the clear-cut best team in the country, the gap between No. 1 and the field is not indicative of the strength of the sport. There are more good teams than ever, more teams capable of making the WCWS than ever. 

You need look no further than the opening weekend to see the parity. Six of the top 10 teams in the preseason national rankings lost. Now, a few of the losses were the other top-10 teams — Washington and Duke both lost to OU and UCLA lost twice to Texas — but way more of the losses were to non-top-10 teams.

A sampling:

Stanford lost twice to Kentucky.

Clemson lost to Missouri. 

UCLA lost to Oklahoma State.

Florida State lost to Charlotte.

Yes, Charlotte. And the 49ers weren’t the only program that scored an unlikely upset. Penn State beat Arkansas. Indiana bested Oregon. And Boise State upended Northwestern. 

More teams are capable of not only hanging with the top programs but also beating them. It sure seemed like Nebraska was going to join that group of contenders when it added Bahl to the mix. The Huskers were ranked in the top 25 in the preseason. But after her injury, they scuffled to a 2-2 start, struggling to be competitive in games against Washington and Duke.

If Bahl had stayed healthy, there’s no guarantee Nebraska would’ve won either of those games, but it’s doubtful the Huskers would’ve been outscored a combined 14-1 by the Huskies and Blue Devils.

Such is the Bahl Effect.

Everyone in the college softball world had to be holding out hope that when the Huskers got home and doctors in Nebraska looked at her knee, they’d determine it was something minor. Something that would only require rest. Something that would only keep her out a limited amount of time.

But unfortunately, we’ve seen too many female athletes over the decades who’ve planted their foot, had their knee give way and ended up with a torn ACL. That injury is the bane of women’s sports, the worst-case scenario.

Now, it is Jordy Bahl’s reality.

She took to social media Tuesday with a stiff upper lip.

“With a heart thankful for God’s plan and timing, I will be redshirting this year and looking forward to a season of growth and learning from a different point of view,” she wrote. “I’m thankful for the support of my family, friends, coaches and staff. I’m truly blessed to have so many wonderful and loving people in my life.

“I’m not going anywhere. See you in 2025.”

Still, the whole thing is sad for Bahl, but it is sad, too, for college softball.

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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