This feels like one of the most talked about Women’s College World Series in recent history! Why? For starters, the 8 teams participating have won a combined 27 National Championships. (UCLA-11, Arizona-8, Oklahoma-4, Florida-2, Alabama-1, Washington-1) and with the exception of #13 Oklahoma State knocking off the reigning champs #4 Florida State, all top seeded teams have advanced.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the first round match ups:
#1 Oklahoma (54-3) vs. #8 Alabama (57-8)
Championship-type series in Game 1.
Oklahoma has been clean and consistent from day one with their only two regular season losses coming in the preseason to then #3 Florida State and #4 UCLA. They would sail through the season unscathed until dropping game one of the regional final to Wisconsin proving they’re human, however, the tournament favorite doesn’t seem to be lacking in any part of their game. Pitching is on point and deep and the hitters… well, they hit!
Alabama began the season 33-0 before dropping their first L to Texas A&M in game 3 of the SEC series. They would go on to lose six in SEC play however it was good enough to claim the regular season championship. “Gritty not pretty” is a term used by head coach Patrick Murphy when talking about his team and they proved that having to claw their way past Texas in the Super Regional. Not always pretty, but you can never count out a team who isn’t afraid of anybody.
#2 UCLA (51-6) vs. #7 Minnesota (46-12)
Winningest at the WCWS takes on first timers.
UCLA has been knocking on the door of a championship for the past few years but just haven’t been able to pull it together when it really matters. This season could be different with the addition of Faraimo in the circle to help the 2x National Player of the Year, Rachel Garcia. Along with Azevedo the pitching staff has a 1.39 overall ERA and is supported by an offense that’s scored one shy of 400 runs on the season. That combination is tough to beat.
Minnesota is a team with an itch to make a statement and has already done so taking down two SEC powerhouses in post season defeating Georgia twice to take the Regional and then LSU at the Supers. Amber Fiser has an electric arm and if the bats show up to support her, things could get interesting.
#3 Washington (50-7) vs. #6 Arizona (47-12)
Awe, sweet revenge?
Washington is out to avenge last year’s championship series loss behind the arms of senior Taran Alvelo and one-year better Gabbi Plain. Washington has relied heavily on their pitchers in the past but it seems that the defense, anchored by the Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year (and former Firecracker) Sis Bates, and the hitting is right up there to support. The series sweep in Arizona at the end of Pac-12 play kicked off an undefeated run to this point so the Huskies are riding the momentum wave.
Arizona wants revenge. Not only is it the Cats first trip back to the world series since their championship loss to UCLA in 2010 but they will face off against the Huskies who came into their house at Hillenbrand and embarrassed them with a series sweep just a few short weeks ago. That series ignited the Wildcats who turned around and took two from UCLA the following weekend and continued on flawless through the post season. The Wilcats have 103 HRs on the season and their pitchers are throwing better than ever.
#5 Florida (49-16) vs. #13 Oklahoma State (44-15)
Upset in the making?
Florida is a mainstay in the rankings year after year but after an uncharacteristically inconsistent SEC regular season (12-12) many people started to doubt that the Gators had what it takes to make it back to OKC. After an undefeated SEC tournament and regional run, and then a hard fought Supers, Florida has proven that they thrive best in the post season. Case in point, senior Kelly Barnhill is throwing better than she has all season (possibly all career) and when you have an Amanda Lorenz on your team who’s batting .419 with a .563 OB%, you can almost guarantee run support. Gators are never to be taken lightly.
Oklahoma State is a team that many people believe has what it takes to upset the best. They aren’t flashy but they produce and they have a good time doing it. With a no fear and nothing-to-lose attitude, the Cowgirls will be dangerous. Senior Samantha Show is a big reason for this season’s successes pitching 183 innings and slugging 18 HRs. Another fun fact about OSU, Head Coach Kenny Gajewski was on staff with Florida HC Tim Walton when Florida won it’s back to back titles.
Wayne Staats from NCAA.com makes the following prediction…
It’s easy to say we’re heading toward the inevitable Oklahoma-UCLA showdown for the title. But OKC usually has some surprises. With the way Washington has been playing, the Huskies seem like the best candidate to keep the Sooners-Bruins meeting from happening in the finals.
Arizona could slug its way to a run, but Washington will make it back to the final series. It will end there, though, as the Huskies become the first program since California in 2003-04 to lose in the final in consecutive seasons. For the third time in four years, Oklahoma wins the title.
One statement I DO agree with is that OKC usually always has some surprises. The action begins TODAY!