Sports News 247

Road to the WCWS: College softball super regional keys


Sixteen college softball teams remain after a thrilling regional weekend, and only eight of them will advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City next week.

Of the remaining teams, 13 of them earned a national seed, including No. 1 Oklahoma, which dominated the regionals to extend its winning streak to 46 games — one shy of tying Arizona (1996-97) for the Division I record.

Three teams are unseeded: Oregon, which is seeking its first WCWS appearance since coach Mike White left in 2018; Louisiana, which upset No. 10 seed LSU and is looking for its first WCWS berth since 2014; and San Diego State, which is in its first super regional in program history.

What will be the key for each remaining team to earn a trip to Oklahoma City? We break down each super regional and identify the X factors that will determine which teams advance and which ones are eliminated.

Jump to:
Norman | Durham | Tuscaloosa
Knoxville | Tallahassee | Stillwater
Seattle | Salt Lake City

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 16 Clemson

Norman Super Regional schedule (best of three series):
Game 1:
Friday, 2 p.m., ESPN2
Game 2: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, TBD

Oklahoma wins if … the bats stay hot. The Sooners, who have put up double-digit runs 19 times this season, are leading the country with 445 runs scored this season and averaging 8.24 per game. They swept their regional, scoring 38 runs in three run-rule wins while giving up only three runs (all to Cal). Clemson may be averaging 6.14 runs per game, but Oklahoma has proved its ability to pace any team in a slugfest with its 108 doubles and 104 home runs. Combine that with its high-octane pitching staff’s 0.83 ERA, and the Sooners are ready to face whoever they have to in order to win their third consecutive title. — Lo Yarnall

Clemson wins if … its pitching staff can keep the Sooners from putting the ball over the fence. Oklahoma hit 10 home runs off seven different bats in their three regional games, while the only game Clemson’s pitchers allowed a homer was in a loss to Auburn. If Valerie Cage, Millie Thompson, Brooke McCubbin and Regan Spencer focus on keeping the ball low in the zone, they’ll give their defense (.980 fielding percentage, seventh best in the country) many more opportunities to make outs. — Yarnall

No. 8 Duke vs. No. 9 Stanford

Durham Super Regional schedule (best of three series):
Game 1:
Friday, noon, ESPN2
Game 2: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, TBD

Duke wins if … its pitching staff limits its free passes. Stanford has proved to be patient in the box, drawing 17 walks in two regional victories over Florida in which the Cardinal outscored the Gators 19-2. When they didn’t walk against Long Beach State, they scored only one run. The Blue Devils’ pitching staff might’ve allowed only three runs across their three regional wins, but they issued 14 walks. With a staff ERA of 2.02, Cassidy Curd, Jala Wright and Lillie Walker put Duke’s offense in a much better position if they succeed in attacking the strike zone. — Yarnall

Stanford wins if … NiJaree Canady and Alana Vawter continue to mow down hitters. The Cardinal’s staff leads the country in strikeout-to-walk ratio (400 K’s to 77 walks in 368 2/3 innings) and continued that trend with 23 strikeouts in their three regional wins. They reduced the threat of SEC Player of the Year Skylar Wallace by K’ing her four times in seven plate appearances. Though Duke beat Stanford 4-2 in the opening weekend, the Blue Devils have never faced Canady’s rise ball, which will work in the Cardinal’s favor. — Yarnall

No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 12 Northwestern

Tuscaloosa Super Regional schedule (best of three series):
Game 1:
Friday, 8 p.m., ESPNU
Game 2: Saturday, 9 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, TBD

Alabama wins if … the Tide’s batters figure out Northwestern’s ace Danielle Williams. It’s no secret that the Wildcats will rely heavily on the lefty pitcher, so the Crimson Tide’s success depends on their in-game adjustments in the box. It starts with senior leadership from Ally Shipman and Ashley Prange, who combined for nine of the team’s 24 hits in regionals, including Shipman’s seventh-inning homer to send Alabama to supers. With Montana Fouts yet to see any postseason-time in the circle, the Tide’s offense is needed more than ever to get to Oklahoma City. — Yarnall

Northwestern wins if … its offense gives Danielle Williams room to work on the rubber. The Wildcats enter super regionals on a seven-game win streak, with six of those wins within two runs. With Williams’ 2.23 ERA and 22-1 record, she keeps Northwestern in any game so long as the Wildcats keep up their scoring average of 6.06 (18th best in the country). Kate Drohan has a reliable lineup to do just that, with Skyler Shellmyer, Kansas Robinson and Jordyn Rudd swinging hot bats. — Yarnall

No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 13 Texas

Knoxville Super Regional schedule (best of three series):
Game 1:
Friday, 4 p.m., ESPN2
Game 2: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, TBD

Tennessee wins if … the Lady Vols keep the pressure on Texas. The Longhorns are known for their scrappiness, so the more Tennessee keeps them at a distance, the better. The Lady Vols can do that with their offensive power, starting with the nation’s home run leader in Kiki Milloy (25). Zaida Puni proved to be a serious long-ball threat during regionals too, with four of her five hits clearing the fence. The Volunteers are second to only Oklahoma in scoring, averaging 7.11 runs per game. They’ll need every bit of their offense to slam the door on Texas. — Yarnall

Texas wins if … the Longhorns capitalize on extra bases. They have plenty of speed with 70 stolen bases on the year, led by Mia Scott and Leighann Goode. The matchup against Tennessee’s catcher Giulia Koutsoyanopulos works in Texas’ favor, with Koutsoyanopulos throwing out nine runners out of 27 attempts. Their wheels also help stretch singles into doubles, with Scott, Goode and Viviana Martinez combining for 45 of the team’s 88 two-baggers. Texas’ ability to manufacture runs will be crucial when facing Tennessee’s pitching staff with a 1.52 ERA. — Yarnall

No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 Georgia

Tallahassee Super Regional schedule (best of three series):
Game 1:
Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Game 2: Friday, 8 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Saturday, TBD

Florida State wins if … the Seminoles’ pitching staff can cool off Georgia’s hot bats. A pitching staff led by reigning ACC Pitcher of the Year Kathryn Sandercock is a pitching staff to fear. After the Seminoles dropped the first game on Sunday, Sandercock sought revenge in the winner-take-all Game 7, throwing the program’s first perfect game in the NCAA tournament and the first solo perfect game for FSU since 2016. Florida State has two pitchers ranked in the top 10 in ERA: Sandercock (1.11, ninth) and freshman Makenna Reid (0.94, fifth). — Erika LeFlouria

Georgia wins if … it keeps hitting the ball over the fence. Georgia’s 10 home runs in the regionals were tied with Oklahoma for the most among the 16 remaining teams. Across the weekend, Georgia scored 32 runs, its most in school history. Georgia is 24-1 this season when hitting multiple HRs in a game. If it can keep its multi-homer production going, things could get messy for the Seminoles. Georgia had six different players hit home runs last weekend, with Sydney Chambley (four) and Jaydyn Goodwin (two) hitting multiple. — LeFlouria

No. 6 Oklahoma State vs. Oregon

Stillwater Super Regional schedule (best of three series):
Game 1:
Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN2
Game 2: Friday, 6 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Saturday, TBD

Oklahoma State wins if … Kelly Maxwell can respark the team. After going 2-11 from April 16 through the Big 12 tournament, was last weekend enough to spark the Cowgirls? Oklahoma State opened the Stillwater Regional with back-to-back shutouts for the third time in program history (1990 and 1998). Yes, it took a seven-inning comeback to beat Nebraska 5-2, but OSU walked away from the regional undefeated. Maxwell had a double-digit strikeout performance (10) in the tournament opener and struck out seven batters in 4 1/3 innings against Nebraska. She takes a 1.87 ERA into supers as Oklahoma State can clinch its fourth straight WCWS berth. — LeFlouria

Oregon wins if … its’ red-hot offense continues to roll. Oregon boasts a .312 team batting average and concluded regionals with a 14-4 walk-off grand slam to round up the weekend with 29 runs in three games. Ariel Carlson (two home runs on Sunday) and Kai Luschar (5-for-10, two RBIs, four runs scored) led the show this weekend. After being eliminated by Arkansas in the regionals last year, the Ducks exacted revenge on them in 2023. Given Oregon lost to the Cowgirls 3-0 in February, could that be a theme? — LeFlouria

No. 7 Washington vs. Louisiana

Seattle Super Regional schedule (best of three series):
Game 1:
Friday, 10 p.m., ESPN2
Game 2: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, TBD

Washington wins if … the seniors keep their momentum going. After going scoreless for 13 straight innings, Washington put on a show, scoring seven runs in the largest seventh-inning comeback in the NCAA tournament since 2000. Of those seven runs, five were scored by seniors. Sami Reynolds, whose three-run double tied it, and Madison Huskey, who went 3-for-4 with the game-winning RBI double, played key roles in the rally. Between their timely hitting and the Huskies’ defense posting a nation’s fourth-best fielding percentage (.982), Washington can clinch its 15th WCWS berth. — LeFlouria

Louisiana wins if … it learns from McNeese’s mistakes. With a shutout defense and a powerful arm in Ashley Vallejo, the Cowgirls illustrated the blueprint to beat Washington … until they allowed seven runs in the final inning of the winner-take-all game. Louisiana hit seven home runs in the Baton Rouge Regional (fifth among the 16 remaining teams), and the Ragin’ Cajuns’ .311 batting average ranks 23rd in the nation. By bringing a high-powered offense and pacing the production of pitchers Sam Landry and Kandra Lamb, Louisiana can keep the Huskies out of the WCWS. — LeFlouria

No. 15 Utah vs. San Diego State

Salt Lake City Super Regional schedule (best of three series):
Game 1:
Friday, 10 p.m., ESPNU
Game 2: Saturday, 5 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, TBD

Utah wins if … pitcher Mariah Lopez continues to take command. Lopez had a stellar weekend in the circle. In her 14 innings pitched against Ole Miss in the Salt Lake City Regional, the southpaw tossed 15 strikeouts and held the Rebels to just two runs. The Utes’ ace had five strikeouts in seven innings, helping the Utes upset UCLA to win the inaugural Pac-12 tournament championship earlier this month. If she can continue to make teams struggle against her changeup, she could be why the Utes continue to Oklahoma City for the WCWS. — LeFlouria

San Diego State wins if … like infielder AJ Murphy said after Sunday’s victory over Liberty, the Aztecs can “keep rolling with the bats, the energy, the pitching.” The Aztecs outscored their opponents 19-3 in the Los Angeles Regional. The energy this program has brought entering its first super regionals is because it got hot at the right time. SDSU concluded the regular season on a three-game skid before winning three straight to take the Mountain West crown and went 3-0 to begin tournament play. As for pitching, San Diego State’s staff has a 1.23 ERA during its six-game winning streak. — LeFlouria

Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.