Ah, the NCAA Women’s College World Series. A time for softball players from around the country to fight their way to Oklahoma City to play for the national title. Though the tournament has already started, and the Super Regionals approaching, there is still time to watch for underdogs, power houses, and catch up on what has happened so far in the tournament.
To start, the road to the championship is a difficult path that begins with 64 teams. The sixty-four teams are chosen by a selection committee who take multiple criteria into consideration; such as
Once the 64 are set, they are divided into regional groups, each consisting of four teams. The regionals are played at the site of the highest ranked team. The four teams play a mini double-elimination tournament, with the winner advancing to the Super Regionals.
With 16 regionals, that means sixteen teams advance to the Super Regionals the following week. The sixteen teams are paired up and play a best of three tournament. The winners of the best of three advance to Oklahoma City, where the top 8 play in a double-elimination bracket until the winner is crowned.
Though the layout is fairly simple, the games are not. The sixty-four teams are full of underdogs that are prepared to upset ranked teams (such as Utah and Arizona did against their competitors). The tournament also consists of power houses, such as Florida, who are looking for their third national championship in a row.
Teams to look for in the coming games include all Pac-12 teams, due to their fierce history in the NCAA softball championships. Of the thirty-three years that the NCAA has had a softball championship, 23 of the winners have been from the Pac-12. In fact, in 2005, Michigan was the first softball team east of the Mississippi to take first in the tournament. That being said, the tides have shifted as the SEC has become the new power-house in softball, with the Pac-12 close behind them.
Speaking of Michigan, the number two ranked team in the tournament, I would suggest to watch for them to take the tournament on the 10-year anniversary of their first national championship win. With stars like Sierra Romero, the Wolverines have seasoned talent that helps a team on the field physically and mentally. It also helps that Romero is a contender for the 2016 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, probably since her numbers this season include an on-base percentage of .600 and a batting average of .485.
Along with second-ranked Michigan, I’ll be watching the top right corner of the bracket, where I suspect Oklahoma and Alabama will win their Super Regionals, meaning they will face off against each other in Oklahoma City.
For Oklahoma, the team leads all other NCAA softball teams with a .359 team batting average. They play Louisiana-Lafayette, who has the ninth overall team batting average. This match-up will be a hitting-fest, with the bats of each team deciding who will continue on to the next round.
As for Alabama, they will have tough competition in Washington, whose bats have lead them throughout the season. Washington will also have their trio of pitchers, Alvelo, Schreyer, and Stangel to try and throw off the Tide. On the Alabama side, their two main pitchers Osorio and Littlejohn will have to work together to make sure that neither of them wear out too quickly going into the tournament. Alabama has often chosen to save Littlejohn for future games, but has had to send her in as relief for Osorio when the game gets too close for comfort.
All of that being said, the tournament will be as fast-paced and riveting as usual. I have never gone off of rankings or numbers, for the feel of playing in the tournament is something that most of the players have never had to deal with, often making their play different from what we have seen throughout the season. I look forward to Florida seeing some stiff competition in Georgia, as well as all of the Pac-12 teams to continue on their legacy of winning the NCAA Women’s College World Series.