Women's College World Series: Team Previews

Wednesday, May 28th 2014, 9:59 pm
By: News 9

The Women's College World Series begins on Thursday in Oklahoma City and unlike past years, there is no team in the field head and shoulders above the rest. The excitement and passion of eight teams and their respective fanbases converging in one place is a unique tradition and with a field of relatively new power programs, this year's tournament should be special. Here's a look at all eight teams in the field.


Oregon Ducks: No. 1 seed, 54-7-1 in 2014, third WCWS appearance

Didn't play against Oklahoma this season

How they got to OKC: Swept Eugene Regional (Utah Valley, Wisconsin twice), swept Minnesota in Eugene Super Regional

Key Batters: Courtney Ceo- .492 average, 35 RBI, 17 stolen bases, Janelle Lindvall- .368 average, 13 HR, 51 RBI, Janie Takeda- .395 average, 38 RBI, 19 stolen bases

Pitchers: Cheridan Hawkins- 33-4, 1.55 ERA, 313 strikeouts, .164 average against, Karissa Hovinga- 17-2, 1.91 ERA, 87 strikeouts, .237 average against

In a field that lacks an overwhelming favorite, the Ducks are probably the most complete team of the eight teams in Oklahoma City. They have great pitching in Cheridan Hawkins and a potent offense that averages 7.1 runs per game. The only thing the Ducks have going against them is inexperience. This is just the third WCWS appearance for Oregon, the most recent coming in 2012. The Ducks have crushed the competition in the tournament so far, but under the bright lights in OKC, things are a bit different.

Key stat: Hawkins' 313 strikeouts this year are a school record and she has struck out at least 14 batters four times this year.


Alabama Crimson Tide: No. 2 seed, 50-11 in 2014, ninth WCWS appearance

Didn't play against Oklahoma this season

How they got to OKC: Swept Tuscaloosa Regional (SIUE, USC Upstate, South Alabama), swept Nebraska in Tuscaloosa Super Regional

Key Batters: Haylie McCleney- .451 average, nine HR, 34 stolen bases, Jadyn Spencer- .342 average, 12 HR, 47 RBI, Kaila Hunt- .323, 11 HR, 40 RBI

Pitchers: Jaclyn Traina- 23-3, 2.02 ERA, 182 strikeouts, .201 average against, Leslie Jury- 16-6, 2.83 ERA, 96 strikeouts, .239 average against

The Crimson Tide is back in Oklahoma City after failing to reach the WCWS to defend its 2012 title last year. Jaclyn Traina is healthy once again and has pitched very well so far in the NCAA tournament. Alabama has nine players on the roster that were a part of the 2012 national championship team, so there won't be any stage fright despite the one-year absence. McCleney has a lot of speed at the top of the lineup, having stolen 34 bases this season.

Key stat: Three- the run differential in the final two games of the 2012 WCWS finals, when Alabama defeated the Sooners for the championship.


Florida Gators: No. 5 seed, 50-12 in 2014, sixth WCWS appearance

Didn't play against Oklahoma this season

How they got to OKC: Swept Gainesville Regional (Florida A&M, Stetson, Central Florida), beat Washington, 2-1, in Gainesville Super Regional

Key Batters: Kelsey Stewart- .435 average, 55 RBI, 34 stolen bases, Stephanie Tofft- . 356 average, 10 HR, 59 RBI, Lauren Haeger- .315 average, 20 HR, 66 RBI

Pitchers: Hannah Rogers- 26-8, 1.68 ERA, 154 strikeouts, .200 average against, Delanie Gourley- 14-1, 2.72 ERA, 125 strikeouts, .203 average against

Florida has become a national power under coach Tim Walton. This is the Gators' sixth WCWS appearance, and all have come since 2008. The Gators are playing well at the right time, having lost just five times since the beginning of April. All five of those losses came against ranked teams and four of those games were on the road. Stephanie Tofft has been on a tear during that stretch, hitting .478 during that same timeframe while Lauren Haeger has 10 homers and 31 RBI in that time.

Key stat: Walton and his two assistant coaches are Oklahoma alums and all served on Patty Gasso's staff in some capacity before heading to Florida.


Louisiana-Lafayette: No. 6 seed, 49-8-1 in 2014, sixth WCWS appearance

Beat Oklahoma, 2-1 in series March 14-15 (5-13, 7-0, 3-1)

How they got to OKC: Swept Lafayette Regional (Texas Southern, Texas twice), Swept Arizona in Lafayette Super Regional

Key Batters: Lexie Elkins- .388 average, 22 HR, 72 RBI, Haley Hayden- .333 average, 15 HR, 55 RBI, Shelbi Redfearn- .309 average, 15 HR, 49 RBI

Pitchers: Christina Hamilton- 29-2, 1.53 ERA, 183 strikeouts, .191 average against, Jordan Wallace- 14-3, 4.04 ERA, 136 strikeouts, .206 average against

The Ragin' Cajuns have a lot of personality around their program, beginning with their rabid fan base, and extending all the way down to the individuals on the team. Pitcher Christina Hamilton is a great example of this, pitching from the circle with Russell Westbrook-esque lenless glasses. ULL plays a little softball as well, leading the WCWS in home runs this season with 88. ULL is also the hottest team in the country coming into Oklahoma City. The Ragin' Cajuns have lost just three times since Feb. 22.

Key stat: ULL has gone 5-1 against the two Big 12 teams in the field, sweeping Baylor and defeating Oklahoma, 2-1.


Oklahoma: No. 7 seed, 50-11 in 2014, ninth WCWS appearance

How they got to OKC: Swept Norman Regional (Bryant, Texas A&M twice), beat Tennessee, 2-1, in Norman Super Regional

Key Batters: Shelby Pendley- .429 average, 17 HR, 74 RBI, Lauren Chamberlain- .371 average, 12 HR, 27 RBI, Brittany Williams- .361 average, 14 HR, 53 RBI

Pitchers: Kelsey Stevens- 37-8, 2.41 ERA, 266 strikeouts, .204 average against

After dropping eight games in the first month and a half of the year, the Sooners have lost just three times in the last two and a half months. Kelsey Stevens has been excellent in the circle and the Oklahoma offense is second in the country, averaging 7.26 runs per game. All-American Lauren Chamberlain continues to improve from a partially torn PCL suffered at the end of the regular season. She won't be close to 100 percent for the WCWS, but she hit three home runs against Tennessee in the Super Regionals. Even on one leg, she's extremely dangerous.

Key stat: OU catcher Whitney Ellis has given up just 10 stolen bases in 25 attempts this season. The Sooners' .600 caught-stealing percentage is tops in the country. Against a field with several 30-base stealers, that's a valuable weapon to have.


Florida State: No. 8 seed, 55-7 in 2014, eighth WCWS appearance

Didn't play against Oklahoma this season

How they got to OKC: Swept Tallahassee Regional (Fordham, South Florida twice), beat Michigan, 2-1, in Tallahassee Super Regional

Key Batters: Maddie O'Brien- .431 average, 24 HR, 83 RBI, Courtney Senas- .349 average, 15 HR, 57 RBI, Tiffani Brown- .311, 66 hits, 25 stolen bases

Pitchers: Lacey Waldrop- 38-5, 1.01 ERA, 282 strikeouts, .184 average against, Jessica Burroughs- 17-1, 2.02, 120 strikeouts, .198 average against

The Seminoles are making their first trip to OKC since 2004, thanks in large part to the play of Maddie O'Brien, one of the best players in the country. FSU cruised through the regular season, running together win streaks of at least 15 games three times and losing back-to-back games just once. The combination of O'Brien at the plate and pitcher Lacey Waldrop in the circle is a great combination for FSU. Waldrop leads the nation in wins with 38 this year, and boasts a 1.01 ERA in 46 appearances.

Key stat: FSU has enjoyed the luxury of playing from ahead most of the season and have entered the fifth inning of games trailing just seven times. The Seminoles are just 3-4 when trailing after four innings this year.


Baylor Bears: No. 13 seed, 47-14 in 2014, third WCWS appearance

Lost series to Oklahoma, 2-1, April 11-13 (2-3, 0-2, 8-6)

How they got to OKC: Won Waco Regional (Northwestern State, Tulsa twice), swept Georgia in Athens Super Regional

Key Batters: Kaitlyn Thurmann- .387 average, eight HR, 16 stolen bases, Linsey Hays- .333 average, 13 HR, 48 RBI, Clare Hosack- .287 average, 11 HR, 42 RBI

Pitchers: Whitney Canion- 31-10, 1.40 ERA, 296 strikeouts, .173 average against, Heather Stearns- 13-4, 1.69 ERA, 123 strikeouts, .239 average against

This year's Baylor team is the most powerful in school history, having clubbed 70 home runs so far this season. Pitcher Whitney Canion has been arguably the best pitcher in school history and in this, her senior season, she's turned in her best season, posting career-lows in runs, walks, homers, average against, shutouts and wins. She gives the Bears a chance in every game, no matter what the score is. Baylor has some WCWS experience on the roster, as the Bears last went to Oklahoma City in 2011.

Key stat: Baylor is 11-10 in games when it scores two or fewer runs. Canion's expertise in the circle gives the Bears a chance to win even when the offense isn't performing at its highest level.


Kentucky Wildcats: No. 14 seed, 49-17 in 2014, first WCWS appearance

Beat Oklahoma, 5-4, in 10 innings on Feb. 7 at Mizuno Invitational/Easton Tournament

How they got to OKC: Won Lexington Regional (Ohio, James Madison, DePaul), beat UCLA, 2-1, in Los Angeles Super Regional

Key Batters: Lauren Cumbess- .311 average, 9 HR, 39 RBI, Griffin Joiner- .308 average, 10 HR, 39 RBI, Nikki Sagermann- .282 average, 13 HR, 49 RBI

Pitchers: Kelsey Nunley- 29-9, 1.85 ERA, 202 strikeouts, .213 average against, Lauren Cumbess- 10-1, 2.07 ERA, 78 strikeouts, .203 average against

Kentucky is a new player on the softball stage. The Wildcats made their first NCAA tournament appearance in 2009 and have been back every year since, but this is the first trip to Oklahoma City. Pitcher Kelsey Nunley has been a big reason why Kentucky has made it this far. She has pitched every inning of the postseason so far, something coach Rachel Lawson said wasn't the plan, but that it worked out that way. Kentucky is a scrappy team, not built to bludgeon an opponent into submission. Kentucky averages 4.67 runs per game, but the pitching allows the Wildcats a little leeway with their offense.

Key stat: The Wildcats were just 2-13 in games when trailing after six innings, but were 8-1 in extra-inning games.