2019 WCWS Preview
In February, 297 teams began the season with the same dream. As of May 26, there are only eight teams left standing.
The teams who have achieved this accomplishment all bring different assets to the field. Teams like Oklahoma, UCLA, Florida and Alabama bring years of experience playing in this tournament and even those teams are drastically different. Oklahoma and UCLA have all the tools that make a possible national champion while Florida has the best true pitcher in the tournament and Alabama is fueled by what it feels as disrespect.
Arizona is back in the tournament in for the first time since 2010 and is clicking on all cylinders. Oklahoma State plays with a chip on their shoulder-type attitude. The Cowgirls pulled off the only upset of a top-eight national seed and aren’t scared of anyone.
Minnesota, on the other hand, has a chance at becoming the cinderella-type story that fans wish to see. The Gophers are the newbies to the tournament and are looking to shock the world.
No. 1 Oklahoma (54-3)
After seeing its 41-game win streak come to an end in the Norman Regional, Oklahoma has now learned how to win when facing adversity. The Sooners swept Big 12 play on their way to another Big 12 regular season championship and then swept Northwestern in their Super Regional.
Giselle “G” Juarez has taken over the role as ace and improved to 26-2 with her Game 1 win over Northwestern. But, it’s the entire starting lineup for the Sooners that doesn’t allow the opposition to relax.
Senior Sydney Romero is a Player of the Year finalist and sets the table at the top of the lineup. It doesn’t get easier after her as any player can hit it out at any time. The combination of Romero, Grace Green and Caleigh Clifton has produced 150-plus runs batted in to this point.
No. 2 UCLA (51-6)
The UCLA Bruins are rolling into the WCWS one of the deepest lineups in their recent history. Rachel Garcia (24-1) leads the way in the circle and is backed by freshman Megan Faraimo (16-4) and sophomore Holly Azevedo (11-1).
Freshman Kelli Godin leads the veteran offense with a .446 batting average in 121 at-bats. Briana Perez, Bubba Nickles and Taylor Pack are all hovering around the .400-mark. Every starter has double-digits RBIs with Nickles (69), Aaliyah Jordan (55), Garcia (49), Pack (48) and Perez (41) all keeping defenses on their toes with their ability find the gaps or hit home runs.
Garcia, last year’s USA Softball Player of the Year, was recently named Softball America’s first-ever Player of the Year.
No. 3 Washington (50-7)
Washington returns to Oklahoma City looking to better its 2018 runner-up finish. The Huskies won a share of the Pac-12 regular season title after a dominating regular season.
Gabbie Plain and Taran Alvelo have been lights out through Regionals and Super Regionals, only allowing one run.
Morganne Flores provides almost half the power for the Huskies. She has 22 of the team’s 46 long balls and also leads the team with 60 RBIs. The human highlight reel known as Sis Bates brings her .987 fielding percentage at shortstop and team-high .386 batting average to the WCWS.
No. 5 Florida (49-16)
The Florida Gators struggled in conference play this season, losing over half of their series but they turned it on when the scheduled turned over to the postseason. They ran through the SEC Tournament and defeated Alabama for the title.
That earned them a national seed and they breezed through the Gainesville Regional.
In the Super Regional, they needed an if-necessary Game 3 against Tennessee to earn the walk-off victory to return them to OKC.
Jaimie Hoover provided the Super Regional fireworks with her game-winning RBI, Kelly Barnhill is absolutely rolling right now and the Gators seem to be peaking at the right time.
Kendyl Lindaman is playing in her first WCWS and leads the team with 14 homers and 53 RBIs. Senior Amanda Lorenz is batting a team-high .419 with a .563 on-base percentage.
No. 6 Arizona (47-12)
Trailing No. 1 Oklahoma in the power categories, Arizona brings the nation’s leading home run hitter, Jessie Harper, to Oklahoma City.
In the Wildcats first WCWS in nine years, Arizona has the strength and determination to make a long run in the tournament. Harper has 69 RBIs while teammates Alyssa Palomino Cardoza and Malia Martinez have 63 and 56 respectively.
Martinez could possibly be the hottest hitter on the U of A lineup after going 6-for-8 in two Super Regional games against Ole Miss.
Taylor McQuillin (23-7) and Alyssa Denham (12-5) both have sub-2.00 earned run averages and oppositions are batting .181 against both.
No. 7 Minnesota (46-12)
For the first time in program history, Minnesota is playing in the WCWS. It definitely wasn’t an easy path. The Gophers had a tough Regional against North Dakota State and Georgia but pulled out a clean sweep.
In Supers, they beat LSU in two games by scores of 5-3 and 3-0.
Amber Fiser has thrown every pitch of the postseason and in 36 innings, she has a 0.78 ERA. Freshman Natalie DenHartog has launched 17 home runs and recorded 63 RBIs in her rookie campaign. Hope Brandner has 19 homers and 59 RBIs.
Catching Up With Florida Star Charla Echols
SA caught up with Florida star Charla Echols about her college softball career.
No. 8 Alabama (57-8)
Alabama was voted to finished eighth in the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Crimson Tide decided to use that as motivated and ran away with the conference’s regular season title.
After losing in the SEC Tournament championship game, Alabama was awarded the overall No. 8 seed. Another number that didn’t sit well in Tuscaloosa. The No. 8 has turned into motivation and Alabama swept the Tuscaloosa Regional and gutted out a gritty Super Regional in three games against No. 9 Texas.
With the SEC’s Freshman and Pitcher of the Year on staff in Montana Fouts and Sarah Cornell, the Tide’s pitching staff is deep enough to shut down any offense.
Bailey Hemphill leads the Alabama offense in almost every category and, heading into the WCWS, is tied with Kelly Kretschman for the program’s single-season homerun record (25).
No. 13 Oklahoma State (44-15)
Since Kenny Gajewski took over the Oklahoma State program in 2015, he steadily brought it back to national prominence. In his fourth season, the Cowgirls are back in the WCWS for the first time since 2011.
After an up-and-down first half of the season, the Cowgirls turned their play up a notch with a series win against Texas in late March. Since that series, OSU finished second in the Big 12 behind overall No. 1 seed Oklahoma then swept the Stillwater Regional against BYU and Tulsa and took down reigning National Champion Florida State in Tallahassee.
Senior transfer Samantha Show is having the best season of her career both in the circle and at the plate. She’s made national headlines for bat flips and brings a certain swagger that allows the Cowgirls to play free but aggressive. Senior Madi Sue Montgomery and freshman Chyenne Factor are two other players to keep an eye as Oklahoma State tries to win its first National Championship.
This story also appears on Page 2 of the WCWS program.