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2022 Women's College World Series Preview

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(Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Has there ever been more parity in a single college softball season? Based on who the participants are in this year’s Women’s College World Series, one can make the argument that the sport has never had more unpredictable results in a single campaign. One year after James Madison shocked the softball world and made an unprecedented run at a national championship, three unseeded teams have the chance to do the same thing this year in Oklahoma City.

While perennial contenders Oklahoma, UCLA, Florida, Oklahoma State and Arizona will once again compete for a national title, Northwestern, Texas and Oregon State will join them with an opportunity to raise the trophy at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. Regardless of who the last team standing is this year, the 2022 NCAA Tournament will absolutely go down as one for the books in college softball history.

No. 1 Oklahoma (54-2)

One of the best teams ever in college softball has put on a show all season long. With home run queen Jocelyn Alo (29 HR, 72 RBI) leading the way, it’s no shock the Sooners are making their 15th WCWS appearance this year. The No. 1 team in the country throughout the entire 2022 campaign has a lineup that is stacked from top to bottom. And Oklahoma also has a bevy of options to turn to in the circle, including freshman Jordy Bahl (21-1, 0.95 ERA), redshirt senior Hope Trautwein (18-1, 0.40 ERA) and sophomore Nicole May (15-0, 0.99 ERA).

The Sooners are seeking their sixth national title in program history and fourth in the last six postseasons. Should Oklahoma cap off its dominant 2022 season by winning it all, the team will become just the ninth squad in NCAA history—and the second Sooners softball team ever—to collect back-to-back national championships.

No. 5 UCLA (48-8)

After the graduation of two-way phenom Rachel Garcia in 2021, there were several questions surrounding UCLA going into this season. But the Bruins answered them all in 2022 and earned their trip to the program’s seventh straight WCWS.

Led in the circle by redshirt junior Megan Faraimo (22-4, 1.70 ERA) and redshirt senior Holly Azevedo (20-2, 1.19 ERA), UCLA is armed and battle-tested heading to Oklahoma City. Steering the ship on offense for the Bruins this year are redshirt seniors Delanie Wisz (14 HR, 58 RBI) and Briana Perez (10 HR, 42 RBI), who are seasoned leaders for UCLA at the plate and in the field. In 2022, the Bruins are making their NCAA-best 31st appearance at the WCWS. They are in search of a 13th national championship.

No. 7 Oklahoma State (46-12)

The 2022 Big 12 Tournament champions slowly but surely improved as the season progressed this year and are making their third straight showing at the WCWS. The Cowgirls are paced by a balanced pitching staff that includes redshirt junior Kelly Maxwell (19-4, 1.16 ERA) and graduate students Miranda Elish (13-4, 2.09 ERA) and Morgan Day (13-4, 2.56 ERA). They are as solid and experienced as they come in the circle, making up the only pitching staff in program history to have three pitchers with 100 or more strikeouts in a single season.

On offense, just about anyone can get it done for the Cowgirls, but particularly dangerous are sophomore Katelynn Carwile (7 HR, 33 RBI), graduate student Sydney Pennington (10 HR, 42 RBI) and senior Chyenne Factor (10 HR, 33 RBI). Oklahoma State rides an eight-game winning streak into this year’s WCWS, and is seeking its first national title.

No. 9 Northwestern (45-11)

The Cardiac ‘Cats are back in the WCWS for the first time since 2007 after a thrilling win over Arizona State in the Tempe Super Regional winner-take-all final. Trailing the Sun Devils by five runs in the fourth inning of that contest, the team battled all the way back and took the deciding game of the three-game series on the road in the gutsiest of fashions. It’s the sixth time in program history that Northwestern has advanced all the way to Oklahoma City.

Behind the heroic efforts of senior ace Danielle Williams (31-4, 1.86 ERA) in the circle all season long, the Wildcats won their first outright Big Ten regular season championship this year since 2006. On offense, Northwestern is led by graduate student and Big Ten Player of the Year Rachel Lewis (22 HR, 61 RBI), senior Jordyn Rudd (8 HR, 52 RBI) and senior Nikki Cuchran (8 HR, 50 RBI). The Wildcats are chasing their first national championship in program history.

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No. 14 Florida (48-17)

The Gators are the only SEC team to advance to the WCWS this year, and they did so in triumphant fashion with a run-rule win over heavy favorite Virginia Tech. Florida’s series win in Blacksburg marked the first time the program captured a Super Regional title on the road.

Leading the Gators at the plate this season are redshirt junior Skylar Wallace (8 HR, 52 RBI) and freshman sparkplug Kendra Falby (3 HR, 26 RBI), while senior Elizabeth Hightower (17-8, 2.44 ERA) is Florida’s ace in the circle. Freshman Lexie Delbrey (15-3, 2.20 ERA) and fifth-year player Natalie Lugo (11-5, 1.98 ERA) are also reliable arms for the Gators this year. Florida is back in Oklahoma City for the first time since 2019 and 11th time overall, and enters the final stop of the college softball season with its highest seed ever at the WCWS. Regardless of their seeding, the Gators will have the chance to compete for their third national title.

Arizona (38-20)

The Wildcats are making their second straight trip to the WCWS, and 25th overall, but under very different circumstances this year. Led by first-year head coach Caitlin Lowe following the retirement of legendary leader Mike Candrea at the conclusion of last season, Arizona was perhaps the most unlikely team of the remaining eight expected to advance to the WCWS in 2022. The squad finished tied for last place in the Pac-12 standings, but has since embraced its opportunity to begin a new season in the NCAA Tournament, during which it is undefeated entering the WCWS.

Sophomore Allie Skaggs (24 HR, 58 RBI) is the slugger to watch for the Wildcats this year, while redshirt senior Hanah Bowen (13-10, 3.67 ERA) and sophomore Devyn Netz (14-7, 3.67 ERA) handle most of the duties in the circle. Anything is certainly possible from a team that started 0-8 in conference play and will finish its season at the WCWS. Arizona is seeking its ninth NCAA title.

Oregon State (39-20)

Oregon State is one of the biggest surprises of the postseason this year, as the Beavers advanced to their first WCWS appearance since 2006 and second in program history with two straight wins over Stanford in the Palo Alto Super Regional. Led by senior two-way star Mariah Mazon in the circle (17-11, 2.05 ERA) and at the plate (12 HR, 40 RBI), Oregon State has been unfazed by expectations of who should win this postseason, despite being road warriors and underdogs the whole way to date.

Freshman Sarah Haendiges (13-6, 1.97 ERA) and junior Frankie Hammoude (15 HR, 39 RBI) are also standouts for the Beavers, who have proved they can sneak up on any opponent this year. Oregon State’s 39 wins thus far in 2022 are the most the program has recorded in a single campaign since 2007. The Beavers will battle for their first national championship.

Texas (43-19-1)

The Longhorns are proof that it’s not how you start the season that’s important, but it’s how well you finish that matters most. After a slow start to the 2022 campaign, Texas is making its sixth all-time WCWS appearance and the first for the program since 2013. In its stunning run to the WCWS this year, senior Janae Jefferson (6 HR, 33 RBI) has undoubtedly decided to go out with a bang, batting .522 in her final NCAA Tournament with three doubles, three home runs and nine runs scored so far.

Getting it done in the circle this season for the Longhorns are senior Hailey Dolcini (22-10, 2.19 ERA), sophomore Estelle Czech (11-1, 3.41 ERA) and freshman Sophia Simpson (8-4, 3.63 ERA), who had a pitching performance for the ages in the winner-take-all final of the Fayetteville Super Regional. In that contest, Simpson tossed a complete-game shutout over fourth-seeded Arkansas, helping Texas become the first team to hand the Razorbacks back-to-back losses this season. The Longhorns are seeking their first national title.

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