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2023 Women's College World Series Preview

national championship trophy Photo by C. Morgan Engel_NCAA Photos via Getty Images.jpg
(Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The Women’s College World Series is back in Oklahoma City once again in 2023, and with it comes the best that college softball has to offer. This well-rounded field of perennial powers and resurgent programs alike paint the perfect picture of the sport at the Division I level these days: It is one of parity, undeniable growth and electrifying entertainment that captivates audiences both young and old.

With national powerhouses Oklahoma, Florida State, Alabama and Oklahoma State advancing to the final eight yet again, and resurgent powers Tennessee, Washington, Stanford and Utah returning to The Greatest Show On Dirt for the first time in a number of years, this year’s WCWS is sure to wow spectators and continue to extend college softball’s much-deserved time in the sun.

No. 1 Oklahoma (56-1)

Love them or hate them, softball fans should all be in awe of what the Sooners have been able to do over the last three seasons. Now playing in its seventh consecutive WCWS and seeking its third straight national title, Oklahoma entered this WCWS on a 48-game winning streak, which marks an NCAA record that surpassed Arizona’s previous 26-year-old record of 47 straight wins.

The No. 1 team in the country for most of the 2023 season is propelled by what feels like an army of softball giants. Be it sophomore Jordy Bahl (18-1, 1.08 ERA), junior Nicole May (18-0, 0.82 ERA) or redshirt senior Alex Storako (17-0, 1.13 ERA) in the circle, or junior Jayda Coleman (.417 BA, 15 2B, 16 HR, 46 RBIs), junior Tiare Jennings (.436 BA, 15 2B, 16 HR, 60 RBIs) or senior Kinzie Hansen (.415 BA, 12 HR, 53 RBIs) at the plate, the Sooners are loaded from top to bottom in their lineup, and are undoubtedly the team to beat in Oklahoma City yet again.

After dominating the regional round and then sweeping Clemson at home in a dramatic super regional at Marita Hynes Field, the Big 12 regular-season and tournament champions seek their seventh national title in program history and fifth in the last seven postseasons. Twenty-seven of Oklahoma’s 56 wins this season have been run-rule victories, so should another team step up and claim the 2023 national title, it would shock the softball world far and wide.

No. 3 Florida State (55-9)

The Seminoles got the redemption they longed for this year after losing in their own regional last season as the No. 2 national seed. When they made it through a tough regional round and then swept Georgia to punch their ticket to the WCWS, it marked their first super regional series win on their home field since they last won the national title in 2018.

Led by senior Kathryn Sandercock (26-3, 1.10 ERA) in the circle, and junior Kalei Harding (.320 BA, 10 HR, 21 2B, 48 RBIs) and redshirt sophomore Jahni Kerr (.362 BA, 15 2B, 8 HR, 38 RBIs) on offense, Florida State is poised for a deep run in OKC after a season that saw them capture both the ACC regular-season and tournament titles.

At their 12th WCWS in program history, the scrappy Seminoles are in search of their second national championship.

No. 4 Tennessee (49-8)

The Lady Vols are back in OKC for the first time since 2015 and the eighth time in program history after a dominant 2023 season that saw them win the SEC regular-season and tournament titles. Tennessee, whose 49 wins mark the most for the program in a single season since winning 52 contests in 2013, swept through regionals and super regionals against Texas to punch a ticket to this year’s WCWS.

Led by graduate student Ashley Rogers (18-1, 0.75 ERA) and senior Payton Gottshall (16-1, 1.42 ERA) in the circle, and the powerful trio of senior Kiki Milloy (.420 BA, 11 2B, 25 HR, 56 RBIs), sophomore McKenna Gibson (.369 BA, 10 2B, 15 HR, 59 RBIs) and junior Zaida Puni (.372 BA, 12 2B, 13 HR and 56 RBIs) at the plate, Tennessee is looking to play the spoiler this year in OKC and capture the program’s first national title.

No. 5 Alabama (45-20)

Like they have done when it’s mattered most this season, the Crimson Tide found a way to win and advance to the WCWS for the 14th time in program history.

After an up-and-down regular season and a big scare in the regional round, during which it was able to survive the winner-take-all game against Middle Tennessee, Alabama defeated Northwestern by taking two of three contests against the Wildcats by the tightest of margins in the super-regional round at home.

Graduate student Montana Fouts (25-10, 1.48 ERA) led the way in the circle for the Tide this year, despite enduring an injury down the stretch that has limited her playing time during the postseason. Alabama was able to rely on junior Jaala Torrence (9-2, 1.98 ERA) when Fouts went down, as she provided her team with quality postseason innings leading up to the WCWS. At the plate, Alabama is led by graduate students Ashley Prange (.324 BA, 11 2B, 16 HR, 46 RBIs) and Ally Shipman (.314 BA, 15 2B, 34 RBIs), who bring plenty of veteran leadership to the Tide’s lineup.

Alabama is in search of its second national championship.

kathryn sandercock photo by jade hewitt_athletes unlimited.jpg

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No. 6 Oklahoma State (46-14)

For the fourth straight season and 11th time overall, Oklahoma State has advanced to the WCWS after a campaign during which the Cowgirls hit a couple of rough patches, but eventually found their way.

After sweeping through the regional round and then dominating the unseeded Oregon Ducks in super regionals, the Pokes are certainly contenders to make some noise this year in OKC.

Led in the circle by redshirt senior Kelly Maxwell (16-5, 1.77 ERA) and senior Lexi Kilfoyl (15-5, 1.82 ERA), and at the plate by graduate students Rachel Becker (.449 BA, 22 2B, 28 RBIs) and Kiley Naomi (.372 BA, 17 2B, 13 HR, 64 RBIs) as well as redshirt freshman Micaela Wark (.323 BA, 10 HR, 51 RBIs), the Cowgirls seek their first national title.

No. 7 Washington (43-13)

For the 15th time overall and first time since 2019, Washington will compete for a national championship at the WCWS.

Led by freshman Ruby Meylan (18-5, 2.19 ERA) and junior Lindsay Lopez (13-3, 3.49 ERA) in the circle, and fifth-year student-athletes Baylee Klingler (.388 BA, 14 2B, 12 HR, 47 RBIs) and Sami Reynolds (.365 BA, 11 2B, 8 HR, 34 RBIs) on offense, the Huskies are perhaps the grittiest team in OKC this year. After overcoming an improbable six-run deficit in the winner-take-all regional final late in the game against McNeese, Washington grinded out one of the best postseason comebacks in NCAA softball postseason history, and then swept Louisiana at home in super regionals to punch a ticket to the WCWS.

The Huskies seek their second national championship in program history.

No. 9 Stanford (45-13)

Playing the road warrior in the super-regional round didn’t bother Stanford one bit, as the Cardinal swept eighth-seeded Duke to advance to the program’s third WCWS in program history and first since 2004.

Led by the pitching of freshman sensation NiJaree Canady (16-1, 0.48 ERA) and senior Alana Vawter (20-8, 1.83 ERA), Stanford proved this season that it always has a chance to win with its aces in the circle. Though it is the squad with the lowest power numbers at this year’s WCWS, Stanford’s scrappiness and ability to find a way to win makes it a threat to any WCWS opponent it faces. Leading the Cardinal at the plate are freshman River Mahler (.367 BA, 21 RBIs), graduate student Taylor Gindlesperger (.340, 15 2B, 6 3B, 19 RBIs) and junior Aly Kaneshiro (11 2B, 7 HR, 40 RBIs).

Stanford is in search of its first national title.

No. 15 Utah (42-14)

After nearly 30 years, the wait is over and Utah is back in the WCWS for the first time since 1994. This year’s inaugural Pac-12 Tournament champions are a complete squad led in the circle by junior Mariah Lopez (23-6, 2.15 ERA) and graduate student Sydney Sandez (13-5, 3.04 ERA), and on the offensive side by junior Aliya Belarde (.400 BA, 9 2B, 31 RBIs), senior Julia Jimenez (.349 BA, 14 2B, 10 HR, 51 RBIs) and graduate student Ellessa Bonstrom (.337 BA, 12 2B, 11 HR, 54 RBIs).

The Utes were able to breeze through their own regional before ending San Diego State’s Cinderella story in the winner-take-all finale of super regionals at home in Salt Lake City.

Making its fourth WCWS appearance in program history, Utah seeks its first national championship.

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