Five Teams Under The Radar Ahead Of The NCAA Tournament
With conference tournaments about to get underway around the country, the usual suspects are primed to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Teams that are regulars in Oklahoma City like Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida State and UCLA have a good shot at ending their season at the Women’s College World Series once again this year. To boot, there are also new contenders like Northwestern, Virginia Tech and Arkansas that have a chance to compete for a national championship.
But there are also a bunch of underrated teams that can wreak havoc this year in the postseason and potentially upset some favorites. See below for the teams we think have the potential to do just that.
South Florida has Georgina Corrick, one of the best pitchers in the entire country, who can single-handedly carry her team to a deep run in the tournament. South Florida is 39-13 to date this season and Corrick is responsible for 31 of those victories with an eye-popping 0.44 ERA and 357 strikeouts. The team's offense is a question mark, but Alexis Johns and Meghan Sheehan are leading the way, and with Corrick in the circle, anything is certainly possible.
Missouri was expected to be a contender this year, but the squad hit a rough patch earlier in the season. However, the Tigers are currently on a seven-game winning streak that includes a road sweep over a ranked Kentucky team, as well as a home sweep over Texas A&M. The bats are hot as the Tigers have launched 80 home runs this season, with four players with double-digit home runs. Kimberly Wert is the definition of an RBI machine, as the graduate senior has posted six home runs and 19 RBIs during the team's winning streak.
The Fighting Irish were one win away from making super regionals last year, and now they are primed to potentially reach that feat and more this season. The team has a solid offense that is second in the ACC with a .344 batting average. Karina Gaskins is leading the way with a batting average of .434 to go along with 56 RBIs, which are both individual bests in the ACC. The pitching staff is solid all-around with a trio of arms, each with over 75 innings pitched this spring and a combined team ERA of 2.47
The Cardinal have what it takes to pull off upsets this postseason. They have done it twice this year already, picking up series victories over Pac-12 leaders UCLA and Arizona State. Alana Vawter continues to lead the Cardinal pitching staff, and the Pac-12 Conference overall, with 20 victories, while posting a 1.68 ERA in the circle this season. The Cardinal staff is good at limiting opposing run production, as they are second in the Pac-12 behind only UCLA in ERA this season.
Just like the Tigers, Michigan was expected to be a national title contender this season, with the return of arguably the best one-two punch in the circle in Alex Storako and Meghan Beaubien. The Wolverines, however, have struggled to put the ball in play, but you can never count out reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Lexie Blair to deliver a key RBI. The additions of Kristina Burkhardt and Melina Livingston have also bolstered the team's lineup this year. It is always said that good pitching can beat good hitting, and Michigan is one of a few teams to have the luxury of having two All-American arms in the bullpen that are capable of willing their team to a deep run in the tournament.