Previewing the WCWS teams
Breakdown of the eight squads heading to Oklahoma City
Nickname: Crimson Tide
City: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Record (NCAA selection): 51-9 (at-large, SEC regular-season champions)
Coach (record): Patrick Murphy (713-188 in 14 years overall, 682-208 in 13 years at UA)
NCAA appearances: 13
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011
Down the order: A first-tem Capital One Academic All-American as a sophomore, Kayla Braud was a top-10 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year and earned All-SEC and Louisville Slugger/NFCA first-team All-South Region honors. She is hitting .440 with an NCAA-leading 58 steals entering WCWS play. Junior Cassie Reilly-Boccia hits sixth for Alabama and counts the team’s biggest RBI of the season among her 43 RBIs this year after poking a triple to score the lone run in the deciding Super Regional game against Stanford.
In the circle: Alabama has a great 1-2 punch with senior Kelsi Dunne and freshman Jackie Traina in the circle. Dunne has carried the load for the Crimson Tide for four years and enters the WCWS with a 1.15 ERA, 27-4 record and 309 strikeouts. She is complimented by Traina, who checks in with a 19-5 record, 1.28 ERA and 183 strikeouts. Both have pitched significant innings in postseason play.
Road to OKC: The Crimson Tide staked its claim on the Southeastern Conference early, sweeping a three-game weekend series from then-No. 1 Georgia on March 18-20. They weathered a rough patch in early April, dropping all three games at LSU, including tough losses in 14- and 10-inning contests. Alabama went on to capture the SEC regular-season title despite having to cancel their final home weekend after a tornado devastated Tuscaloosa on April 27. The Tide returned to town for NCAA tournament play, sweeping through the home regional before dropping the opening game of Super Regional play to Stanford. UA then swept a doubleheader from the Cardinal on Friday to become the first team to advance to Oklahoma City.
Key Moment: Alabama had four home games canceled at the end of April, starting with an April 27 contest against UAB the day Tuscaloosa was devastated by a tornado. When the Crimson Tide returned to the diamond on May 6 at Ole Miss, they were able to shake off the rust and post a trio of wins 8-0 (5 inn.), 18-1 (5 inn.) and 10-1. Alabama has lost just twice since then, only to Georgia in the SEC Tournament semifinals and in the opening game of the Super Regional to Stanford.
School: Arizona State
Nickname: Sun Devils
City: Tempe, Ariz.
Record (NCAA selection): 53-6 (automatic qualifier, Pac-10 champion)
Coach (record): Clint Meyers (798-122 in 25 years, 317-79 in six years at ASU)
NCAA appearances: 23
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 1982, 1987, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
Down the order: Junior Katelyn Boyd headlines the Sun Devil offense, hitting .444 on the season with 60 RBIs, 17 home runs and 74 runs scored. A first-team All-Pac-10 and NFCA All-Region selection, Boyd is on of three finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award. Senior catcher Kaylyn Castillo checks in with a .357 batting average, eight home runs and 35 runs scored.
In the circle: Freshman Dallas Escobedo has pitched 206.1 of ASU’s 366.2 innings this season, holding a 30-3 record and 1.32 ERA. A first-team Louisvile Slugger/NFCA All-Region selection, Escobedo is a member of the 2010-11 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team.
Road to OKC: The Pac-10 champions won each of their seven league series, including sweeps of Arizona, Oregon State and Washington for a 17-4 league record. ASU has played all of its five NCAA tournament games at Farrington Stadium on their Tempe, Ariz., campus, topping North Dakota State, Long Beach State and San Diego State during regional play before sweeping Texas A&M in the Super Regional.
Key Moment: Arizona State softball has a long and storied history, dating to the late 1960s, but the Sun Devils accomplished a program first earlier this season. In late April, ASU traveled to Tucson, Ariz., and for the first time in program history swept in-state rival Arizona. The three-day sweep started on April 21 with a 4-0 victory, followed by a 13-10 win and an 8-3 victory. The middle game of that series featured the Sun Devils coming back from a 9-1 deficit to earn the win. Also notable is that those were the third, fourth and fifth wins for Arizona State in Tucson in program history.
City: Waco, Texas
Conference: Big 12
Record (NCAA selection): 45-13 (at-large)
Coach (record): Glenn Moore (578-262 in 14 years, 439-220 in 11 years at Baylor)
NCAA appearances: 7
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 2007, 2011
Down the order: Sophomore outfielder Kathy Shelton holds Baylor’s top batting average, checking in at .356 with 21 RBIs and 33 stolen bases to go with her 35 runs scored and 68 hits on the year. A second-team all-region selection, Shelton also earned All-Big 12 honors. Senior shortstop Dani Leal checks in with first-team all-region honors, having hit .342 with 32 runs scored, six doubles, 11 stolen bases and a team-high 38 RBIs. Second-team All-Big 12 selection Kayce Walker has only one error in the outfield, while hitting .33 with 18 stolen bases, while fellow second-team honoree junior infielder Megan Turk, who adds 25 runs scored and seven doubles to the Bears offense.
In the circle: Whitney Canion helped her cause with two home runs during the Athens Super Regional while earning both of Baylor’s wins on the road last weekend. A first-team all-region selection, Canion is 28-9 on the season with a 1.16 ERA, having thrown 236.1 of her team’s 383.2 innings this season. She has 301 strikeouts on the season and is now Baylor’s all-time career strikeout leader. She also helped her own cause with a pair of home runs against the Bulldogs on the weekend.
Road to OKC: Baylor started the 2011 season on a school-record 14-game winning streak, playing 11 of those game at home. The Bears finished fourth in the Big 12 Conference with an 11-7 record and have won 14 of their last 19 games. Two of the five losses in that stretch came against Oklahoma State, another WCWS opponent.
Key Moment: On March 14 in Tucson, Ariz., the Bears posted a 3-2 victory against Arizona to capture the three-game series from the Widlcats. Arizona posted two runs in the bottom of the third inning and held the lead until the top of the seventh before Baylor put three runs on the board, two from a Dani Leal home run, for the 3-2 victory. With the late surge, Baylor became the the rare non-conference team to take a three-game series from Arizona at Hillenbrand Stadium.
Nickname: Golden Bears
City: Berkley, Calif.
Record (NCAA selection): 44-11 (at-large)
Coach (record): Diane Ninemire (1,058-509 in 24 years at Cal)
NCAA appearances: 27
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 1986, 1992, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2011
Down the order: Freshman shortstop Britt Vonk leads the way for California, hitting .412 with 45 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. Vonk earned second-team NFCA All-Pacific Region honors in a region where two other shortstops are among the three finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award. Junior outfielder Jamia Reid and junior third baseman Jace Williams both captured first-team all-region honors for the Golden Bears. Reid is hitting .409 entering the WCWS with a team-high 30 stolen bases to go with 42 runs scored. Williams is hitting .387 with 10 doubles and a team-leading 41 RBIs.
In the circle: Sophomore Jolene Henderson has carried the load for the Golden Bears in the circle. On the season, she has pitched 314.1 of her team’s 364.0 innings. Henderson, a first-team All-Pacific Region selection, holds an 0.87 ERA and has posted an impressive 39-8 record while striking out 313 batters during the 2011 campaign.
Road to OKC: The Bears finished second in the Pac-10 standings with a 15-6 record on the season and finished the regular season on a hot streak by winning 15 of their last 17 games. California got very familiar with the Bluegrass State during postseason play, sweeping through their NCAA regional site in Louisville, Ky., with a win against Jacksonville State and two against host Louisville before heading an hour east to face Kentucky in Super Regional play. The Golden Bears won the series opener in a low-scoring 1-0 affair before falling 8-0 in five innings in Sunday’s opener. Cal rebounded with an offensive outburst in a 9-0, seven-inning victory to win the series and advance to Oklahoma City.
Key Moment: The Golden Bears closed out an 11-game homestand on May 1 with a 2-1 victory against UCLA on senior day. It capped off the first sweep of UCLA, the defending national champions, by California since the 1998 season, and it came in walk-off fashion on a two-out bases-loaded single by Jamia Reid. UCLA led that game 1-0 going into the bottom of the sixth before the Golden Bears scored once in the sixth and once in the seventh for the win.
City: Gainesville, Fla.
Record (NCAA selection): 52-10 (at-large)
Coach (record): Tim Walton (450-141 in nine years, 327-77 in six years at UF)
NCAA appearances: 12
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
Down the order: Junior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie leads the way offensively for the Gators with a .431 batting average and 28 stolen bases. Florida boasts a trio of first-team all-region honorees in the lineup, including senior first baseman Megan Bush, senior outfielder Kelsey Bruder and sophomore utility Brittany Schutte. Bush is hitting .345 with 20 home runs this season. Bruder contributes a .386 average with 17 home runs and 14 doubles with nine stolen bases, while Schutte has hit 20 home runs with a .322 batting average, three stolen bases and 60 runs scored this season.
In the circle: Freshman Hannah Rogers earned first-team all-region honors after carrying the load in the circle for Florida this season. Rogers has a team-leading 238.0 innings pitched this season, recording 203 strikeouts and a 33-6 record with 10 shutouts, three saves and a 1.59 ERA. Senior Stephanie Brombacher has contributed 135.0 IP with a 19-2 record and 1.09 ERA.
Road to OKC: Florida weathered a rough stretch in late March to early April, dropping six consecutive SEC games, including three at home to Georgia and three at Kentucky. The Gators rebounded by sweeping their next two weekends against Arkansas and Auburn and climbing back to earn the second seed in the SEC Tournament. An early exit from the single-elimination bracket left the Gators with time to prepare for their NCAA Regional played in Gainesville. After an opening-day win against Bethune-Cookman, Florida played three consecutive games against defending NCAA champion UCLA, taking two out of three to advance to a Super Regional matchup with the Oregon Ducks. That series ended in two games as Florida became the second SEC team to advance to the 2011 WCWS.
Key Moment: Easter weekend was when the Gators played host to Alabama for a three-game SEC series. After dropping the opening game of the series 5-0, Florida rebounded to win the final two games 6-5 and 3-2. Those one-run victories set up the stretch run for the Gators.
City: Columbia, Mo.
Conference: Big 12
Record (NCAA selection): 52-8 (automatic qualifier, Big 12 champion)
Coach (record): ): Ehren Earleywine (386-129 in eighth year, 240-74 in fifth year at MU)
NCAA appearances: 15
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 1983, 1991, 1994, 2009, 2010, 2011
Down the order: Senior outfielder Rhea Taylor starts Mizzou’s offense, earning first-team all-region honors with a team-best .371 batting average to go along with her 43 steals, 69 hits and 52 runs, all tops among the 2011 Tigers. Junior Ashley Fleming joined Taylor on the all-region first team, with a .358 batting average and 16 steals, 50 runs and a triple to go with her team-best 16 doubles, 14 home runs and 62 RBIs. Sophomore third baseman Nicole Hudson checks in with a .343 average, 47 runs scored, 13 doubles and 13 home runs on the year.
In the circle: The only pitcher among the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award finalists, redshirt sophomore Chelsea Thomas has thrown 245.2 of Mizzou’s 400.0 innings in the circle this season, resulting in a 31-6 record with three saves. Thomas missed most of last season with a stress fracture in the ulna of her pitching arm, but has rebounded with first-team all-region and Big 12 Pitcher-of-the-Year honors in 2011.
Road to OKC: Missouri started Big 12 play by riding out the tail end of a 24-game wining streak that started in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 26. Mizzou did not lose a Big 12 game until April 2 at Baylor. The Tigers rebounded nicely, finishing with a 15-3 conference record and the Big 12 title. Missouri has stayed at home since the concusion of the regular season, hosting a regional when the team played five games in two days because Friday’s schedule was wiped out by rain. An opening 12-3, five-inning victory against Illinios State set up a meeting with DePaul, in which the Tigers would fell 2-1 in 11 innings. After an 8-4 win to eliminate Illinois State, Mizzou swept a Sunday doubleheader from DePaul 7-3 and 8-0 (6 inn.) to advance to Super Regional play. Washington, the tournament’s No. 12 seed, came into Columbia for Super Regional play, but were dispatched in two games, a 4-0 Saturday win and a 6-3 Sunday victory for the bid to Oklahoma City.
Key Moment: A tight Big 12 race came down to the final week of the season with Missouri and Texas fighting neck-and-neck down the stretch. The Longhorns and Tigers played their two-game Big 12 series in Columbia, Mo., on May 7-8 with Texas taking the opener and Mizzou rebounding to win the second game 6-3. A 5-1 win in Stillwater against WCWS foe Oklahoma State set up the final doubleheader of the regular season against Iowa State in Columbia. A sweep of the Cyclones by scores of 8-2 and 8-1 set up Mizzou to at least share the Big 12 championship. A Texas loss to Baylor the following day wrapped up Mizzou’s first conference title since 1997.
City: Norman, Okla.
Conference: Big 12
Record (NCAA selection): 43-17 (at-large)
Coach (record): Patty Gasso (979-326 in 21 years, 817-267 in 17 years at OU)
NCAA appearances: 18
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2011
Down the order: Chana’e Jones tops the Sooners offensive with a .359 batting average while scoring 39 runs and pounding out 11 doubles. The Sooners had four first-team all-region selections: sophomores Keilani Ricketts and Jessica Shults and freshmen Destinee Martinez and Brittany Williams. Shultz has missed all of OU’s NCAA tournament to this point due to illness. Martinez is hitting .356 on the year with a team-high 79 hits, adding 39 runs scored, 23 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. Williams has 12 home runs with 39 RBIs and a team-leading 41 runs scored. Shultz is the team’s home run leader with 19 round-trippers.In the circle: Ricketts leads OU in the circle, posting a 29-13 record with a 1.44 ERA across 272.1 innings. Her 443 strikeouts ranked third in the NCAA entering Super Regional play. Ricketts helped her own cause at the plate in Tucson at the Super Regional, hitting a home run in each win against Arizona.
Road to OKC: Oklahoma weathered an up-and-down non-conference schedule. The Sooners started strong at the Kajikawa Classic and Troy Cox Classic before hitting a bad weekend while going 1-4 at the Cathedral City Classic the last weekend in February. OU rebounded to finish in the middle of the Big 12 pack at 10-8 (fifth) to earn a home site for NCAA regional play. After downing Iona 7-1 in their postseason opener, the regional turned into a best-of-three series with Tulsa as they played to a doubleheader split on Sunday to advance to Super Regional.
Key Moment: Although the Sooners made five consecutive WCWS appearances from 2000 to 2004, OU had never advanced to the WCWS in the Super Regional era. Prior to its sweep of Arizona, OU was 0-4 in Super Regional series. It was also Oklahoma’s third trip to Tucson for Super Regional play, falling in a sweep in 2005 and a three-game set in 2008. The Sooners lost to DePaul at home in 2007, and fell at Washington last year. The Sooners 6-0 and 5-2 wins in Tucson this year marked the team’s first Super Regional wins in program history.
School: Oklahoma State
City: Stillwater, Okla.
Conference: Big 12
Record (NCAA selection): 42-18 (at-large)
Coach (record): Rich Wieligman (173-114 in five years at OSU)
NCAA appearances: 18
WCWS appearances (titles listed by year): 1982, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2011
Down the order: Oklahoma State’s first-team all-region honoree, junior Chelsea Garcia holds a .339 batting average with 12 home runs, 55 RBIs and eight stolen bases. She was joined on the all-region team by seniors Mariah Gearhart and Alysia Hamilton, both of whom earned second team notice. Hamilton leads the Cowgirls with a .400 batting average and 72 hits this season while also posting 17 doubles and 39 RBIs. Gearhardt leads the way with 52 runs scored and 36 stolen bses to go with her six doubles and 63 hits. All three have topped the triple-digit mark in total bases in 2011.
In the circle: Sophomore Kat Espinosa leads the way for the Cowgirls, having tossed 207 innings this season while sporting a 23-8 record that includes the deciding game of the Super Regional against Houston. Espinosa has 146 strikeouts on the season with a 2.13 ERA and three saves.
Road to OKC: Oklahoma State didn’t make a lot of noise in the Big 12 season, finishing at 8-10 in conference play after dropping their last six games of the season. The Cowgirls then rebounded with a 2-1 win against Georgia Tech before shocking the Knoxville crowd by posting back-to-back wins against host and No. 14 seed Tennessee. The Cowgirls then returned to Stillwater, Okla., for a best-of-three Super Regional series against Houston. OSU dropped the middle game of the series 1-0 on Saturday before rebounding later that night with a 6-5 win to advance to Oklahoma City.
Key Moment: Entering NCAA tournament play, Oklahoma State had dropped six consecutive games, all to ranked opponents (Texas A&M, Missouri, Nebraska). The Cowgirls first NCAA tournament game against Georgia Tech in Knoxville, Tenn., saw the Yellow Jackets take a 1-0 lead in the second inning. OSU tied it in the bottom of the third and won in walk-off fashion with an RBI single from Julie Ward in the bottom of the seventh inning. That snapped the six-game losing streak and put the Cowgirls on the path to ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, juts up the road from their home field in Stillwater.