Previewing the 2012 WCWS field
Breaking down the eight squads heading to Oklahoma City
Season Statistics | Schedule | Roster
School: Alabama Nickname: Crimson Tide City: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Conference: Southeastern Record (NCAA selection): 55-7 (SEC champion)
Coach (record): Patrick Murphy (767-197 in 15 years overall, 739-217 in 14 years at UA)
NCAA bids: 14 WCWS bids (titles bold): 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012
Down the order: You want power? It's there as the Crimson Tide are among the national leaders in home runs with 93. Speed? Oh yeah, it's there as Bama has rolled to second place nationally with 137 stolen bases. And the Tide is hitting at a .318 clip as a team while putting people on base at a .432 pace. Jennifer Fenton leads the way with a .389 batting average and 43 steals but it's been the bat of Kaila Hunt that has led the Tide lately as she has 17 RBI in the past eight games since the start of the SEC tournament.
In the circle: Jackie Traina is the only name you need to know here. The super sophomore has a 37-2 record after winning her last eight decisions. She ranks among the national leaders in wins and strikeouts (316). When she's not in the circle, Amanda Locke has been impressive recently, shutting down Florida in the SEC championship game and winning a second consecutive decision in the regional opener before Traina took the nod in the past four contests.
Road to OKC: The Crimson Tide have barely broken a sweat, outscoring opponents 24-7 in five postseason games, including allowing more than two runs just once. The tightest contest came in the Tuscaloosa Super Regional finale when Kayla Braud ripped an RBI triple down the right field line for a 4-3 decision to knock Michigan out of title contention and give Bama its eighth WCWS berth. It marked the second consecutive year Alabama rallied to win a super regional, and both times it came in the six inning with an RBI triple.
Season Statistics | Schedule | Roster
School: Arizona State Nickname: Sun Devils City: Tempe, Ariz.
Conference: Pac-12 Record (NCAA selection): 51-9 (at-large)
Coach (record): Clint Meyers (854-131 in 26 years overall, 376-88 in seven years at ASU)
NCAA bids: 24 WCWS bids (titles bold): 1982, 1987, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012
Down the order: Katelyn Boyd is one of three finalists for USA Softball Player of the Year and for good reason. She ranks among the national leaders in a host of offensive categories as she hits .448 on the year with 76 runs, 19 home runs, 61 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Her slugging percentage of .901 and on-base percentage of .572 are aided by the fact that she's one of the most disciplined players at the plate by ranking among the top 15 nationally in walks (49). She isn't alone at being able to put runs on the board. Five other Sun Devils own at least 10 home runs while five have at least 40 RBI on the season.
In the circle: This is Dallas Escobedo's time of year. After a stellar freshman season when she won 37 games and led the Sun Devils to the national title, Escobedo has had an up-and-down sophomore campaign, although she's started to click more in the postseason. She is 23-6 this year with a 2.35 ERA, but she has allowed a surprising 26 home runs in 191.0 innings. Senior Hillary Bach has filled in the gaps nicely, jumping to a 21-1 record while posting a 1.59 ERA, including 10 shutouts.
Road to OKC: The reigning champions lost at home in super regional play for the first time in coach Clint Meyers' tenure, falling to Louisiana-Lafayette 6-0 in the opener. Will that test be enough to ignite a run as Sparky tries to grab back-to-back titles? We will have to wait to find out but so far it was an impressive resurgence as ASU pounded out eight home runs in two wins against the Ragin' Cajuns to advance to Oklahoma City.
School: California Nickname: Golden Bears City: Berkeley, Calif.
Conference: Pac-12 Record (NCAA selection): 56-5 (Pac-12 champion)
Coach (record): Diane Ninemire (1,115-514 in 24 years overall)
NCAA bids: 28 WCWS bids (titles bold): 1986, 1992, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2011, 2012
Down the order: One look at the stat sheet and it's easy to see why Valerie Arioto is a finalist for national player of the year. She is hitting .385 with 65 runs, 60 RBI and 23 home runs, boosting her slugging percentage to .962, which ranks third nationally. Add in her nation-leading 87 walks and you have her gaudy .632 on-base percentage. As a team, the Bears hit .318 to rank 10th nationally. Jamia Reid is also hitting .385 alongside Arioto and when she gets on the bases, she takes advantage, collecting 47 steals (in 51 attempts) to rank third nationally, just one behind the national leaders.
In the circle: It's a case of picking your poison when you face the Bears. California is ranked third nationally behind a duo of aces in Jolene Henderson and Valerie Arioto, who have pitched all but 9.2 innings for the Bears this spring. Henderson owns a 1.10 ERA with a sparkling 36-2 record, including picking up a pair of victories in the super regional. She's fresher than a year ago when the Bears reached the WCWS with her carrying the load; this year she has pitched 255.1 innings, compared to 333.1 innings in 2011. Arioto's return after missing last season with an injury has helped as she sports a 20-3 record with a 1.32 ERA.
Road to OKC: California enjoyed home cooking the past two weekends, playing host to its first postseason games in Berkeley, Calif., since 1993. The Bears stumbled in their second game of the regional, but came back to win three consecutive by a combined 25-2 margin to set up a Pac-12 showdown with No. 16 seed Washington. Cal had little problems reaching its second consecutive and 12th overall WCWS, dispatching the Huskies in two super regional shutouts. Now the question remains: what do the Golden Bears have in store for the OKC crowds in the 10th anniversary season of the program's only national championship?
Season Statistics | Schedule | Roster
School: Louisiana State Nickname: Tigers City: Baton Rouge, La.
Conference: Southeastern Record (NCAA selection): 39-23 (at-large)
Coach (record): Beth Torina (168-134 in 5 years overall, 39-23 in 1 year at LSU)
NCAA bids: 14 WCWS bids (titles bold): 2001, 2004, 2012
Down the order: LSU is not known for its offense, and don't expect it to change that in Oklahoma City. The Tigers are hitting just .221 on the year and have only 65 extra-base hits in 62 games, including just 13 home runs. Ashley Langoni leads the way in most offensive categories, pacing the Tigers in hits (43), runs (33), doubles (11), home runs (6) and RBI (30).
In the circle: The Tigers have hit their stride at just the right time and much of it has to do with the pitching staff. LSU, which enters the WCWS ranked ninth nationally with a 1.51 team ERA, won the College Station Regional by allowing just one run in three games and held Missouri to just one run in each of the Tigers' two super regional wins, although to be fair, MU did put up five runs to win Game 2. Rachele Fico is among the rare breed with an ERA under 1.0. She enters the week with a 0.92 ERA despite having lost 11 games. Her 20 wins are five more than Brittany Mack's win total (15-12). Mack owns a 2.21 ERA and has combined with Fico for 406 strikeouts on the season.
Road to OKC: LSU made quick work of the two teams it faced in the regional, dispatching Texas State and Texas A&M (twice) by allowing just seven hits all weekend. The road got more difficult in the Columbia Super Regional as Missouri, which had been to the past three WCWS, came back from a first-game loss to win Game 2 by a 5-1 margin. Simone Heyward's three-run hit was the difference in the decisive game, allowing first-year coach Beth Torina to bring her Tigers to Oklahoma City.
School: Oklahoma Nickname: Sooners City: Norman, Okla.
Conference: Big 12 Record (NCAA selection): 50-8 (Big 12 champion)
Coach (record): Patty Gasso (1,029-336 in 22 years overall, 867-277 in 18 years at OU)
NCAA bids: 19 WCWS bids (titles bold): 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2011, 2012
Down the order: Where do you start? Keilani Ricketts is arguably the most feared two-way player in the country, as she hits a team-leading .407 with 16 home runs and 45 RBI this season, and yet she's not the one garnering all the attention on offense. Freshman Lauren Chamberlain set the Big 12 Conference record with 27 home runs this season while adding 71 RBI, giving OU another potent bat to back up Ricketts in the circle. Add in Jessica Shults' .382 average and 19 home runs and Georgia Casey's .376 hitting and you have the makings of one of the nation's most potent offenses.
In the circle: Dominating may not be Keilani Ricketts' middle name, but it's definitely what she does best. The junior All-American is a finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year after improving to 33-7 with a pair of victories against Arizona in the Norman Super Regional. She is third nationally entering the week with 393 strikeouts this season -- including nine consecutive at one point in the deciding super regional game -- while posting an ERA under 1.00 and helping OU lead the nation with a 1.15 team ERA.
Road to OKC: The Sooners know the road to Oklahoma City and were ready to make the trip. OU is back in the WCWS for the second consecutive season and seventh time since 2000, when coach Patty Gasso lead Oklahoma to the national title. This year, the Sooners outscored opponents 45-5 in the first two rounds to reach OKC, including allowing just two runs in the past 29.0 innings.
School: Oregon Nickname: Ducks City: Eugene, Ore.
Conference: Pac-12 Record (NCAA selection): 44-16 (at-large)
Coach (record): Mike White (122-53 in 3 years overall)
NCAA bids: 14 WCWS bids (titles bold): 1989, 2012
Down the order: The Ducks hit at a .311 pace, ranking 15th nationally, but are fifth among teams in the WCWS. Samantha Pappas has led the way with a .396 average in 58 games while posting a team-high 67 hits. Once she's on base, Pappas has 21 steals in 24 attempts, helping UO to 78 steals in 99 tries. Kaylan Howard is also one of eight Ducks hitting better than .300, posting a .337 average with team highs in runs (44) and home runs (12). The later a category she shares the lead with Kailee Cuico, who also holds a one-RBI edge in the team lead (53 to 52) over Howard.
In the circle: Oregon has the highest team ERA of any squad in this year's WCWS field, sporting a 2.81 ERA in 60 games. That hasn't been a problem as the Ducks have lit up the scoreboard, pushing their opponents' ERA above 5.50. Jessica Moore leads the way with 32 wins and a 2.57 ERA while collecting 244 of the team's 317 strikeouts. She has thrown all but 1.0 inning in the postseason while earning a 5-1 record. Karissa Hovinga is 12-3 with a 3.14 ERA but has figured into a decision only once in the past month.
Road to OKC: It was smooth sailing in the regional round as the Ducks won three consecutive games at home, but then memories of the past two years crept into their minds. In the super regional opener, Texas ran past UO 4-2, and the possibilty of a third consecutive year going 0-2 at a super regional was on the horizon. Oregon found a way to make history as it rallied for a 5-4 win in a chippy Game 2 that saw Kailee Cuico and pitching coach Lisa Dodd each ejected. The Ducks then pounded out a 10-6 victory in Game 3 -- which wasn't near as close as the final score indicated -- to earn its second all-time WCWS bid and first since 1989.
School: South Florida Nickname: Bulls City: Tampa, Fla.
Conference: Big East Record (NCAA selection): 50-12 (at-large)
Coach (record): Ken Eriksen (691-367-1 in 16 years overall)
NCAA bids: 11 WCWS bids (titles bold): 2012
Down the order: Don't expect South Florida to overpower anyone in Oklahoma City. The Bulls enter the final week of the season with a .262 team batting average and just 27 home runs. Yes, that's correct, 27 total home runs as a squad, the same amount Oklahoma freshman Lauren Chamberlain has by herself. Kourtney Salvarola paces the team as the only Bull with a batting average above .300 (.327 to be exact) while Janine Richardson and Stephanie Medina lead the team with seven home runs apiece. Only one other Bull, Kenshyra Jackson with five, has more than three homers.
In the circle: USF has lived and died by its pitching all season as it ranks second nationally -- only behind Oklahoma -- with a 1.18 team ERA. The Bulls have taken four one-run victories in the postseason, mostly thanks to Sara Nevins. The staff ace, Nevins owns a 31-6 record while ranking among the national leaders with a 1.03 ERA. She has struck out 323 batters in 245.2 innings while allowing opponents just a .184 batting average. Lindsey Richardson is 9-2 with a 1.34 ERA to provide some relief for Nevin, who also has a team-high four saves this season.
Road to OKC: With its experience in the circle, South Florida was a trendy pick as a darkhorse to reach a super regional, but getting all the way to the WCWS? Few pundits thought the Bulls had enough to reach Oklahoma City. It almost proved true as USF needed to win a pair of one-run games on Saturday to climb out of a 1-0 series hole against Hofstra in the super regional. Sara Nevins picked up wins in both games to give South Florida its first WCWS berth. Those dramatic victories came a week after USF shocked the Sunshine State by knocking off No. 5 seed and 2011 national runner-up Florida on its home field, including two more one-run victories.
School: Tennessee Nickname: Lady Vols City: Knoxville, Tenn.
Conference: Southeastern Record (NCAA selection): 52-12 (at-large)
Co-Coaches (record): Ralph Weekly (1,017-344-2 in 24 years overall; 516-163-2 in 11 years at UT)
Co-Coaches (record): Karen Weekly (739-260-2 in 15 years overall; 516-163-2 in 11 years at UT)
NCAA bids: 10 WCWS bids (titles bold): 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012
Down the order: The Lady Vols are aggressive and it shows in their offensive statistics. They get on base at a .398 clip and have 111 stolen bases in 128 attempts. Raven Chavanne leads the charge as she has reached base in 43 consecutive games and owns a team-best .433 batting average while posting 32 stolen bases, getting caught only three times. She also is one of the toughest players in the nation to strikeout, having been punched out just six times in 180 at-bats. Madison Shipman (.319, 10, 63) and Lauren Gibson (.318, 13, 46) provide the power in the Lady Vols' lineup.
In the circle: The only name you need to know here is Renfroe. The question is, which one will you see? Ivy has been the postseason strength, earning all six of the Lady Vols' wins to move to 25-8 on the year. Younger sister Ellen was dominating earlier in the year, but has struggled some lately, although she still has a 27-4 record with a 1.18 ERA that ranks among the national leaders. Combined, the Renfroes have 470 strikeouts (297 by Ellen, 194 by Ivy) this season. They have also backed each other up regularly with Ellen owning four saves while Ivy has three.
Road to OKC: It didn't start well. Tennessee was shut out in the first game of its home regional, losing 1-0 to Miami (Ohio). The Lady Vols rallied though, cruising through the next four games -- including beating Virginia Tech twice on the final day -- to reach the super regional. It took three one-run games, including dropping the middle contest, but UT remained perfect in advancing to the WCWS after reaching the super regionals (five super regional bids turned into five WCWS berths) as it edged SEC foe Georgia for a trip to Oklahoma City.