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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | May 23, 2019

A complete guide to the NCAA softball super regionals

This will get you excited for this year's WCWS

The 2019 NCAA Division I softball super regionals kick off Thursday with the first set of games. Here’s everything you need to know about the 16 teams still hunting for a spot at the 2019 Women’s College World Series. 

2019 BRACKET: View the 2019 bracket | Printable bracket

Super regionals will pit each team against an opponent in a best-of-three series. The winner will advance to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series. Top-seeded Oklahoma booked its ticket to the super regionals, though Wisconsin ended Oklahoma’s 41-game winning streak in the second tournament battle between these two teams. The Sooners responded by shutting out Wisconsin in the final game of regional competition. Defending champion Florida State also survived its regional, defeating Bethune-Cookman, South Florida and South Carolina to advance. Here’s what you need to know about each of the super regionals: 

Oklahoma vs. Northwestern

 Oklahoma may have looked invincible during the back half of the regular season, but its second game against Wisconsin proved that the team can still be beat. Northwestern will aim to be the next team to take down the top-ranked Sooners, but it won't be easy to do so in front of the Oklahoma home crowd in Norman. The Wildcats battled through a tough Evanston region with wins over Detroit Mercy, Southern Illinois and Louisville. The team initially struggled against Louisville in its second game, falling 2-1 to the Cardinals before bouncing back and taking the next two games 7-0 and 4-3. 

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Oklahoma has the top batting average in the county with .359, and the Sooners also top the charts in earned run average at 1.10; Oklahoma also leads the country in shutouts with 26. Northwestern holds a .271 batting average, but Jordyn Rudd has separated herself as a dangerous force at the plate for the Wildcats with a .339 batting average. The Sooners have the statistical advantage in this game, and they’ll hope to pick up to more wins in Norman to keep their championship dreams alive. 

Texas vs. Alabama 

The Crimson Tide won the SEC regular season title and picked up three wins in the Tuscaloosa Regional without dropping a game. Alabama captured its first W against Alabama State and then followed that up with a win over Arizona State. The final game in the region proved to be a bit more competitive, with the Tide edging out the Sun Devils 9-8. They’ll welcome a Texas team to Tuscaloosa that fought for its regional win, competing for a Game 7 win over Houston after dropping its first game to Sam Houston State 2-1.

Texas sits seventh nationally with a 1.60 ERA. The Tide come in at No. 23 at 2.03, and they also have offensive averages that rank just below the Longhorns. Texas boasts a team average .305 batting average with six hitters over .300, while Alabama holds a .290 average and has five hitters at or above  .300. This series could be competitive, as Alabama averaged eight runs per game in its three regional games and Texas, while only averaging 3.8, has the ability to counter this kind of offense. 

Florida vs. Tennessee

Tennessee almost ended its regional without a loss, but a 1-0 loss to North Carolina in Game 6 of the Regional pushed the series to the final game before the Vols wrapped things up with a 2-0 victory. They’ll travel to Gainesville for a Super Regional contest with Florida, a team they’ve beaten twice this regular season and lost to just once. Florida captured the SEC conference tournament title, and now they’ll face a Tennessee team that’s playing much better than the same squad that dropped to Auburn in the first round of the SEC tournament. If Tennessee competes the way it did against the Gators back in March, the Vols could knock off the conference champs. But they’ll need to make some adjustments to reach that level. 

From a numbers standpoint, Tennessee and Florida enter this super regional fairly even. Tennessee has the advantage offensively, batting a .307 and holding its opponents to a batting average of just .198. Florida, however, has a batting average of .266, with leading hitter Amanda Lorenz pacing both teams at .424. Florida is also top-15 in the country with a .178 ERA, while Tennessee is No. 28 with 2.23. This will be a fun contest between two SEC teams with everything on the line. 

SHOP SOFTBALL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GEAR FROM FANATICS

Oklahoma State vs. Florida State

The Oklahoma State-Florida State Super Regional is a tale of two teams looking for the same outcome for two different reasons. The Seminoles dominated the Tallahassee Regional with two convincing wins over Bethune-Cookman and South Florida and a tight battle with South Carolina. The 54-8 defending champs need two more wins to continue their quest for back-to-back titles. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, is looking for its first Women’s College World Series crown, and if the Cowgirls upset the ACC tournament champions, they’ll make their first trip to the Women’s College World Series since 2011. The Cowgirls' Regional win was their first in eight seasons. But the road ahead  will not be easy.  

The Seminoles are top-five in the nation in the following stats: batting average, home runs per game, on base percentage, scoring, shutouts and slugging percentage. This team knows how to score and how to stop other teams from doing so. Oklahoma State has the potential to make school history if it can keep its tournament winning streak alive, but faces its toughest test yet against Florida State. 

Washington vs. Kentucky

Washington wrapped up its regional action on Sunday night to advance to the super regionals, and the Huskies will now face a Wildcat team that is fresh, rested and undefeated so far in this tournament. Kentucky punched its ticket to the super regional after wins against Toledo and Virginia Tech, allowing just four runs in three games. Washington also finished its regional with three wins, beating Fordham and Mississippi State and letting up even few runs, just one in three games. Star pitcher Gabbie Plain led the Huskies in the final game against the Bulldogs and posted her fourth career no-hitter in the 8-0 shutout win. Washington has combined for six postseason no-hitters and is one of the most dangerous pitching teams in the country, and the Huskies are sure to bring this heat against Kentucky.

 

Washington's defense gives them the statistic advantage in this game. Plaine averages just 1.21 earned runs against per game. Her performance combined with stellar pitching from Taran Alvelo as well as eight games from Pat Moore has given the team a 1.48 ERA. Kentucky’s ERA of 3.94 suggests that they’ll need to increase their offensive production to fight for wins in this series.

Ole Miss vs. Arizona

Arizona came into its regional round looking for three consecutive wins, and that’s exactly what the Wildcats earned in their battles with Harvard and Auburn. The Pac-12 powerhouse took down the Crimson 5-1, topped Auburn 2-1 and ended with an explosive 12-3 victory in their second meeting with the Tigers. They’ll now meet the Ole Miss Rebels, a team that outscored a fierce Louisiana 5-1 and 5-4 in their last two games to earn the second Super Regional berth in program history.

Ole Miss enters the Super Regional with a 41-18 record after a competitive SEC regular season schedule, but Arizona has also faced its fair share of elite competition. Of Arizona’s 12 losses, nine have come against teams that have also advanced to the Super Regionals. The Wildcats and the Rebels have not played each other yet this year, but the Wildcats do have more championship experience than their counterparts. Arizona has won eight Women’s College World Series titles, and while Ole Miss is still looking to earn its first, it will have to top a team that has been in the Super Regionals 14 times in the last 15 years. The Wildcats have the home field advantage, and they’ve shown this year that they’re capable of greatness on their home field, having beaten Minnesota, James Madison, Florida State and Arizona State on this same field. Will Ole Miss take down the experienced Wildcats and move to the Women’s College World Series for the first time? This Super Regional will reveal that answer after a best-of-three series.

Minnesota vs. LSU

Minnesota’s regional win was delayed until Monday because of weather, but the wait didn’t slow down the Gophers. Head coach Jamie Trachsel’s squad posted a statement 8-1 win over Georgia in the final game of the Minneapolis region to continue the team’s run through the tournament and earn the right to take on LSU. The Gophers will now welcome the 43-17 Tigers to Minneapolis for a Super Regional showdown that pits a surging Minnesota team against an LSU squad that has shown flashes of greatness. LSU won the first two games of its regional against Monmouth and Texas Tech, then dropped the third game to the Red Raiders 5-4. A Game 7 battle ended with a 5-1 LSU win and a bid to the Super Regionals.

SCHEDULE: Dates and times for the 2019 Women's College World Series 

The Gophers’ regional win just the second in program history, and they’ll aim to add to the record books with two more wins in the Super Regionals. Neither of these two teams have won a Women’s College World Series title, but a win in this regional would put them closer to such a goal. 

James Madison vs. UCLA

 James Madison has been one of the most fun softball teams to watch this tournament, and they finished their regional play with another exciting performance to book a ticket to the Super Regionals. In Game 7 against Michigan, the Dukes outplayed the Wolverines 2-1 in a tightly contested battle to earn the right to travel the Los Angeles and take on the Bruins. No. 2 UCLA picked up a loss in its regional against Missouri, but the Bruins shut down the Tigers 13-1 in five innings to put an end to regional competition. The Dukes are the only non-seeded team advancing to the Super Regional, setting up an exciting battle between the CAA conference champion and the Pac-12 regular season champion with two teams that bat at or above .340. 

UCLA has been a longtime No. 1 this season and is still one of the national favorites, so a win in this region for James Madison would be a huge moment in this tournament. But such an outcome is not out of the question. James Madison leads all teams in NCAA Division I softball with 8.05 runs per game, just .07 ahead of top-ranked Oklahoma.

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