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Wayne Staats | NCAA.com | May 28, 2019

2019 Women's College World Series: Preview, predictions

The OKC eight are set for the WCWS

No matter what happens at the Women's College World Series, one thing is already known: There will be no repeat champ. Oklahoma State knocked out Florida State in the Super Regionals to ensure there will be no back-to-back.

Not that the usual powers aren't in OKC. Oklahoma looks for another crown. Annual contenders Alabama, Florida and UCLA are there, too. But so is first-timer Minnesota. Before the first pitch, catch up on our preview and predictions below.

2019 Women's College World Series: Preview, predictions

The favorite: No. 1 Oklahoma

The Sooners (54-3) won 41 consecutive games earlier this season before losing to Wisconsin in the Regionals — before storming through to beat the Badgers (again) and dominate Northwestern in the Super Regionals. Sydney Romero leads the attack for an offense that leads the country in batting average (.355), home runs per game (1.89), on-base percentage (.447), runs scored per game (7.67) and slugging (.660). Oklahoma also has a nation-best 1.06 ERA. Mariah Lopez, Giselle Juarez and Shannon Saile all have ERAs between 1.00 and 1.11.

The favorite, Part 2: No. 2 UCLA

UCLA (51-6) is one of only three teams to beat OU this season. So Oklahoma is probably more of a favorite 1A to UCLA's 1B. Any conversation about the best player in the country should start with Rachel Garcia (.344 average, 9 HRs, 49 RBI and 24-1, 1.01 ERA in the circle). And then there's Kelli Godin, whose .446 batting average leads all players in OKC.

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The red-hot challenger: No. 3 Washington

Is there anything Sis Bates can't get to? Once the junior made her first highlight defensive play, she didn't stop as the Huskies rolled through Kentucky. Washington (50-7) has outscored its foes 24-1 and joins Arizona and Minnesota as the three teams still without a loss in the NCAA tournament.

The dynamic duo: No. 5 Florida (Kelly Barnhill and Amanda Lorenz)

The two seniors have the Gators (49-16) back in the WCWS. It'll likely be up to them how far Florida can go. Barnhill is 104-20 in her career and finished off Tennessee in Game 3 of the Super Regionals by going 8 innings and allowing only one run. At the plate, Amanda Lorenz and her .419 average demands attention. If the rest of the lineup delivers — Kendyl Lindaman is the only other player hitting above .300 — Lorenz will get pitches to hit.

Welcome back to the show: No. 6 Arizona

1991. 1993. 1994. 1996. 1997. 2001. 2006. 2007. Only UCLA has more titles than Arizona's eight. However, though this is the Wildcats' 23rd appearance in the WCWS, it's the program's first since 2010. The offense led the way, scoring 12 vs. Auburn to clinch the Regional round and then 14 total in a two-game sweep of Ole Miss in the Super Regionals. The Wildcats (46-12) will be hitting home runs. Jessie Harper leads the nation with 28 and Dejah Mulipola is in the top-10 with 22. But will they be only solo shots?

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The wildcard: No. 7 Minnesota

The Gophers (46-12) are the only first-time participant in the WCWS this year. The last time that happened was Auburn in 2015. Pitcher Amber Fiser's durability will be something to watch and admire in OKC. She threw all 559 pitches for Minnesota in the Regionals and Super Regionals, including 147 in a Game 1 win against LSU. Minnesota could be a team that's two-and-out — the Gophers must open with UCLA — or one that surprises everyone.

The freshman: No. 8 Alabama (Montana Fouts)

There are so many talented freshmen this season, but perhaps none more important than Alabama's Montana Fouts. At 57-8, the Tide make for a brutally tough No. 8 seed for OU. And 'Bama has Montana Fouts. She is one of three Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year Award finalists (with Minnesota's Natalie DenHartog and Northwestern's Danielle Williams). The Sooners already bested one freshman in Williams. Fouts (19-5, 1.44) might be a different story if the Tide offense can break through.

The do-it-all: No. 13 Oklahoma State (Samantha Show)

Thanks to the Cowgirls, there will be no repeat for Florida State. And thanks to the Cowgirls, this year marks the first time since 2016 (Florida) that the defending champion didn't make it back to Oklahoma City. In OKC for the first time since 2011, Oklahoma State will lean on Samantha Show, who's hitting .333 with 18 HR and 54 RBI and is 21-8 with a 2.37 ERA in the circle. Oklahoma State was the only road team to win in the Supers. Now it's only one win away from a possible showdown with OU in OKC.

Prediction:

It's easy to say we're heading toward the inevitable Oklahoma-UCLA showdown for the title. But OKC usually has some surprises. With the way Washington has been playing, the Huskies seem like the best candidate to keep the Sooners-Bruins meeting from happening in the finals.

Arizona could slug its way to a run, but Washington will make it back to the final series. It will end there, though, as the Huskies become the first program since California in 2003-04 to lose in the final in consecutive seasons. For the third time in four years, Oklahoma wins the title.

Oklahoma defeats Washington in the finals.

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