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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | May 26, 2021

The 2021 NCAA softball super regionals, previewed

2021 softball super regionals previewed

The Super Regionals are set after a jam-packed weekend of softball. We went from 64 teams to 16, all competing for a spot in the Women's College World Series. Here is a full preview of the 2021 NCAA softball super regionals: 

Norman Super Regional โ€” May 28-30
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. Washington | 3 p.m. Friday | ESPN2
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. Washington | 3 p.m. Saturday | ABC
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. Washington | 4 p.m. Sunday | ESPN

The teams: No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 16 Washington

What to watch for: The Sooners are one of the most explosive, dangerous offenses in the country. They rank No. 1 in the country in home runs, slugging, batting average and more. They showed it this past weekend with 24 runs scored against Wichita State and production from their entire lineup. They hit six home runs in the regional finals. Nicole Mendes had a seven-RBI performance on Friday, and freshman Tiare Jennings has been huge. You cannot stop this offense.

But they are going up against Washington, one of the best defenses in the country, Pac-12 defensive player of the year Sis Bates and Gabbie Plain, who ranks in the top three in the country in strikeouts. This is now a different story here than what OU faced in the regionals. The Huskies took down Michigan twice to win the regional final and had an explosive fourth inning offensively in game seven with seven runs scored in one inning.

That will be the key for them. OU is going to score runs, can UWโ€™s offense do the same? Plus, Washington is playing with grit and energy and a bit of a chip on their shoulder. They will not be afraid of this Sooners team. 

OU players to watch: Jocelyn Alo is up for Player of the Year, but we haven't heard her name a ton in the regionals. Be ready for a possible breakout. Jennings and Mendes are probably the regionals MVPs. Watch out for continued offensive success from them. 

Washington players to watch: Gabbie Plain in dominant in the circle but will be facing some of the hottest bats in the NCAA. Sis Bates and Taryn Atlee offensively. 

Columbia Regional โ€” May 28-30
No. 8 Missouri vs. James Madison | 9 p.m. Friday | ESPNU
No. 8 Missouri vs. James Madison | 7 p.m. Saturday | ESPNU
No. 8 Missouri vs. James Madison | 12 or 2 p.m. | TBD

The teams: No. 8 Missouri vs. James Madison

What to watch for: The Dukes knocked off No. 9 Tennessee to take the regional behind one of the best pitchers in the tournament right now, Odicci Alexander. She has been phenomenal. She posted a 19 K performance in the regionals. The question is, can she take this team further? 

The Tigers, though, have some stellar pitching, too. Their pitching staff threw two one-hitters in the regionals, and then finally, Jordan Weber completed the no-no against Iowa State. D1Softballโ€™s Tara Henry said she thinks Missouri had a good path to the WCWS, but they will have to get through Alexander to make it. 

Missouri players to watch: Jordan Weber, who threw two gems in the circle, and Hatti Moore offensively. Moore finished the weekend with seven hits and four RBIs in the regional, including a 4-for-4 opener.

James Madison players to watch: Odicci Alexander. End of story. Lynsey Meeks was also a huge spark for the Dukes offensively. Exhibit A: 

Stillwater Super Regional โ€” May 28-30
No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. Texas | 5 p.m. Friday | ESPN2
No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. Texas | 4 p.m. Saturday | ESPN
No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. Texas | 6 p.m. Sunday | ESPNU

The teams: No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Texas

What to watch for: The Longhorns narrowly escaped Oregon in the regional finals late Sunday night. Molly Jacobsen came up big with a shutout, and Janae Jefferson has been phenomenal the entire tournament. Her bat has been nearly automatic โ€” she hit .583 and went 7-for-13 this weekend. They will now face the Cowgirls, who were smooth sailing through the regionals led by Carrie Eberle in the circle. Offensively they have been putting up a lot of runs with hot bats all weekend. They scored 10, nine and 10 runs in their three wins. Alysen Febrey leads the offense but they have production all the way down. Hayley Busby, Kiley Naomi, Sydney Pennington. You name it, this should be a good matchup. 

Oklahoma State players to watch: Carrie Eberle, she is the No. 1 ace for the Cowgirls. You can guarantee she will be in the circle. Alysen Febrey leads the charge offensively. 

Texas players to watch: Janae Jefferson. Her performance for the Longhorns has not wavered all season. In the circle, Shea O'Leary and Molly Jacobsen. O'Leary normally the ace, but Jacobsen came up big with the game seven win. 

Gainesville Super Regional โ€” May 28-30
No. 4 Florida vs. Georgia | 5 p.m. Friday | ESPNU
No. 4 Florida vs. Georgia | 12 p.m. Saturday | ESPN
No. 4 Florida vs. Georgia | 12 p.m. Sunday | ESPN

The teams: No. 4 Florida vs. Georgia

What to watch for: If there is anything to watch for here it is the fact that we have a good ole rivalry Georgia-Florida matchup. The Dawgs knocked off No. 13 Duke to win the regional. Mary Avant Wilson threw 14 of the 20 innings in the regionals and went 3-0 with a two-hitter against Duke on Sunday. Sydney Chambley has been huge in her tournament debut. She scored the go-ahead run against Duke and then Avant Wilson was able to close it out.

But Florida. No easy task, the Gators have the upper-hand when it comes to the circle with both Elizabeth Hightower and Natalie Lugo. Hightower threw her first career no-hitter against another great pitcher in Georgina Corrick. Then there is Hannah Adams, her ROOMMATE, who made an absolute web gem to save the no-hitter in the regional finals. Julia Cottrill was a spark offensively, Sarah Longley with the grand slam. Florida looked good. 

Florida players to watch: Elizabeth Hightower. Georgia's offense has a difficult task ahead with her in the circle. She nearly had two no-hitters, but was pulled from Friday's game in the top of the seventh of a 0-0 game.

Georgia players to watch: Mary Avant Wilson will absolutely be in the circle for the Dawgs. Offensively, although Chambley and Sydney Kuma stepped up big in the regional final, Lacey Fincher typically leads this Georgia offense. 

Tuscaloosa Super Regional โ€” May 28-30
No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 14 Kentucky | 1 p.m. Friday | ESPN2
No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 14 Kentucky | 2 p.m. Saturday | ESPN
No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 14 Kentucky | 4 p.m. | ESPNU

The teams: No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 14 Kentucky

What to watch for: The Wildcats made it out of the losers bracket and then looked like a new team on Sunday. Autumn Humes had the huge shutout over Notre Dame to force game seven and then Grace Baalman stepped up to pitch 10 full innings on Sunday. The Wildcats couldn't have done it without her. Eight hitters drove in runs in their three elimination games, and they will need it ALL against No. 3 Alabama. Every player will have to step up offensively.

The Tide, as you know, means Montana Fouts. Strikeouts galore this weekend. She had 28 strikeouts with only two walks in 14.0 IP while allowing seven total hits and in one game tied a career-high 15 Ks. But it is not just Fouts, their entire pitching staff was phenomenal. Lexi Kilfoyl and Kystal Goodman can do it too. They shut out an extremely good Clemson team twice. Then offensively, Taylor Clark has been clutch and a part of a lot of Bamaโ€™s scoring runs, they have the Bama home run leader in Bailey Hemphill. Plus, this is just a storied program โ€” they are the ONLY program to make every single super regional since its existence.

Alabama players to watch for: Montana Fouts, per usual. Taylor Clark and Alexis Mack, who is on a 12-game hitting streaks.

Kentucky players to watch: Autumn Humes, Miranda Stoddard

Fayetteville Super Regional โ€” May 28-30
No. 6 Arkansas vs. No. 11 Arizona | 7 p.m. Friday | ESPNU
No. 6 Arkansas vs. No. 11 Arizona | 5 p.m. Saturday | ESPN2
No. 6 Arkansas vs. No. 11 Arizona | 9 p.m. Sunday | ESPN2

The teams: No. 6 Arkansas vs. No. 11 Arizona

What to watch for: I think this is a GREAT matchup. The Razorbacks have been making history all season with the first-ever regular-season SEC championship. This weekend, Mary Haff picked up all three wins in the circle and she gave up zero runs. Linnie Malkin hit 4-for-9 with seven RBI, two home runs and three runs. Haff will be going up against a hot Arizona offense. They went down 6-0 before collecting a season-high 19 hits, with 12 of them in the fourth and fifth innings. This team has dangerous hitters that can explode at any moment โ€” Jessie Harper is five away from tying the NCAA home run career record. Sharlize Palacios drove in 10 runs in three games, going 8-for-13 over the weekend. Get ready for a good matchup in Fayetteville. 

Arkansas players to watch: Mary Haff in the circle. Braxton Burnside, who will most likely hit a few more bombs over the wall, and Danielle Gibson. 

Arizona players to watch: Dejah Mulipola, Jessie Harper, Sharlize Palacios, Reyna Carranco, Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, their entire offense. 

Baton Rouge Super Regional โ€” May 27-29
No. 7 LSU vs. No. 10 Florida State | 7 p.m. Thursday | ESPN
No. 7 LSU vs. No. 10 Florida State | 7 p.m. Friday | ESPN2
No. 7 LSU vs. No. 10 Florida State | 7 p.m. Saturday | ESPN2

The teams: No. 7 LSU vs. No. 10 Florida State

What to watch for: The Tigers were shut out in game six and then their offense went off in game seven on Sunday. Georgia Clark, Aliyah Andrews, Taylor Pleasants, Ciara Briggs and Amanda Doyle came alive offensively, and will need to do the same in the supers, when they go up against Florida State and Kathryn Sandercock in the circle. She just threw a one-hitter on Sunday. Cassidy Davis was consistent at the plate this weekend for the Seminoles, but this Florida State team will need to put some more runs on the board against a scrappy LSU defense. 

LSU players to watch: Aliyah Andrews (or "Air Aliyah"). Odds are she is due for another SportsCenter Top 10 play in the outfield. Taylor Pleasants. 

Florida State players to watch: Kathryn Sandercock, Cassidy Davis. 

Los Angeles Super Regional โ€” May 27-29
No. 2 UCLA vs. Virginia Tech | 9:30 p.m. Thursday | ESPN
No. 2 UCLA vs. Virginia Tech | 9:30 p.m. Friday | ESPN2
No. 2 UCLA vs. Virginia Tech | 9:30 p.m. Saturday | ESPN2

The teams: No. 2 UCLA vs. Virginia Tech

What to watch for: We will have a pitchers duel in Los Angeles with UCLA vs. Virginia Tech. AKA Rachel Garcia and Keely Rochard. UCLA had a few slow starts offensively in the regionals, but Garcia is this teamโ€™s bell cow. She went 4-for-8 with 3 RBI and picked up two wins the circle with 18 strikeouts. Her 0.78 ERA will go up against Rochard, who is third in the nation in strikeouts. She had three wins over the weekend and 11 strikeouts in the five-inning regional final victory. 

UCLA players to watch: Rachel Garcia, Briana Perez, Kinsley Washington.

Virginia Tech players to watch: Keely Rochard in the circle, Kelsey Bennett, who went 9-for-11 this weekend, including seven for her last seven at-bats. Bennett finished her second career regionals with a .818 batting average, two home runs and four runs batted in. 

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