The 2022 Women's College World Series is less than two months away. May is approaching and we have the NCAA softball tournament regionals and super regionals to look forward to. With all that and more of the regular season remaining, we have a big update on the state of the college softball season.
D1Softball's Tara Henry sat down with NCAA.com to break down Oklahoma's dominance and what it takes to beat them, the top five teams, the biggest surprises this season and players who have been impressing her the most in 2022. Here is everything you need to know ahead of the WCWS:
Oklahoma's dominance and what it takes to beat them
Oklahoma's dominance is undeniable. We can probably all agree on that much. And if you don't, take a look at these stats from their ridiculous record-breaking start to the 2022 season. The Sooners did, however, just lose their first game of the season and first in over 300 days to the Texas Longhorns. Henry said that moment showed us all why we love sports so much — any team can win on any given day. But of course, it is a lot tougher to do it against Oklahoma.
I asked Henry what exactly does a team need to do to beat this powerhouse squad. I mean, does OU just need to have an off day?
"I'd say you've got to have great pitching in the circle. You've got to limit mistakes. That means making sure that your pitcher is not leaving the ball over the plate because if you do we know what happens with that OU offense... and then timely hitting we saw that with Texas, you know, Mary Iakopo and then the rookie Mia Scott just coming up clutch," Henry said. "So you've gotta have good pitching. You've gotta have timely hitting. You've gotta play some defense. It sounds simple, but you've got to limit the mistakes and and you've got to make sure that it's three outs in an inning, you can't give OU that fourth out."
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When I asked if OU was still clearly the front runner for this year's championship? The answer was of course. Henry said she would be incredibly surprised if they weren't playing in the title game in Oklahoma City.
How about the rest of the top five... and why did Virginia Tech make a big jump to No. 3?
Here is the current D1Softball top five:
3. Virginia Tech
4. Florida State
Virginia Tech made a huge jump to No. 3 after a great start this season. Keely Rochard has been a strong for the Hokies all along, but she needed more pieces, and she got that this year.
"I actually watched Keeley Rochard in the Los Angeles Regional last season and I remember thinking gosh if she just had another arm to help her out, just eat up some innings for them and and a little bit more of an offense..." Henry said. "She got both of those things. So we've got Emma Lemley the rookie in the circle and an offense that is just firing on all cylinders. So yes, Virginia Tech is the biggest surprise in terms of jumping in the rankings, but I think we all knew if they got another arm, they'd be right up there."
Bama has been consistent all season with Montana Fouts and Lexi Kilfoyl in the circle.
"Patrick Murphy has done an incredible job with his rookies coming in — you got (Megan) Bloodworth and (Jenna) Lord with a huge a couple of pinch hits," Henry said. "Just fun to watch it... and Dallis Goodnight! Of course. I've got my eye on Bama."
For Florida State, this is a team Henry said that pretty much everyone counted them out last year and then they ended up in that
that championship series.
"So an incredible offense in terms of what we saw from last year to this year. And you know, you've got Lonni Alameda as you're pitching coach. So a staff that is really, really tough to beat."
The biggest surprises this season
The biggest surprises this season for Henry? Nebraska was the first thing that came to her mind. The Huskers have won the past 18-straight games, with a most recent sweep over Minnesota.
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"They are just playing the game. Having fun. Rhonda Revelle, she's just an incredible leader and that squad, you know, they only have 17 players which is a small squad this day and age," Henry said. "So really surprised with how they're doing, they are on top of the Big Ten."
Speaking of the Big Ten, the second biggest surprise for Henry this season is the underperformance of Michigan. A few other teams that have underperformed in her opinion are Missouri, Arizona and Oregon.
"I think the injury to Lexie Blair has hurt them (Michigan) a bit. But even before Lexi went out they were having some struggles and now starting to kind of be a little bit more like the Wolverine squad that that were we know and are used to," Henry said. "And then we'll look at Arizona and Oregon — two teams that have historically been big contenders and top 10 teams and you know, Caitlin Lowe and her first year at the helm for the Wildcats. They struggled a little bit. They had a nice series win this past weekend and against Oregon. So again, Oregon a little bit down here. So surprised about both of them in terms of not performing to what we we think that they normally do."
The Gators have dropped a bit in the rankings from their preseason spot in the top-five, but Henry said not to count out the Gators just yet.
"They've got some big time players that do some big time things in big situations," Henry said. "There's a reason we call her Hannah 'Clutch' Adams."
Players who have really impressed this season
We all know the Jocelyn Alos of the world, but Henry has an even longer list of players who have been showing out this season. A few that she wanted to give love to are all on Arkansas. Henry mentioned Danielle Gibson and Hannah Gammill on the corners absolutely smashing balls, and then Chenise Delce, the transfer.
"She has stepped up big and really provided a second arm for Mary Haff. So Arkansas, I can't say enough about what they're doing there," Henry said.
Here are a few other players to watch:
- Cydney Sanders — Arizona State
- Rachel Lewis — Northwestern
- Baylee Klingler — Washington
- Skylar Wallace — Florida
- Kendra Falby — Florida
- Michaela Edenfield — FSU
- Mac Barbara — San Diego State
Storylines to watch from now until the WCWS
- How Oklahoma does the rest of the way, can anyone else beat them? Can they come back stronger?
- Will we see a Big Ten team back in the WCWS?
- Can UCLA's Megan Faraimo make it back to the WCWS after a year off last season?