Before the season, I made my way-too-early picks for the eight teams I could see making it to Oklahoma City. And yes, this was before these teams even stepped foot on a softball field. Now, we are inching closer and closer to the postseason, with selections for the 64-team field May 15. So I figured it was time to give predictions another go.
RANKINGS: Here is the latest D1softball top 25
Here are my picks for the eight teams we could see in OKC:
Where else to start but with the dominating Oklahoma Sooners? The reigning WCWS champions took that trophy, and instead of just sitting and staring at it, somehow came out of the gates in 2022 with an even better, more dangerous version of their 2021 title team. The one from last year seemed pretty close to unstoppable, so you can imagine what this year's is, and if you have watched them at all this season, you know. I would be shocked if this team didn't make it to the national championship series, let alone to OKC. This is not only one of the most dangerous offenses in the history of softball — led by NCAA home run leader Jocelyn Alo — but now they have a lights-out pitching staff led by Jordy Bahl and Hope Trautwein. The Sooners lead the NCAA in batting average, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging... You name the offensive stat and they probably lead it. But they also lead the NCAA in ERA. Trautwein individually leads the nation with a 0.10 ERA. This team is the whole package, and a trip not too far from their campus to OKC seems pretty much a sure thing.
Area 51 is back in Tallahassee! #OneTribe 👽🛸— Florida State Softball 🥎 (@FSU_Softball) April 23, 2022
📺: ACC Network pic.twitter.com/59gCtS2atO
This team continues to impress me and I think they have a case to make it back to where they left off last season, finishing runner-up in 2021. The Noles have an airtight defense and lead the nation with a .983 fielding percentage. Six players are hitting above .300 led by Devyn Flaherty. Despite losing a few key players from last season, some strong leadership returned this season in Sydney Sherrill, and the two arms that led them to the national championship series — Kathryn Sandercock and Danielle Watson. Michaela Edenfield has been an incredible addition with 16 homers and a really strong presence behind the dish. This team gets things done. They already have a ton of ranked wins and some that came in extras or clutch moments over Texas, UCLA, Alabama, Michigan, Florida and Clemson. Lonni Alameda has an impressive group here and I have no doubt that they can make it back to OKC.
The Bruins are my next pick to make it back to Oklahoma City. These top three teams on this list, Oklahoma — FSU and UCLA — are the top three in win percentage right now. The Bruins held OU to just four runs at the beginning of the season, and went to extras with FSU. What stands out the most in picking this team to go back to OKC this year is their experience and pitching. They have an elite pitching staff led by Megan Faraimo, who we could see back in OKC after missing last year due to injury. They are second in ERA in the NCAA and lead in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Pitching goes the distance, and they have an incredibly experienced lineup that has been here before. Freshman Savannah Pola has been lights out. The rest of the lineup has Briana Perez, Danielle Wisz, and Kinsley Washington, who hit the walk-off winner for the 2019 championship. There's Maya Brady and more. All experienced vets.
Arkansas is my next sure pick. The Razorbacks just swept their weekend series vs. Florida to show their dominance in the SEC. This team is led by Danielle Gibson, and this offense is absurd, with three players in the lineup hitting over .400 — Gibson, Hannah Gammill and Linnie Malkin. Four players have double-digit homers, so they are not only hitting for average but for power. These players come up big in clutch moments and I can see them going the distance this season. Not to mention Mary Haff got the help of Chenise Delce in the circle this year to give them just what they needed.
MIDSEASON UPDATE: The state of college softball, with the WCWS fastly approaching
😮💨 @_keelsss_ pic.twitter.com/Alx0tf7Z3j— Virginia Tech Softball (@HokiesSoftball) April 24, 2022
I think the Hokies have what they need to make it to OKC this season. Last year, they were OH so close. They gave UCLA a run in the Los Angeles Regional, but the Bruins ultimately advanced to OKC. D1Softball's Tara Henry said to NCAA.com in a sit-down interview that she remembers watching Virginia Tech last season and thinking, "Gosh, if they just had one more arm to eat up some innings for them and some more offense." That is exactly what they have this year and that is why they have been so successful. Keely Rochard now has the help of freshman phenom Emma Lemley in the circle. Offensively they are firing on all cylinders. Emma Ritter, Cameron Fagan, you name it. I can 100 percent see the Hokies making it to OKC.
Alabama has had a few rough outings, notching some losses as of late to Texas A&M and a midweek loss to Western Kentucky. But, even with that in mind, I am still banking on Montana Fouts to bring this team back to Oklahoma City. This team has the pieces it needs in the circle with Fouts and Lexi Kilfoyl and they have had great production from their freshman in the lineup with Megan Bloodworth and Dallis Goodnight. They already notched big wins over Virginia Tech and very close loss to FSU. I am going with their track record here and think they'll make it back despite some late-season troubles.
The last two teams were tough to pick, but I couldn't leave out Oklahoma State by any means. The Cowgirls are another team that I think has the whole package. Pitching is a pretty common theme for me and who I think can go the distance, and the Cowgirls have Kelly Maxwell and Miranda Elish. Maxwell has a 1.06 ERA and 209 strikeouts. Their defense is second in the nation in fielding percentage. I also like that this team has played a strong schedule. Their offense is versatile and they have a few power hitters: Sydney Pennington, Julia Cottrill and Chyenne Factor have double-digit homers.
For the last team, you could go so many ways here, but I am going with another team out of the ACC — Duke. This is a team that ranks high in a lot of statistical categories in the NCAA. They are sixth in batting average, eleventh in ERA right behind Virginia Tech, they're in the top 10 in homers, on-base percentage and scoring. They have strong, ranked wins under their belt over OK State, Michigan and Clemson — and I think they can give it a go this season.
Washington could be right up there and Texas and Northwestern would be my sleeper picks. I left Florida out with Hannah Adams out due to injury but you never know. We saw it just last year with teams like James Madison making the WCWS, or even Georgia who was unranked in the tournament. The first conference tournament games are coming up and we'll know the full field of 64 when selections are announced May 15, but as of right now, Oklahoma just might seem to be the only sure thing.