Softball Preview: No. 6 Alabama Opens the WCWS vs. No. 3 Oklahoma
In the college softball world, the month of June marks the point in the season when the country’s top teams meet in Oklahoma City to determine a national champion.
Oklahoma City has been a familiar post-season locale for Alabama as this will be their 11th trip to the Women's College World series in school history
The Crimson Tide's quest for a possible second national championship begins Thursday evening against a familiar opponent in the Oklahoma Sooners.
Thursday’s meeting in Oklahoma City will mark the fourth time in five season that Alabama has met Oklahoma in the postseason with three of those seasons involving the WCWS.
Last season, Alabama fell to Oklahoma in game one of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Super Regional before rebounding in defeating the Sooner twice.
Three seasons ago, Alabama experienced their most glorious moment as a college softball program. After falling behind 1-0 in the best of three championship series, the Crimson Tide stormed back to win two games in a row including an epic 5-4 comeback victory in game three to claim their first national championship
This season, Alabama and Oklahoma squared off during the Easton Tournament in Fullerton, California. Alexis Osorio no-hit the Sooners through six innings before Shay Knighten belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to pull out the victory.
Oklahoma comes in playing some of the best softball in the WCWS field as they have tallied 27 consecutive wins. Their last loss occurred on April 2 as Kansas took home a 5-2 win.
Alabama and Oklahoma will feature three NFCA All-Americans. Senior Haylie McCleney, junior Sydney Littlejohn and senior Leona Lafaele received All-American honors for Alabama while sophomore Paige Parker, senior Erin Miller and freshman Shay Knighten made an All-American team for Oklahoma.
The matchup to watch for Thursday will come from the circle as Alabama’s Alexis Osorio and Oklahoma’s Paige Parker are expected to toe the rubber for both teams. The two pitchers combined for over 500 strikeouts coming into the WCWS. Osorio leads the SEC with 263 strikeouts while Parker leads the Big 12 with 244 strikeouts.
If you’re looking for keys to success in Oklahoma City for Alabama, the middle of the order could be a decisive factor this weekend. Senior Leona Lafaele and freshman Reagan Dykes provided 27 of the Crimson Tide’s 57 home during the season.
Off the field, Haylie McCleney received more national honors as she took home the Senior CLASS Award in addition to NFCA All-American recognition. She joins Charlotte Morgan and Kayla Braud as the third Crimson Tide player to win the award. The four-time All-American posted a 4.0 GPA in exercise science and also has volunteered her time with various service projects around Tuscaloosa.
The winner between Alabama and Oklahoma will face the winner of Michigan vs. LSU at 8:30 PM Friday on ESPN2 while the losers of both games will have Friday off but play during the heat of the day Saturday to survive in the losers bracket.
First pitch for Alabama vs. Oklahoma is at 6 PM on ESPN2.
College Softball Notes Around Alabama:
-No. 4 Auburn makes the trip to Oklahoma City for their second straight WCWS. The Tigers will face No. 12 UCLA who upset No. 5 Oregon in last weekend’s Eugene Super Regional. The Bruins come in 40-14-1 while the Tigers come in at 54-10. Auburn.
-Auburn is the highest seed on their side of the bracket as No. 16 Georgia and No. 8 Florida State join the Tigers and Bruins in the top half of the bracket.
-The winner between Auburn and UCLA will play a winners bracket game against Georgia or Florida State at 6 PM Friday evening on ESPN while the loser will play in an elimination game Saturday.
-Auburn vs. UCLA gets underway Thursday at 1:30 PM on ESPN.