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Monday, June 6, 2016

Oklahoma vs. Auburn - Head-to-Head by Position

The Oklahoma Sooners and the Auburn Tigers will face off in the best-of-three championship series of the 2016 Women's College World Series. Let's take a look at how the teams match up against one another at each position.

CATCHER
Oklahoma: Sophomore Lea Wodach sits behind the dish for the Sooners. Sharp defensively, she's hit a rough patch at the plate with just one hit in the World Series. Wodach does a good job of keeping her classmate and battery mate Paige Parker under control in the emotional moments that can be her kryptonite. Nonetheless, thus far for this series, Wodach's bat has been the proverbial "easy out" in the Sooner lineup.

Auburn: Carlee Wallace said in her press conference yesterday that she had "had enough" after her 0-4 day at the plate during the Tiger win over Georgia on Saturday and her determination to put that game behind her showed with a big three-run home run in the Auburn half of the first inning against Florida State. Wallace has scored three times in this series and earned three walks in the cleanup spot, despite going just 2-9 in Oklahoma City thus far.

Advantage: Auburn

FIRST BASE
Oklahoma: Freshman Shay Knighten has become an invaluable part of the Sooner offense. An all-American in her first season in Norman, she already has two home runs in this World Series, including the walk-off longball that beat Alabama. In this World Series, she is hitting .500 with those two home runs, seven RBI, and three runs scored. Coming in to the World Series, Knighten was hitting .388 on the year with eleven home runs and a .656 slugging percentage to her name.

Auburn: Jade Rhodes came into Oklahoma City with a .335 batting average and seventeen home runs on the season, putting on a power show throughout the season. She's been known to be wildly inconsistent at times, but seems to have hit her stride in the World Series after dismal offensive performances in the Regionals and Super Regionals. The senior is hitting .400 in three games in Oklahoma City, gathering 6 RBI and boasting a massive three-run home run against Florida State in Sunday's night game that sent the Tigers to their first-ever championship final.

Advantage: Draw

SECOND BASE
Oklahoma: Caleigh Clifton, a freshman, commands the second sack for the Sooners and has done a solid, if unheralded, job in the World Series; in three games in Oklahoma City, she has reached base six times, despite just one hit, and has scored four times. Coming into OKC, Clifton carried a stat line of .368/.623/.558, as well as five home runs. She has shown a good eye at the plate, earning four walks.

Auburn: Undoubtedly not just one of the best players in the nation, but also one of the smartest, Emily Carosone holds down the 5-hole for the Tigers and does a stellar job of it. The #22 overall pick by the Chicago Bandits in this year's National Pro Fastpitch draft, Carosone has assumed the role of making opposing pitchers pay for pitching around Kasey Cooper. In more than 170 at-bats coming in, Carosone was hitting .405 on the season with a .682 slugging percentage. In her second appearance in OKC with the Tigers, Carosone is hitting .400 even, with four RBI and three runs scored. She was an intergral part of the Tiger rally vs. Georgia, ultimately assuming the major portion of credit for the tying & winning runs' scoring.


Advantage: Auburn



THIRD BASE
Oklahoma: One of the freshman that even casual fans know the most about, Sydney Romero has taken admirable care of the hot corner for the Sooners. No longer simply "Sierra's little sister" and building a reputation all her own, Sydney popped a home run over the fence against her sister's team in the Sooners' win over Michigan and has maintained well defensively at the hot corner, dubbed so for a reason. She has a bright future ahead, but has not shown consistent hitting under the spotlight in the World Series.

Auburn: If there is a player in this World Series with a higher softball IQ than the afore-mentioned Carosone, it is Cooper. She brings shades of Albert Pujols in his St. Louis-prime to this reporter's mind when she's at the plate, with her smooth swing and moonshot home run power. World Series attendees and SportsCenter watchers got just a small sampling of her defensive abilities last night that cast shades of Scott Rolen (coincidentally, another former Cardinal). Cooper is one of the most well-rounded, intelligent, and capable players in the nation and will be an invaluable depended-upon asset for the Tigers in this championship series.


Advantage: Auburn

SHORTSTOP
Oklahoma: Were this comparison made strictly based on defense, the Sooners' Kelsey Arnold would have it sewn up in her favor without a semblance of doubt. As an all-around comparison, the competition is slightly more open but just slightly. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Arnold makes few mistakes in the hole at short. Offensively, she was second on the team with a .393 batting average coming into the World Series. Filling her spot as the "second leadoff" in the 9-spot in the lineup, Arnold has hit .333 in her team's games to this point, scoring two runs.

Auburn: The starting shortstop position almost fell into Whitney Jordan's lap after Haley Fagan's injury last fall, and she has proved capable of filling the role, if not to the star-quality level of Fagan. A bottom-of-the-order hitter with a bit of pop in her bat, Jordan's stat line coming into Oklahoma City was .236/.416/.330. She has struggled with the bat in the World Series with just one hit to her credit. She has driven in two runs, but needs to pick things up and contribute a bit better in the championship series.


Advantage: Oklahoma

OUTFIELD
Oklahoma: Seniors Kady Self and Erin Miller dot the outfield corners for the Sooners, with Nicole Pendley covering ground in center field. Miller has become both the emotional and literal leader of the Sooner offense, hitting an even .400 during the regular season and the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. She also led her team with a .682 slugging percentage, accumulating nine home runs and fifty RBI during the year. The trio of outfielders excel defensively, with just four errors combined all season long, and they're "not bad" on offense either - the trio combined for a cumulative .360 batting average during the year, with nineteen home runs and one hundred twenty runs driven in. In the Women's College World Series, the trio has gathered seven hits, scored five runs, driven in another five, and earned eight bases-on-balls.

Auburn: Tiffany Howard; Victoria Draper; and Madi Gipson make up the outfield trio for the Tigers. Howard, a senior, is the fiery leadoff hitter and table-setter for the Tigers; Draper, the defensively-stellar "second leadoff"; and Gipson, the freshman with the ability to make things happen on offense. The trio have combined to score nine runs in the World Series, in addition to the game-winning run over Florida State that began with Gipson's three-base hit on an error and saw her lifted for a pinch runner that scored to end the ball game in the bottom of the 8th. The trio have gotten the job done at times this World Series, including Draper's rally-starter that led the Tigers over Georgia, but they'll need to be a bit more consistent with the stick in this championship series and stick to their defensive superiority as they have so-often done.


Advantage: Oklahoma


DESIGNATED PLAYER
Oklahoma: OU's Fale Aviu handles the hitting-only duties for the Sooners, and recorded a .364/.571/.413 stat line in the regular season, with eight home runs and forty-seven RBI. She's gone on a bit of a cold streak in this World Series though, mustering just one hit in eight at-bats and driving in only a single run in three games.


Auburn: Haley Fagan has assumed full-time DP duties since returning from her injury for the postseason and seems to have hit her stride in the World Series, batting .333 in Oklahoma City with two RBI. It has taken her a bit of time to warm up, but she seems to slowly be regaining her stride in her comeback and "getting hot" at the right time.


Advantage: Auburn

PITCHER
Oklahoma: OU is riding the arm of sophomore Paige Parker as long as possible, and she's thus-far answered the call admirably. The only pitcher that the Sooners have sent to the circle this postseason, Parker put together a 2.12 ERA in thirty-three innings in the Regionals and Supers, but she has given up eight runs in twenty-two innings since arriving in Oklahoma City. Senior transfer Kelsey Stevens has postseason experience, but Parker has done a much better job this season of handling her emotions and the pressure of the "big moment" and getting out of situations with minimal damage.

Auburn: A proverbial 180-degree turn from Oklahoma's pitching scenario, the Tigers have a plethora  of arms at their disposal. Transfer Kaylee Carlson has gotten the lion's share of the work in the postseason, but pitching coach Corey Myers showed Sunday night that he isn't afraid to mix-and-match hurlers and play to matchups. The Tigers used their three top hurlers in the eight-inning semifinal matchup against Florida State, turning to Martin and Walters in relief before Carlson returned to finish off the Seminoles. The five-arm staff put together a 2.24 during the regular season and first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, but have allowed thirteen runs in three games in Oklahoma City, including seven to Florida State in the previously-noted semi-final matchup.

Advantage: Draw


RESULTS:
Oklahoma: 2 (shortstop, outfield)
Auburn: 4 (catcher, second base, third base, designated player)
Draw: 2 (first base, pitcher)


Conclusion:
Both teams have dynamic offenses and stellar offensive players. Auburn has shown the ability in this World Series, as in many past instances, to rally from behind and do what's necessary to get the job done. Oklahoma, for their part, are no slouches with the stick and can be deadly from 1-9 in the order. Pitching wise, it's the tale of two very different stories - the dependable solo workhorse of Oklahoma and the by-committee approach of Auburn. This is one of the most balanced championship final matchups in recent memory.

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