Monday, May 29, 2017

Women's College World Series Field Set

After the sixteen seeded teams advanced to the Super Regionals for the first time ever, the NCAA tournament field has now been narrowed down to the final eight teams that will compete in the Women's College World Series.

Florida, Oregon, UCLA, Washington, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, LSU, and Baylor are the eight teams who will compete in the World Series that starts Thursday.

UCLA was the first team to clinch their berth in Oklahoma City. Facing the postseason-long upstart Ole Miss team, the Bruins made quick work of the SEC champions, winning a pair of one-run games to win the best-of-three series in just two games and earning their way to the World Series in Oklahoma City.

Freshman Rachel Garcia pitched a shutout in the series' second game, while Maddy Jelenicki was responsible for both the walk-off RBI in the bottom of the 11th inning in game one, as well as the sole RBI that proved to be the difference in game two.

The Florida Gators, the only two-time national champions from the Southeastern Conference, earned the #1 seed once again this year after a shocking two-and-out in the Super Regional round in 2016. Matched up with conference foe Alabama in the Super, the Gators took a shutout defeat by a score of 3-0 in game one, but held the Tide to just a single run through games two and three. The series was low-scoring, with just eight runs crossing the plate for both teams combined.

The Gators' Amanda Lorenz hit a two-run home run that proved to be the only scoring in the second game of the weekend, while a first-inning rally was all that the Gators needed in the decisive game three. Kelly Barnhill went a full seven innings as the "anchor leg" in the circle for the Gators in game three, allowing just two hits and one run, while striking out twelve.

The third-seeded Oregon quickly dispatched another SEC team in Kentucky, shutting out the Wildcats in game one before winning a one-run ball game to put the series to bed. The Ducks scored four in their game one win, including a three-run sixth when not one of the RBI hits left the infield. 

A back-and-forth scoring effort in game two fell the Ducks' way with four runs in the top of the seventh, including a Nikki Udria two-run single that led off the inning's scoring. The Oregon pitching staff showed out well, with Megan Kleist going seven innings in game one, allowing just three hits with eight strikeouts. Miranda Elish and Maggie Balint combined for the win in game two, allowing eight hits and five runs with six strikeouts.

One of the weekend's surprises came from Tallahassee, where #4 Florida State blew a one-game lead in the series before losing games two and three to the visiting LSU Tigers. The Tigers only outscored the Seminoles 8-7 on the weekend, but the Bayou bats caught fire at the right time, putting six runs on the board in the final game of the weekend to take home their third WCWS berth in four years.

"The Tigers rallied in the decisive third game, behind four RBIs on a double and single from Sahvanna Jaquish. A Bailey Landry triple, helping her break out of the slump that plagued her through the Regional round. Allie Walljasper and Carley Hoover combined for the "W", allowing ten hits between them but limiting the Seminoles to just four runs in three separate innings.

An all-SEC Super regional in Knoxville pitted Tennessee and Texas A&M, the #8 and #9 seeds, against one another for a World Series berth. The Lady Vols took game one of the series with a decisive 8-1 victory, but the Aggies took a one-run victory in game two before a four-run third inning in game three gave them all they would need.

Riley Sartain's three-run home run proved a big catalyst for the Aggies in game three, while she was one of six Aggie hitters that provided an RBI in the game two victory.

The all-PAC regional in Seattle was a battle between Washington and Utah; while game one was a 10-4 victory for the Huskies, games two and three were one-run ball games that saw the higher-seeded Washington ultimately emerge victorious in the three-game set.

Star senior Ali Aguilar was in the middle of the scoring action in the series-clinching game three, scoring the Huskies' first run on a wild pitch before her sacrifice fly scored her team's second and deciding run.

In a rematch of the 2016 World Series championship series, Oklahoma visited Auburn for a berth in this year's series. The Sooners made quick work of the Tigers, capitalizing on an imbalanced Tiger team to take the series in two games, by scores of 4-0 and 5-2.

Paige Parker held the Tigers to four hits and no runs with fourteen strikeouts in game one, while four different Sooner hitters - including sophomore standouts Sydney Romero and Shay Knighten - contributed RBIs. In game two, the offense was all Nicole Pendley, as her three-run home run and RBI single brought in four of the five Sooner runs. Paige Lowary earned the win in the circle, going nearly five innings and allowing two hits and one run.

In perhaps the most stunning blow of the weekend, the second-seeded Arizona Wildcats suffered a surprising loss at home to #15 Baylor, losing the weekend's final two games after going up 1-0 to start the series. The Wildcats, thought to be one of the top contenders for the championship from the season's start, allowed six runs to the Bears in each of the final two games, losing by final scores of 6-4 and 6-5, respectively.

The Bears spread the love on offense; breakout star Jessie Scroggins and shortstop Taylor Ellis drove in two runs a piece in game two, including a two-hit day for each. In game three, it was all the Shelbys - Friudenberg and Mcglaun, who each hit a home run and drove in three runs on the day. Kelsee Selman started both games, while Gia Rodoni came in to close game three and ice the victory.

The Women's College World Series will kick off on Thursday at 12:00 pm Eastern time when Florida and Texas A&M will face off in an all-SEC World Series kick off. UCLA and LSU will face off at 2:30 pm Eastern, while Oregon and Washington will face off at 7:00 pm and Oklahome and Baylor will pit the Big 12 against itself at 9:30 pm Eastern.

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