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Monday, June 5, 2017

WCWS Championship Series: Head-to-Head by Position

The final two teams left standing have been determined. Florida and Oklahoma will play in the best-of-three WCWS Championship Series to determine the 2017 National Champion.

Florida earned the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, while Oklahoma was seeded tenth. Both teams won their respective conference's regular-season championships. Let's take a look at how the two teams stack up at each position.

Catcher
Florida: Janell Wheaton, JR - Though she was near the bottom of the batting charts for the Gators' every day starters during the regular season, Wheaton brilliantly commanded the Gator pitching staff during the season and did not make an error behind the plate. She provides some quality at-bats for her team, but most impressive is her ability as a backstop.

Oklahoma: Lea Wodach, JR - Wodach and Paige Parker have formed one of the finest batteries in the nation during their time together over the last two seasons. Though she hit just .172 prior to the Women's College World Series, Wodach has hit the ball the well during the WCWS and it was her bunt that got the Sooners offense started against Oregon on Sunday.

Advantage: Florida

First Base
Florida: Kayli Kvistad, JR - Kvistad has been one of hottest hitters this World Series, batting .400 with two home runs and five RBI. She hit .387 during the year and placed third on the team with seven home runs. She had not hit a home run in the postseason prior to reaching Oklahoma City, but did boast a .375 batting average in the NCAA tournament coming in.

Oklahoma: Shay Knighten, SO - Knighten, the heroine of the 2016 World Series and the 2017 Big 12 Player of the Year, has yet to reach her sophomore slump, even as her second season draws near to a close. She hit .359 during the season, with ten home runs and a .573 slugging percentage. She was responsible for what would become the go-ahead and game-winning hit for the Sooners against the Ducks on Sunday.

Advantage: Draw

Second Base
Florida: Nicole DeWitt, JR - One of six all-SEC first-team selections, DeWitt saw her stats take a bit of a step down in 2017, as she batted "only" .316 with six home runs and thirty-eight RBIs. She remains a defensive solidity in up the middle, with just five errors through her career to this point. She presents a real threat in the middle of the order, and solid protection for the Kvistads and Ocasios in the lineup.

Oklahoma: Caleigh Clifton, SO - The quiet star in the Sooner lineup, Clifton already holds two all-conference and two all-region honors in her trophy case and boasted a .363 batting average in 2017. She hit eight home runs during the year and saw many of her offensive numbers go up across the board in her second season at OU.

Advantage: Florida

Third Base
Florida: Aleshia Ocasio, JR - Ocasio went from the third-string, still-great pitcher for the Gators to an every day player and a rock-solid one at that. Getting regular at-bats for the first time in her career, Ocasio nearly tripled her previous career total of plate appearances, and hit .313 on the year with two home runs, twenty-seven RBI, and a .446 slugging percentage. She has starred for the Gators during the World Series, with the first home of the World Series on Thursday and stellar defensive play at the hot corner.

Oklahoma: Sydney Romero, SO - No longer just "Sierra Romero's little sister", the Sooners' third sacker replicated her stellar freshman season and even bettered some of her offensive numbers, coming into the World Series with a line of .349/11/57 and a .573 slugging percentage. Always a threat in the lineup, she has not been much of a factor in the Sooners' offense thus far this week, but could be poised for a breakout in the championship series.

Advantage: Draw

Shortstop
Florida: Sophia Reynoso, FR - In her first season as the Gators' starting shortstop, after redshirting in 2016 due to injury, Reynoso posted a batting average just below .300 and an on-base percentage of .397 during the year. The first-year starter did not make an error in her team's first thirty-two games of the year.

Oklahoma: Kelsey Arnold, JR - The 2016 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and two-time all-region selection saw both her offensive and defensive numbers take a step down in 2017, as she hit .264 with a .301 slugging percentage and a .309 on-base percentage. On the defensive side of the ball, she committed a career-high eight errors. She remains a speedy table-setter at the turnover of the Sooner lineup, though.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Outfield
Florida: Amanda Lorenz, SO; Justine McLean, SR; Chelsea Herndon, SR - The trio, comprised of two elder stateswomen and the 2016 Freshman of the Year, are about as good of a defensive trio as you can get, with just one error between them this season. Lorenz, she of a .390 batting average during the regular season, is the shining star of the trio.

Oklahoma: Macey Hatfield, SR; Nicole Pendley, JR; Nicole Mendes, FR - All three have had an impact during this World Series, including Pendley's three-run home run in the Sooners' series-opening game against Baylor. Mendes, the conference Freshman of the Year, and Hatfield, the program's lone senior, both have shown up in the right spot at the right time for the Sooners. The hard-hitting abilities of Pendley, as well as the explosiveness of Mendes and Hatfield's veteran leadership and contributions, give the Sooners the edge in the outfield.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Designated Player
Florida: Jordan Roberts, FR - Roberts has hit the ball hard during the year, but hasn't hit at all in the World Series, instead earning just three official at-bats and often being subbed out for Alex Voss as early as the first inning, after one at-bat.

Oklahoma: Fale Aviu, SO - Aviu provided the spark plug, as well as considerable controversy, against Washington on Friday night, but she also serves as an emotional leader for her team - and a powerful hitter, to boot. Couple that with the advantage of having played - and delivered - on this stage before, and it's a no-brainer of a comparison.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Pitcher
Florida: Kelly Barnhill, SO; Delanie Gourley, SR; Aleshia Ocasio, JR - The tri-headed Gator staff is a thing of legend, despite the trio having spent just two seasons in the circle together. Ocasio has been nearly relegated to an offensive role, in which she has thrived, but as Tim Walton put it, that's only a celebration of Barnhill and Gourley's earned advancements to the heirarchy at the position nationwide.

Oklahoma: Paige Parker, JR; Paige Lowary, JR - Lowary, a transfer from Missouri, provides Patty Gasso with a solid #2 hurler behind the workhorse Parker, something the Sooners have not had previously. The two Paiges both excel in the circle, but if Florida can solve one, it may be difficult for the other to hold the Gators down.

Advantage: Florida


So who's going to win? It's a very even-keeled series, as noted by the 3-3-2 finish of our head-to-head matchups. Both teams have great offensive playmakers, solid defense, players who are poised for a breakout on the game's biggest stage, and excellent pitching. It is the latter that will prove most crucial to the winning team - ultimately, I believe Florida's pitching staff is too strong and the Gators will win their third championship in four seasons.

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