It is that time of the year, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the Women’s College World Series! Now, some of you reading this might have no idea what I’m talking about, but that’s okay. I will give you the lowdown on what it is, the best storylines, and a little recap to get you all caught up in time to watch Game 1 of the Championship Series tonight on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET. Let’s dive right in!
I’ll start off by explaining what the WCWS is, and how it works. The best sixty-four NCAA Division I softball teams were selected to participate in the postseason tournament on May 16. The top 16 teams are seeded and are selected to host the first round of the tournament, the regionals. Those regionals consist of a four-team, double-elimination tournament in which one winner per region moves on to Super Regionals.
These teams play at eight different sites — generally the top eight remaining seeds play host — in a best-of-three format, with those eight winners moving on to the WCWS.
This is the juicy part of the postseason, played at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. The final eight teams play in a modified double-elimination bracket, with the final two teams left standing competing in a best-of-three format known as the Championship Series, which is where we are today.
So, how did we get here? This season, the Oklahoma Sooners received the No. 1 overall seed, as they have completely dominated opponents this year. The Sooners finished the regular season with a 43-2 record, Jocelyn Alo received National Player of the Year, and Tiare Jennings received Freshman of the Year honors. So, when the bracket ended up with them playing unseeded James Madison in the first round of the WCWS, everyone assumed that it would be an easy W, probably even a run rule. NOT SO FAST!
The James Madison Dukes have been the best Cinderella story this postseason; thanks mainly to their pitcher Odicci Alexander. First off, she has the best name in college softball, second, she is a monster two-way player.
She was named the Colonial Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, and entered the NCAA Tournament with a 0.79 ERA and .340 batting average. Are you kidding me?! Here’s the kicker, though. She lead the Dukes to take down No. 1 Oklahoma in the very first game of the WCWS! From there, JMU went on to play another Oklahoma team that had the benefit of essentially playing at home. Oklahoma State, and with the game essentially on the line, Alexander makes what very well might be the absolute play of the entire year.
Here’s the situation: JMU is up 2-1, top of the seventh (which is the last inning of regulation in college softball), runners are on second and third with one out. OKST attempts a sac bunt to tie the game, but Odicci said NOT TODAY! Take a look at her diving play to keep the game from being tied.
ODICCI ALEXANDER ALL OUT #SCtop10 pic.twitter.com/X2Ov2HI6jG— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 5, 2021
And of course, to keep the fairytale going, the Dukes go on to win the game becoming the first unseeded team to reach the WCWS semifinals. Now, all they have to do is win one more game to move on to the finals, and because they had made it that far undefeated, they have the advantage of having to be beaten twice to be eliminated.
As fate — and the bracket — would have it, next up for the Dukes were those same Sooners that they had beaten on Day 1. Unfortunately, (I say this because I think all of America was rooting for the underdog Dukes) after being tied 3-3 going into the sixth inning, JMU fell to Oklahoma 6-3 in the game.
So, that meant that the two teams would have to meet one final time with the winner moving on to the champ series. And despite a rain delay pushing their rubber match from Sunday to Monday, I think Odicci and the rest of her team just ran out of gas, as their fairytale season ended with a 7-1 loss.
Now, look at this stat. Odicci Alexander threw 1,057 pitches and 64.2 of her team’s 73 innings in the NCAA Tournament this year. She is an absolute workhorse and inspiration to young kids everywhere. While it is sad that JMU’s season is over, they were an amazing team (with an amazing pitcher) to follow along with over the past few weeks, and a really great story for a non-Power Five conference.
But, as great as the Dukes’ run was, they were only one of the great stories coming out of the tournament. We’ve still got No. 3 Alabama and No. 2 UCLA to discuss! These two teams both won their first games of the WCWS, so they met up in the second round.
Now, some background info: UCLA has two Olympians on their team with Rachel Garcia and Bubba Nickles; Garcia is arguably one of the best two-way players of all-time. She was the National Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019, and led her team to a national championship in 2019.
Garcia entered the tournament with a 0.82 ERA and .361 batting average. As for her opponent, the Crimson Tide is led by star pitcher Montana Fouts, who was the SEC Co-Pitcher of the Year this season, and entered the tournament with a 1.49 ERA.
I could absolutely not wait to watch this game. You figure it will be an absolute pitcher’s duel between Garcia and Fouts, right? WRONG. Fouts ended up having an incredible night. Not only did she pitch a perfect freaking game — which consists of 21 straight outs in softball — but it was the first time one had been thrown at the World Series in 21 years, AND she did it on her 21st birthday! What a story, right?
From there, with both teams having suffered a loss UCLA faced Oklahoma next, a rematch from the championship series in 2019. Unlike two years ago, the Sooners blew out the Bruins this year 10-3, ending Garcia’s collegiate career, which is one that will definitely go down in the history books.
Then, as we’ve already discussed, OU beat JMU twice to advance to the final series. As for the Tide, they actually lost to unseeded Florida St. twice, who climbed their way out of the loser’s bracket to advance to the champ series to face Oklahoma beginning tonight. An absolute shocking turn of events for Alabama, as their season came to an abrupt close last night.
.@ESPN’s college softball coverage saw double-digit viewership growth throughout the 2018-19 season.#WCWS2019 was the most-watched #WCWS production since 2015, most-viewed Super Regionals since 2008, up 36%, and best regular season since 2016, up 40%. pic.twitter.com/Wv0lU5jhcm— Front Office Sports (@FOS) June 7, 2019
So, there you have it, folks. Now you understand how the collegiate softball postseason tournament works, you know the big names and storylines, and you’ve figured out which two teams will begin their battle for a ring tonight. I hope these stories fire you up, and will make you want to watch some softball.
The WCWS is annually one of the most watched college, Olympic sport events, with viewership increasing year after year. Although I am a former player myself, I still think it is extremely fun to follow along with, and my non-softball friends and family agree. To wrap up my TED talk, I really, really hope you’ll tune in tonight on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET to watch Game One between Oklahoma and Florida St. Enjoy!
Have you been following along with the WCWS?
This poll is closed
No, but I will start tonight!