2023 Women's College World Series preview

June 1, 2023
The always-thrilling Women’s College World Series (WCWS) hits USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City in mere hours, with eight NCAA softball squads beginning their quest for the national title.
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🥎 The details

Since the WCWS debuted in 1982, the road to Oklahoma City (OKC) has never been easy — and this year’s no different. Sixty-four teams began the natty tourney on May 19th and, less than two weeks later, 56 have since been sent packing.

  • Sixteen squads won their four-team, double-elimination regionals to advance to last weekend’s best-of-three Super Regional series. Those eight Supers winners then punched their ticket to the main event: the WCWS.

That brings us to the set-up for the greatest show on dirt. As in previous years, the eight teams are divided into two four-team, double-elimination brackets, and this year will be the second edition of the more reasonable nine-day format.

  • The double-elimination action runs today through June 5th, giving way to the best-of-three championship series starting on June 7th. Mark your cal — then let’s meet the contenders.

💪 The favorite

The best batting average in the nation, the most home runs, the best team ERA — it’s no wonder the two-time reigning champs, the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners, are the heavy favorites to three-peat. Now riding into OKC with the aforementioned consecutive wins record, the biggest question is: Can anyone stop them?

  • Indicative of their dominance, nearly half (!!!) of Oklahoma’s 56 victories have come via the run-rule or mercy rule, aka when a game ends early because a squad is leading by eight or more runs after five or more innings.
  • And with a trio of pitching phenoms in sophomore Jordy Bahl, junior Nicole May, and redshirt senior Alex Storako, plus offensive standout juniors Jayda Coleman and Tiare Jennings, it would be shocking if anyone upsets these star-powered Sooners.

🙌 The top contenders

No. 3 Florida State Seminoles: After a stunning regional exit last year, the 2021 runners-up weren’t going to let history repeat itself, powering through to their 12th program WCWS appearance. Leading the way? Fifth-year senior hurler Kathryn Sandercock, who tossed a perfect game in the Seminoles’ regional round. And they say nobody’s perfect.

No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers: With eight program WCWS showings, the Lady Vols are no strangers to OKC but are returning for the first time since 2015. And they absolutely dominated on their path back, sweeping the regional and Super Regionals by outscoring opponents 42–6 along the way.

  • A major reason for that success? Grad student pitcher Ashley Rogers, who boasts a stunning 0.75 ERA, good for second-best in the nation.

No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide: The Crimson Tide didn’t exactly, ahem, roll into their 14th WCWS. The biggest setback came when star pitcher Montana Fouts missed the regional with a knee injury, but junior Jaala Torrence stepped up in her absence. Teamwork makes the dream work.

  • The flamethrowing Fouts returned in time to lift Bama through the Supers. Expect this pitching duo to split innings in the hunt for their second program natty.

No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowgirls: The Cowgirls join front-runner Oklahoma as the only returnees from last year’s WCWS, and they’re back in OKC despite dropping a shocking 11 of their last 13 regular-season games.

  • Redshirt senior Kelly Maxwell is the one to watch in the circle, but Oklahoma State gets it done at the dish too, boasting a top-10 team batting average of .327. Giddy up!

🐕‍🦺 The underdogs

No. 7 Washington Huskies: This will be the Huskies’ 15th trip to the WCWS, but they’re riding a rollercoaster into OKC: Despite a strong season, Washington needed a seven-run seventh-inning rally to escape the regional round before breezing through Supers thanks to two shutout victories. Hey Google, play Katy Perry.

  • Keep an eye on the Huskies’ infield queen, Baylee Klingler — the 2022 Pac-12 Player of the Year is a major threat at the plate.

No. 9 Stanford Cardinal: The Cardinal are making their third WCWS ever and first since 2004, thanks in large part to NiJaree Canady. The Freshman of the Year isn’t just leading this year’s Division 1 rookie class, she’s topping the entire nation in pitching stats, including strikeouts per seven innings with an unheard of 0.48 ERA. Elite.

No. 15 Utah Utes: For a squad no one had on their preseason radar, the Utes have more than impressed, capping a strong season by nabbing the first-ever Pac-12 tourney trophy and making a massive splash with their first WCWS berth in 29 years.

  • After an error-filled Super Regional stumble, Utah rallied in the series’ last two games, outscoring San Diego State 17–3 while junior southpaw Mariah Lopez dominated in the circle.

📺 How to tune in

It all begins with today’s quadruple-header (!!!), leading off with No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 4 Tennessee at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN. ESPN networks will be your go-to for most of the tourney, including two prime matchups on ABC this Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. If you stream it…

  • And while all eight teams are in action today, don’t sleep on Stanford’s 2:30 p.m. ET game against Oklahoma. It may appear to be a No. 9 David vs. No. 1 Goliath, but this matchup pits the nation’s best offense against the nation’s best pitcher. Spicy.