Previewing the NCAA RegionalsFeatured
Friday schedule and broadcast information
Oklahoma (45-2, 16-1 Big 12): Even in a regional with six of the top 15 home run hitters in the nation (including Sooners Jocelyn Alo, Tiare Jennings and Kinzie Hansen, the No, 1 overall seed finds a way to stand out offensively. Oklahoma enters averaging 11.2 runs per game. Not only is that more than three runs better than any other team this season, it remains on pace to shatter the all-time single-season record among Power 5 programs (currently held by Arizona at 8.7 runs in 1995). With that run support, Giselle Juarez, Nicole May, Shannon Saile and the rest of a deep pitching staff that ranks 10th nationally with a 1.73 ERA don’t need to be perfect, just resilient.
Morgan State (24-15, 14-5 MEAC): The program here with the most prolific all-time offense? It’s Morgan State, which averaged 9.5 and 9.4 runs per game in 1994 and 1996, respectively (top 10 in NCAA history). The current team overcame weather and COVID issues early in the season, securing a notable win against Drexel along the way. Pitcher Stephanie Rundlett was second-team All-MEAC.
Texas A&M (31-21, 8-16 SEC): Haley Lee is fourth in the nation in home runs — and third in home runs among players in this regional. Lee is the centerpiece, hitting .413 with a .923 slugging percentage and .530 on-base percentage. She continued to excel in league play, but the rest of the offense suffered against the conference grind. On the pitching front, the good news is the Aggies gave up a low rate of extra-base hits. The bad news is they walk a lot of people.
Wichita State (39-11-1, 18-5-1 AAC): Our tour of slugging continues with the Shockers. Addison Barnard (21) and Madison Perrigan (18) rank in the top 15 nationally in home runs, and the team as a whole is fifth with a .587 slugging percentage. Arkansas and Oklahoma State were also potential regional destinations, so this is a tough draw. But a team that beat Oklahoma State twice won’t back down. Ace Bailey Lange was brilliant in both wins against the Cowgirls, as well as Iowa State.
Los Angeles Regional
Friday Schedule and broadcast information.
Fresno State (36-10, Mountain West 20-4)
The Bulldogs enter the tournament for the 34th time after clinching the Mountain West title. Fresno State will rely heavily on Mountain West Pitcher of the Year Hailey Dolcini (21-4), who threw over half of the innings for the Bulldogs. She posted a 1.01 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and ranks in the top 20 in the nation with 241 strikeouts. Keep an eye on rookie outfielder Keahilele Mattson, who earned Co-Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year after hitting .352 (1.143 OPS, .728 SLG) with eight doubles, three triples, 11 home runs, and 37 RBIs.
Long Beach State (30-9, Big West 22-2)
LBSU started its season later than most, first practicing on February 15 and not playing a game until March 4. This didn’t stop the Beach from taking home its ninth Big West title. In the final week of the regular season, Long Beach State faced an almost impossible task. The Beach needed to sweep visiting Cal State Fullerton, who entered the weekend undefeated in conference play. On the coattails of Big West Pitcher of the Year Kellie White, LBSU picked up three straight wins to take back the title.
Minnesota (Big Ten 29-11)
The Gophers received one of three spots allocated to the Big Ten, which received few bids due in part to a restricted to a conference-only schedule. With first-year head coach Piper Ritter at the helm, it’s no surprise the Gophers’ pitching staff excelled throughout the season. In her first full season at Minnesota, Autumn Pease (11-2) posted a 1.63 ERA and provided the perfect complement to the 2019 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Amber Fiser. Add in an offense led by veterans Natalie DenHartog and MaKenna Partain, and the Gophers have the arms and bats to make the regional final.
UCLA (41-4, 19-2 Pac-12)
Last fall, head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said the Bruins would rely heavily on their depth this season. She was correct. UCLA’s lineup has been more like musical chairs with injuries, COVID protocols and new players stepping up in significant ways. Olympian Rachel Garcia (14-0) is back to lead the defending national champions and was recently named one of three finalists for USA Player of the Year. Garcia suffered an injury at the beginning of the season but has come back stronger than ever. She leads the nation with a 0.60 ERA, to go with a 14-0 record, two saves, and 124 strikeouts in 94 innings. As the only Pac-12 team in the top 10 seeds, the Bruins are the only Pac team who will benefit from home-field advantage should they advance to the supers.
Alabama (45-7, 18-6 SEC): The Tide have won 13 straight games. They captured the SEC Tournament title for the first time since 2012, which was the year they won their lone WCWS title. Alabama has won every regional round since 2005 – the longest streak in Division I softball – and won 40 straight games in regional play dating back to 2007. SEC Co-Pitcher of the Year Montana Fouts (22-3, 1.55 ERA, 275 Ks, 43 walks, 175.2 IP) has been stellar in the circle all season. SEC Player of the Year Bailey Hemphill (.413, 11 HRs, 45 RBIs) set the program career record for home runs (61). Alabama has overcome significant injury losses to remain near the top of the rankings. The gradual return of Lexi Kilfoyl (11-3, 1.72 ERA, 81.1 IP) in the circle is something to watch. Alabama will likely need her in the rotation to make a deep run.
Clemson (42-6, 29-5 ACC): The Tigers are making their first NCAA appearance in their first full season as a program. But the NCAA didn’t give them any breaks. After winning the ACC regular-season title and losing 1-0 in the ACC Tournament final, Clemson was shipped to one of the most intimidating road environments in the country hosted by a perennial national power that will now be at full capacity. All-everything Valerie Cagle leads the Tigers at the plate (.414, 15 HRs, 12 2Bs, 41 RBIs) and in the circle (26-5, 1.06 ERA, 247 Ks, 48 walks, 197.2 IP). She is the first player to be named ACC Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year in the same season, and is the only ACC player among the 10 finalists for USA Softball Player of the Year. Cammy Pereira has made some big plays down the stretch on offense and defense.
Alabama State (19-27, 10-8 SWAC): The Southwest Athletic Conference tournament champions have won 9 of their last 11 games. Jaeda Gardner leads the team with a .352 average and Kaley Anthony has driven in 23 runs. ASU has stolen 88 bases as a team. Skylver Sullivan is 18-9 with a 3.89 ERA, 108 strikeouts and 48 walks in 189.2 IP. The Hornets have lost to Alabama twice this season (10-0 and 11-3)Troy (36-15, 17-6 Sun Belt): The Trojans are making their first NCAA appearance since 1996, and received an at-large bid for the first time in program history. Troy finished second in the Sun Belt Conference, which received four selections this season. The Trojans have beaten three Power Five opponents (Ole Miss, UNC, Georgia Tech). They lost to Alabama 2-0 in Tuscaloosa in February. Ace Leanna Johnson is 20-7 with a 1.50 ERA, 242 strikeouts and 74 walks in 172.1 IP. Kelly Horne is batting .383 (8 HRs, 17 2Bs, 47 RBIs) and Katie Webb .375 (17 2Bs, 35 RBIs).
Florida (42-9, 19-5 SEC): The Gators captured a share of the SEC regular-season title and lost in the SEC Tournament final. Florida has outscored opponents 124-24 in NCAA regional games since 2006. The Gators have relied on comebacks to win many games this season, with the offense rallying late for clutch hits. Charla Echols (.384, 14 HRs, 10 2Bs, 53 RBIs), Hannah Adams (.379, 10 HRs, 7 2Bs, 37 RBIs) and Kendyl Lindaman (.312, 8 HRs, 7 2Bs, 35 RBIs) are the big bats in the lineup. The Gators pitching staff has a collective ERA of 1.82, led by Elizabeth Hightower (16-5, 1.64 ERA, 99 Ks, 43 walks in 140.2 IP) and Natalie Lugo (16-2, 1.71 ERA, 79 Ks, 30 walks in 106.2 IP).
Baylor (27-21, 8-9 Big 12): The Bears are entering the regional with some negative momentum, having lost six straight games to end the season. Baylor has been hindered by season-ending injuries to Nicky Dawson, Ana Watson, Maddison Kettler and Maren Judisch. Dawson (.394) and Watson (.353) were two of the team’s top hitters and Judisch was 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA. Lou Gilbert is batting a team-leading .336 with 13 doubles and Aliyah Binford has drive in 28 runs. Gia Rodoni is 11-11 with a team-best 4.84 ERA, 142 strikeouts and 47 walks in 152.1 IP.
South Alabama (30-19, 13-9 Sun Belt): The Jaguars finished fourth in the Sun Belt Conference. South Alabama has five wins over ranked opponents this season, including a 1-0 win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Freshman right-hander Olivia Lackie is 18-10 with a 2.28 ERA, 233 Ks and 72 walks in 174.2 IP. Mackenzie (.374, 27 runs), Meredith Keel (.364, 8 2Bs) and Abby Krzywiecki (8 HR, 29 RBIs) lead the offense. Senior Kamdyn Kvistad is the sister of former Florida All-American Kayli Kvistand.
USF (29-17, 16-7 AAC): The Bulls were second in the American Athletic Conference regular season and lost in the AAC tournament semifinals. USF was 0-4 against Florida this season, losing a pair of doubleheaders. Georgina Corrick (22-7, 0.97 ERA, 300 Ks, 47 walks, 202.1 IP) is the clear-cut ace of the staff and one of the top pitchers in the country. The Bulls only have two players hitting over .300, led by AnaMarie Bruni (.382), and have only hit 19 home runs all season.
Friday schedule and broadcast information
Boston University (36-2, 21-1 Patriot): Pitcher Ali DuBois hasn’t lost in more than 14 months. The ace enters with a 25-0 record, 0.89 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. That includes a three-hit shutout against Power 5 Boston College. The Terriers also have pitching depth, particularly Emily Grant, so they aren’t doomed if they drop a game. And while not a power hitting team, they do have a .410 on-base percentage.
Campbell (27-17, 15-3 Big South): Coach and former Texas A&M star Sharonda McDonald-Kelley won’t need to ask for directions. Her experience as a player and Power 5 assistant should help the Camels process nerves. As for the team, it’s no surprise the lineup takes after its coach in manufacturing runs. Results against top competition weren’t great, but they beat Syracuse and scared Texas A&M.
Mississippi State (33-23, 8-15 SEC): The Bulldogs enter with momentum after winning seven in a row against South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia to close the regular season and then beating Ole Miss in the SEC tournament. Only once in that streak did they allow more than two runs. Alyssa Loza emerging as a third arm alongside Annie Willis and Emily Williams made a big difference.
Oklahoma State (42-9, 15-3 Big 12): The lineup is arguably better than the World Series team two years ago, with Kiley Naomi and Sydney Pennington maturing into stars and transfer Alysen Febrey and Haley Busby churning out runs. Inarguable is that the pitching of Carrie Eberle and Kelly Maxwell is far superior to the most recent World Series team (and Logan Simunek is a gutsy reliever who may yet pitch some important innings). The Cowgirls just need to avoid occasional defensive lapses.
Friday schedule and broadcast information
No. 6 Arkansas vs. Manhattan (SEC Network, 1 p.m. ET)
Stanford vs. South Dakota State (ESPN3, 3:30 p.m. ET)
Full Fayetteville Regional schedule and results on D1Softball Regionals Central
No. 6 Arkansas (40-9, 19-5)
The Razorbacks clinched the SEC regular-season title for the first time in program history with a series win over LSU at the beginning of May. Since then, Arkansas has played one game in two weeks, beaten 1-0 by Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. The biggest question mark for the Razorbacks is whether or not Braxton Burnside will be ready for the postseason (coach Courtney Deifel said Thursday that her shortstop was ready), and how the Bogle Bombers would react if she isn’t her old self. Burnside is responsible for 24 of the program-record 89 home runs. But let’s not forget about Danielle Gibson, who leads the Razorbacks with a .363 average and shares the RBIs lead with Burnside. Arkansas has Mary Haff, the SEC Co-Pitcher of the Year, to provide a steady presence in the circle.
Manhattan (22-14, 17-3 MAAC)
It has been over two decades since the Jaspers participated in the NCAA Tournament. This is their second-ever appearance, the first in 1999. Manhattan is still riding the outstanding performance of the MAAC Tournament Most Outstanding Player Nicole Williams, who was 5-0 in the tournament. Williams posted a 1.78 ERA with a whopping 42 strikeouts in 35 and 1/3 innings in that event.
Stanford (31-20, 9-12 Pac-12)
The Cardinal are making their second straight tournament appearance under coach Jessica Allister. With Alana Vawter (21-9) in the circle, Stanford is tough to beat. The NFCA All-West Region first-team selection is one of five Power-5 pitchers in the country with 20 victories and an era of 1.23 or lower. Leading the Cardinal offense is Taylor Gindlesperger with a .335 average. She has five doubles, eight triples and four home runs this season.
South Dakota State (42-5, 21-1 Summit)
The Jackrabbits are all about setting records this season, as they enter the tournament for the first time since moving to Division I. What other records have they set? SDSU set a new single-season school record with 70 home runs in 48 games — the previous record of 53 home runs (in 57 games) was set in 2016. The Jackrabbits also tied a Division I-era (since 2005) single-game record with five home runs at Western Illinois. If the Jackrabbits can pull off another win during the postseason, they will tie the record for the most wins in a single season.
Baton Rouge Regional
Where: Tiger Stadium
LSU (32-19, 13-11 SEC): The Tigers are in the NCAAs for the 15th straight season, and are hosting for the sixth straight year. The No. 7 seed is the second highest in program history (No. 5 in 2015). CF Aliyah Andrews is batting a team-leading .365 with 40 runs scored, has stolen 26 of 28 bases and is usually good for at least one amazing web gem per game. Taylor Pleasants has 11 HRs and 47 RBIs. LSU has a deep pitching staff, led by Ali Kilponen (14-7, 1.77 ERA, 109 Ks, 40 walks, 118.1 IP) and Shelbi Sunseri (9-6, 2.10 ERA, 74 Ks, 30 walks, 106.2 IP).
Louisiana (44-10, 21-3 Sun Belt): The Ragin’ Cajuns are making their 22nd straight NCAA appearance and ninth trip to Baton Rouge for a regional since 2000. They have won the Baton Rouge regional three times (2008, 2010, 2013). Georgia transfer Ciara Bryan was named Sun Belt Conference Player and Newcomer of the Year. She is batting .426 with 80 hits, 57 runs, 37 RBIs and 35 stolen bases in 38 attempts Julie Rawls has driven in 52 runs. The staff is led by Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year Summer Ellyson (23-6, 2.22 ERA, 173 Ks, 28 walks, 167.0 IP) and Kandra Lamb (16-4, 2.12 ERA, 149 Ks, 41 walks, 132.1 IP).
McNeese State (34-24, 18-9 Southland): The Southland Conference Tournament champions have played in Baton Rouge in three of their last four regional appearances. The Cowgirls lost to LSU in this year’s season opener 8-0 in six innings. Just being able to play this season is a study in overcoming adversity. The program endured two hurricanes last year that devastated the local community, damaged facilities and displaced players for long stretches. Kaylee Lopez is batting a team-leading .388, Cori McCrary has 10 HRs and 32 RBIs and Haylee Brinless has driven in 44. The Cowgirls have stolen 125 bases. Whitney Tate (13-7, 2.67 ERA, 52 Ks, 17 walks, 135.0 IP) and Jenna Edwards (9-2, 2.45 ERA, 73 Ks, 41 walks, 103.0 IP) anchor the pitching staff.
George Washington (37-9, 23-1 A10): The Atlantic 10 champions are making the first NCAA appearance in program history. The program is led by A-10 Player of the Year Jenna Cone and Pitcher of the Year Sierra Lange. Cone is batting .414 with 17 HRs, 15 2Bs and 51 RBIs. Lange, a two-way standout for GW, is batting .408 with 7 HRs, 7 2Bs and 34 RBIs while going 21-8 with a 1.72 ERA, 199 Ks and 21 walks in 174.2 IP. Faith Weber is 14-1 with a 1.86 ERA, 98 Ks and 24 walks in 105.1 IP.
Friday schedule and broadcast information
Illinois-Chicago (29-21, 23-11 Horizon): Marley Hanlon only started nine games but pitched nearly a third of the team’s innings. She has a 2.22 ERA; the rest of the team has a 3.82 ERA. On the offensive side, Kayla Wedl (.432 BA, .864 SLG, .492 OBP) fits right in with the theme of under-the-radar individual stars in this regional. The Flames don’t have a signature win but played well against DePaul.
Iowa State (32-21, 6-12 Big 12): No team in this year’s field waited longer for a return visit to the tournament than the Cyclones, here for the first time since 1988. Sami Williams leads all active players in hits and doubles (and is eighth in home runs), yet somehow wasn’t among 25 finalists for Player of the Year — despite hitting .457 with a 1.472 OPS this season. Mikayla Ramos (1.141 OPS) is a star in her own right, and the Spelhaug sisters will be key, Carli hitting and Ellie pitching.
Missouri (38-15, 15-9 SEC): Winning series on the road against Arkansas and Tennessee and run-ruling Florida even while dropping that series helped the Tigers soar into the prized top eight. In conference play, Missouri led the SEC in runs and tied Alabama for the most runs scored. The offense built around Kendyll Bailey, Cayla Kessinger, Jenna Laird, Hatti Moore, Kim Wert and Brooke Wilmes is legit. Much like Oklahoma, the pitching is equally balanced if not as deep in accolades.
Northern Iowa (31-18, 20-7 MVC): The Panthers wouldn’t be here if they were solely the Sammy Bunch show, but they also wouldn’t be here without the senior superstar who leads all non-Oklahoma players with a neatly even 1.000 slugging percentage (meaning she averages a base every at-bat). She accounts for a whopping 24 percent of the team’s total bases. Kailyn Packard is the star in the circle, with 1.62 ERA and 100-plus more innings than any other pitcher.
Where: Sherri Parker Lee Stadium
Tennessee (41-13, 12-11 SEC): The Lady Vols are hosting a regional for the 16th straight year. They gained confidence from a run to the SEC Tournament semifinals. UT’s success will depend on the health of ace Ashley Rogers (25-8, 1.26 ERA, 278 Ks, 46 walks 200.1IP), who pitched through a back injury and bandaged finger during the SEC tournament before resting in the final game. The offense is led by Kiki Milloy (.364, 13 HRs, 36 RBIs), Amanda Ayala (.361, 11 2Bs, 30 RBIs) and Ashley Morgan (.370, 27 RBIs). Catcher Ally Shipman has found an offensive groove the last few games.
JMU (34-1, 17-1 CAA): The experienced Dukes are one of the three reputable mid-major programs in the regional. They have a 24-game winning streak, with the lone loss of the season against Elon. They dominated the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, outscoring opponents 32-0. JMU’s reputation is strong, but it’s hard to gauge the full potential of this team with only one Power 5 opponent (Virginia) on the schedule. Redshirt seniors Odicci Alexander and Kate Gordon are proven stars. Gordon (.417, 17 HRs, 11 2Bs, 52 RBIs) and Sara Jubas (.427, 10 HRs, 10 2Bs, 29 RBIs) lead the offense. Alexander (12-0, 0.62 ERA, 138 Ks, 17 walks 79.0 IP.), a two-way threat, and Alissa Humphrey (13-0, 1.47 ERA, 132 Ks, 27 walks, 86.0 IP) are unbeaten in the circle. Madison Naujokas is 23 of 23 in stolen bases.
Liberty (42-13, 16-2 ASUN): The ASUN regular-season champion Flames are 21-1 in the last 22 games, including 12 shutout wins. Liberty is 2-9 against Top 25 teams, beating Arkansas and 18 Virginia Tech in extra innings. Senior sisters Autumn Bishop (.339, 12 HRs, 19 2Bs, 35 RBIs) and Amber Bishop-Riley (.380, 16 HRs, 12 2Bs, 46 RBIs) are the big offensive threats.. Junior Emily Kirby (15-5, 1.82 ERA, 137 Ks, 47 walks, 131.0 IP) and freshman Karlie Keeney (15-4, 2.25 ERA, 64 Ks, 36 walks, 127.1 IP) lead the staff. The Flames are coached by Olympic medalist Dot Richardson, who played for Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly on Team USA.
Eastern Kentucky (35-15, 22-9 OVC): EKU captured the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title. It will be the last time representing the OVC for the foreseeable future, with the program moving to the A-Sun next season. Sammi Miller (.419, 13 2Bs, 24 RBIs 16 of 18 stolen bases) leads the offense. Tori Peterson (16-5, 2.25 ERA, 65 Ks, 37 walks in 118.0 IP) and Mollie Paulick (12-1, 2.06 ERA, 82 Ks, 22 walks in 78.0 IP) have worked the bulk of the innings in the circle.
Friday schedule and broadcast information
Auburn (27-22, 7-17 SEC): The Tigers excelled in the circle this season with a team 1.99 ERA. Leading the staff are freshmen pitchers Shelby Lowe and Maddie Penta. The pair made program history as the first two freshman pitchers to strike out at least 100 batters in the same season. Lowe punched out 175, the 10th-most in Auburn history. She leads the SEC in fewest walks allowed per seven innings (1.19) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.48). With a team .244 batting average, the Tigers need to find a way to manufacture runs and will rely heavily on Makayla Packer to get the offense going. Packer is 15-fo-15 in stolen bases and is the only starter hitting above .300.
Florida State (39-10-1, 19-3 ACC): Florida State managed to capture a No. 10 seed with a second-place finish in the ACC and a loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament. The Seminoles can pitch. The staff boasts a 1.71 ERA, with Katherine Sandercock (22-2) leading the way. Sandercock has appeared in 32 games (19 starts) and compiled a 1.20 ERA while allowing her opponents to hit just .189 in 128 and 2/3 innings. But Lonni Alameda has options with both Caylan Arnold (9-6, 1.66 ERA and 124 strikeouts) and Danielle Watson (8-1, 2.39 ERA and 87 strikeouts).
Kennesaw State (26-25, 10-5 ASUN): KSU is one of seven non-Power 5 schools to receive an at-large bid. The Owls ended with a 56 RPI and already faced each of the teams in the Tallahassee Regional this season. Kennesaw split with Auburn and took a single game from UCF in a three-game series. Brea Dickey leads the Kennesaw State offense with a .366 batting average and a .615 slugging percentage.
UCF (39-17-1, 16-7-1 AAC): It’s been a roller coaster season for the Knights, jumping in and out of the top 25. With big wins over Florida and Arizona, the Knights have all the tools to make a solid run in the tournament. Alea White (20-7) and Gianna Mancha (14-5) anchor the pitching staff and provide depth and experience in the circle. White is UCF’s all-time winningest pitcher with 95 career wins, posting a 1.56 ERA in 2021. A three-time conference pitcher of the week this season, the fifth-year senior racked up more strikeouts (140) than hits allowed (122).
Friday schedule and broadcast information
Villanova (36-13, 15-2 Big East): The Wildcats are in the tournament for the first time in program history. Villanova’s Paige Rauch is a name you need to know. The two-way player was the Big East Player and Pitcher of the Year. She is 20-3 with a 1.97 ERA in the circle and leads the team with a .420 batting average at the plate. Opponents wouldn’t pitch to her for most of the tournament, walking her 13 times. In the conference tournament, Villanova climbed its way back in the loser’s bracket, beating host UConn twice on the final day.
Ole Miss (34-20, 12-12 SEC): The Rebels finished with the second-most conference wins in program history. In her first season at the helm, coach Jaime Trachsel led the Rebels to series wins against Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Auburn. The Rebels enter the Tucson Regional with an 0-3 all-time record against Arizona, 2-0 against Villanova and have never met UMBC. As the program makes its fifth straight tournament appearance, keep an eye on Sydney Gutierrez, who finished 11th in the SEC with a .366 average.
Arizona (36-13, 12-10 Pac-12): The Wildcats drew a No. 11 seed in the tournament after finishing fifth in the conference. Yet Arizona is always a team to beat and boasts the longest active streak of consecutive NCAA appearances (34). The Wildcats have also won 30 regionals. Amid plenty of star sluggers, the Wildcats are paced by the Pac-12 batting champion and Freshman of the Year Janelle Meoño (.442 average). Hanah Bowen and Alyssa Denham anchor a pitching staff that posted a 2.22 ERA in the regular season. Jessie Harper is still chasing the NCAA all-time home run record, needing six home runs to tie Lauren Chamberlain.
UMBC (25-11, 11-5 America East): The Retrievers are led by Courtney Coppersmith in the circle. She is third in the country with a 0.65 ERA and has a 19-2 record and 233 strikeouts in 140 innings. Making just their fourth NCAA appearance, UMBC enters the regional with six players hitting .300 or better — including Julia Keffler, who is hitting .350.
Friday schedule and broadcast information
Oregon (37-15, 14-10 Pac-12): As you may have heard, the Ducks have some familiarity with one of the coaches in this regional. Brooke Yanez (20-5, 2.09 ERA) hit a rough patch in Pac-12 play, but she enters the weekend having allowed just two earned runs in her last 32 innings. The entire conference season was a rough patch for the lineup, which had a .317 OBP in Pac-12 games, but Haley Cruse never let up (1.041 OPS in conference games, 1.070 OPS overall).
Saint Francis (40-8, 22-2 NEC): This is quite a turnaround for a team that was 5-18 when the 2020 season came to a halt. The fourth seed in the quad, Saint Francis nonetheless features two pitchers with the lowest ERAs in Austin. Grace Vesco (0.82) and Rachel Marsden (1.43) rank among national leaders. On the other side, Mekenzie Saban ranks third nationally with 20 doubles.
Texas (39-11, 12-6 Big 12): The Longhorns were 1-9 against teams that earned national seeds and 38-2 against everyone else. As for current events, it’s a deep pitching staff, but Shea O’Leary (13-4, 1.86 ERA) and Molly Jacobsen (13-5, 3.28 ERA) were responsible for 76 percent of the innings in conference games. Mark Iakopo, Janae Jefferson and Shannon Rhodes could produce runs for any team, and Texas ranks sixth in the nation in slugging percentage and fifth in on-base percentage.
Texas State (38-12, 17-6 Sun Belt): The Bobcats have become almost as much a tournament regular as the state’s Big 12 and SEC programs. Freshman Jessica Mullins changed what was possible this season by emerging as the ace, including taking the Longhorns into extra innings her first week out. The one-two punch of Sara Vanderford and Tara Oltmann accounts for 35 percent of total bases.
Duke (42-10, 26-10 ACC): Riding a 15-game winning streak, the Blue Devils are making the first NCAA appearance in program history. They are the only national seed to get sent on the road after not being selected as a predetermined host site. Duke finished third in the ACC regular season, and beat Clemson to capture its first ACC Tournament title. Deja Davis (.405, 7 HRs, 7 3Bs, 9 2Bs), Jameson Kavel (33 RBIs, 13 2Bs) and Kristina Foreman (11 HRs, 10 2Bs, 40 RBIs) lead the offense. Peyton St. George (18-6, 2.02 ERA, 184 Ks, 35 walks, 145.1 IP) and Shelby Walters (17-3, 1.30 ERA, 78 Ks, 29 walks, 129.0 IP) split the pitching duties. Duke has the potential for a full circle moment. The Blue Devils started the season on the road at an SEC school (LSU), and went undefeated in the tournament.
Georgia (29-21, 7-17 SEC): The Dawgs enter on a major down swing. They have lost seven straight games and 10 of their last 11 since becoming the only team to beat Oklahoma. Georgia is making its 19th straight NCAA appearance. Lacey Fincher is batting a team-leading .331 with 13 home runs and 31 RBIs. Sydney Kuma has 14 HRs and 34 RBIs. Mary Wilson Avant leads the staff with a 15-10 record (3.01 ERA, 175 Ks, 68 walks, 169.2 IP).
Western Kentucky (31-13, 10-6 CUSA): The Hilltoppers earned the automatic bid after winning the Conference USA Tournament title. They beat Georgia in Athens during the 2015 regional before the Dawgs recovered to advance. Paige Carter is batting a team-leading .384 (13 HRs, 18 2Bs, 35 RBIs) and Kennedy Sullivan has driven in 45 runs (.340, 13 HRs). The Hilltoppers have four pitchers that have split the bulk of the innings and all have ERAs under 2.72 (Shelby Nunn, Kelsey Aikey, Kennedy Sullivan, Katie Gardner).
UNC Greensboro (34-15, 14-4 SoCon): The Spartans, making the third NCAA appearance in program history (2018, 1997), have won 16 of their last 17 games. UNCG won the Southern Conference Tournament title behind a tournament single-game record six home runs. The Spartans have hit a single-season and SoCon record 89 home runs this season. They’ve homered at least once in eight straight games, and have hit at least four home runs in a game nine times this season and six HRs three times. Makenna Matthjis (.361, 13 HRs) leads the SoCon in runs (44), hits (60) and RBIs (43). Morgan Scott (20-7, 2.10 ERA, 200 strikeouts, 65 walks, 180.1 IP) was named SoCon Pitcher and Freshman of the Year.
Friday schedule and broadcast information
Kentucky (39-13, 13-11 SEC): The Wildcats have the nation’s batting champion, one of its best freshmen and two pitchers who can help their own cause by swinging the bat. That’s a heck of a core. Kayla Kowalik enters hitting .505 with 20 stolen bases — but don’t confuse someone who has 28 extra-base with a slapper. Erin Coffel (1.176 OPS) lived up to all hype in her debut. Grace Baalman and especially Autumn Humes (20-7, 2.93 ERA, .426 SLG) are two-way threats.
Miami (46-8, 36-2 MAC): Courtney Vierstra shut out Tennessee in Knoxville earlier this season, so don’t expect her to stress about venturing into SEC territory. Vierstra has thrown five no-hitters this season. But it’s not all about pitching. Far from it. Miami ranks third nationally in slugging percentage (.626) and second only to Oklahoma in runs per game (7.85). Allie Cummins (1.460 OPS) and Karli Spaid (1.404 OPS) wield the biggest of a bunch of big bats.
Northwestern (29-15 Big Ten): The Wildcats won’t mind going on the road — they dominated the Big Ten’s two rounds of neutral-site games and were just as good in true road games as at home. Partly that’s because Danielle Williams (16-8, 2.15 ERA) can be good anywhere. Rachel Lewis (1.117 OPS and 28 stolen bases) is the bat to know, but the Wildcats also count their defense as one of their best assets. Only Michigan committed fewer errors in the Big Ten.
Notre Dame (31-13, 20-10 ACC): The Fighting Irish have been in every tournament since the advent of the super regional era in 2005, but they have yet to reach that round. Changing that will require more good work from Abby Sweet (1.295 OPS) and Karina Gaskins (1.095 OPS) and the kind of pitching that Alexis Holloway provided when Notre Dame swept Virginia Tech in ACC play (although Payton Tidd could do the job in the circle too).
Friday schedule and broadcast information
Loser Game 3 vs. winner Game 4 (ESPN3, 9 p.m. ET)
Arizona State (33-14, 12-9 Pac-12): The Sun Devils enter the tournament with an at-large bid after finishing fourth in the Pac-12. Trisha Ford’s squad lost just one conference series to No. 2 ranked UCLA. Keep an eye on senior catcher Maddi Hackbarth, who heads into the postseason tied for the program’s single-season home run record. She will help guide a young pitching staff in Lindsay Lopez and Allison Royalty through their first postseason. With 16 consecutive tournament appearances, the Sun Devils have experience and a coaching staff that should help guide them to the regional final. (ASU opened with a 7-4 win against SIU on Thursday.)
BYU (36-15, 11-1 WCC): The Cougars swept four of the top five West Coast Conference awards, including Player and Freshman of the Year Violet Zavodnik. The rookie centerfielder finished the season with a WCC-leading .513 batting average in conference play and tallied 20 hits, 13 runs and 18 RBI on a 1.103 slugging percentage. In the circle, they boast WCC Pitcher of the Year Autumn Moffat-Korth, who finished the regular season with a league-low 0.72 ERA. Moffat-Korth went 7-0 in eight WCC appearances and gave up just 10 runs on 31 hits in 48.1 innings pitched. She walked only four batters while striking out 42. BYU has won 24 of its last 26 games and has WCC Coach of the Year Gordon Eakin at the helm, making the Cougars a very competent third seed. (BYU lost to Virginia Tech on Thursday.)
Southern Illinois (37-14, 16-10 MVC): The Missouri Valley Conference champion qualified for the tournament for the 13th time with a victory over Northern Iowa. SIU enters with the No. 44 RPI and 11 top-100 wins, including a win over No. 29 RPI Mississippi State. The Salukis open the regional by facing Arizona State for the fourth time in program history, first meeting the Sun Devils back on March 17, 1982. Keep an eye on pitcher Sarah Harness (22-6), who led SUI to all three victories in the MVC Tournament. (SIU lost to Arizona State on Thursday.)
Virginia Tech (33-13, ACC 23-11): There are few pitchers in the country who boast a resume similar to Keely Rochard. The All-American hurler was named ACC Pitcher of the Year last week after a 24-7 regular season that included 288 strikeouts and 13 shutouts. With Rochard in the circle, the Hokies always have a shot. Keep an eye on Kelsey Bennett, who leads the team with 11 home runs. Jayme Bailey has a team-leading 12 doubles and 40 RBIs. (Virginia Tech beat BYU 5-2 on Thursday.)
Friday Schedule and broadcast information
Portland State (15-24, 8-10 Big Sky): The Vikings earned their first tournament bid since 2013 after clinching their second Big Sky championship in dramatic fashion. PSU went into the Big Sky tournament as the No. 5 seed but defeated both top-seeded Weber State and second-seeded Southern Utah to take home the trophy. Keep an eye on Olivia Grey, the redshirt freshman who started four straight games in the circle for the Vikings in the conference tournament.
Michigan (36-6 Big Ten): A team that suffered from lack of run production early this season was always able to count on Lexie Blair. The junior outfielder was named Big Ten Player of the Year and is the first Wolverine since Sierra Romero to pick up the award. Blair hit .411 with 39 runs, 15 doubles and a .465 on-base percentage. The offense picked up around her as the season progressed. Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Alex Storako is sixth in the nation with a 0.88 ERA and ninth with 252 strikeouts. Counterpart Meghan Beaubien is 15-3 with a 1.14 ERA and 186 strikeouts, giving Carol Hutchins one of the best tandems in the bracket.
Seattle University (29-12, 11-5 WAC): The WAC champion returns to the NCAA tournament for a second straight time. Carley Nance led the Redhawks pitching staff all season and won all three games in the conference tournament. Nance also blasted three home runs as well, solidifying her spot as the WAC Tournament MVP and the only player in WAC history to win the award twice.
Washington (41-11, 18-5 Pac-12): Washington will host its fifth straight regional at Husky Softball Stadium, where they are 30-0 in regional play. With the current NCAA strikeout leader Gabbie Plain in the circle, Washington is tough to beat at home. Plain reached 300 strikeouts last weekend and needs just 16 more to pass Jennifer Spediacci for the fifth-most in a single season in UW history. Speaking of defense, shortstop Sis Bates won her third consecutive Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award. On the offensive side of the ball, look to Baylee Klinger to power the lineup. She is the only player in the Pac-12 with 50 runs scored and 50 RBIs.