Lexi Blair, Michigan (Michigan photo)

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Week Five Primer: Matchups To Watch

Analysis

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No. 17 South Carolina vs. No. 14 Georgia
Where: Jack Turner Stadium (Athens, Ga.)
Schedule: Friday, 6 p.m. ET; Saturday, 2 p.m. ET; Sunday, 2 p.m. ET
Broadcast: SEC Network+

Georgia (20-4) and South Carolina (14-4) kickoff the SEC season with a three-game series between ranked opponents tied in the loss column.

Georgia played 24 games through the first four weeks of the seson, the most by any SEC team. The Bulldogs are coming off a 5-0 weekend at home in the Bulldog Classic. Senior Mary Wilson Avant was stellar in the circle, going 3-0 and allowing just three hits in 18 shutout innings. Freshmen Sydney Kuma and Sara Mosley have made strong debuts. Kuma is batting a team-leading .460 with eight doubles, three triples, 23 runs scored and 22 RBIs. Moseley is batting .381 with four home runs, seven doubles and a team-leading 26 RBI. Senior Ciara Bryan entered the week ranked No. 7 in the country in home runs with 8, and leading the SEC with 31 runs scored and 13 stolen bases on 14 attempts.

South Carolina will have to rely on its youth brigade in the circle while junior Kelsey Oh and senior Cayla Drotar continue to recover from injuries. Neither is expected to play. Freshman Karsen Ochs (3-1, 2.88 ERA, 18 Ks, 9 W, 24.1 IP), freshman Bailey Betenbaugh (2-0, 0.95, 14 Ks, 7 W, 14.2 IP) and sophomore Karly Heath (4-0, 2.10 ERA, 32 Ks, 15 W, 30.0 IP) are giving the Gamecocks essential innings while gaining valuable experience. They enter with only 3.1 innings combined of SEC action. South Carolina is outscoring opponents 56-3 in the first two innings of games, and is 11-1 when hitting at least one home run. Kenzi Maguire is batting .388 with five doubles and a team-high 20 runs scored. Katie Prebble has a team-leading six home runs and 23 RBIs. (Rhiannon Potkey)

No. 22 Arkansas vs. No. 10 Alabama
Where: Rhoads Stadium (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Schedule: Friday, 7 p.m. ET; Saturday, 3 p.m. ET; Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: SEC Network+

Defending SEC champion Alabama (12-7) gets to open the conference season at home with a three-game series against the Razorbacks (16-4). The Tide are coming off a 3-2 performance at the Easton Crimson Classic, with both losses coming to Arizona by one run in thrilling games. Freshman Lexi Kilfoyl (4-4, 2.59 ERA, 49 Ks, 26 W, 48.2 IP) has been thrown right into the fire against highly-ranked opponents. Sophomore Montana Fouts (3-2, 2.23 ERA, 36 Ks, 17 walks, 31.1 IP) missed a start at the Bama Classic because of illness. Alabama could use more from veterans Krystal Goodman (3-0, 3.33 ERA) and Sarah Cornell (2-1, 5.02 ERA). Junior KB Sides batted. 467 with six RBIs during the Crimson Classic while Skylar Wallace had team-leading seven hits, including two doubles and a triple, and seven runs scored. The Tide lineup needs to make teams pay for pitching around senior slugger Bailey Hemphill, who leads the NCAA with 23 walks. Hemphill has two home runs this season and 50 for her career, which is 10 away from Kelly Kretschman’s program record of 60.

Arkansas will be playing its toughest road opponent to date. The Razorbacks just completed a 12-game homestand that included losses to the only ranked opponents they’ve faced, Baylor and Florida State. Arkansas has six players batting at least .350 and seven players with at least 10 RBIs. Braxton Burnside is batting .435 with five home runs, three doubles and 20 RBIs. Hannah McEwen is batting .436 with six doubles, 12 RBIs and 25 runs scored. Autumn Storms (9-2, 0.99 ERA, 55 Ks, 6 W, 56.1 IP) suffered her only two losses last weekend against Baylor and Florida State. Mary Haff is 4-1 with a 1.68 ERA, 37 strikeouts and eight walks in 33.1 innings

One thing is for sure for the three-game series – Rhoads Stadium will be rocking as usual. The Tide have sold more than 3,000 season tickets. After Friday’s game, “Aladdin” will be shown on the videoboard, and Saturday is Senior Day for transfer Alexis Mack. (Rhiannon Potkey)

No. 18 Michigan vs. No. 1 UCLA
Where: Easton Stadium (Los Angeles, CA)
Schedule: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. PST 
Broadcast: PAC-12 Plus Live Stream 

Michigan (13-6) travels to Los Angeles on Thursday evening for back to back games at the UCLA/Long Beach State Invitational at Easton Stadium. Michigan plays the No.1 ranked Bruins immediately following their 4:30 p.m. game against the Cal State Fullerton Titans. The Bruins lead the all-time series 11-11-1 with the last win by Michigan in last season’s Judi Garman Classic in the most-recent meeting between the programs. UCLA has scored in its first at-bat in 15 of 20 games. The 45 runs scored in the first inning are the most for the Bruins in any inning this season. UCLA enter the contest ranked #1 in batting average (.382), on base percentage (.466), strikeout-to-walk ratio (11.40), and winning percentage (.950). The offense is averaging 8.19 runs a game compared to Wolverines 3.68. Michigan has suffered hitting woes as of late, checking in at 195th in runs per game and 144th in batting average (.268). Michigan will need Lexie Blair to get on base as she did last weekend at the Judi Garman classic as well as clutch hitting from Lou Allen and Julia Jimenez to stay in the game.

Megan Faraimo should get the start for UCLA against the Wolverines, ranked first in NCAA in two categories: strikeout-to-walk (31.25) ratio and wins (11). She is second in strikeouts (125) just ahead of Michigan’s Alex Storako (116). Storako (7-2) and Megan Beaubien (6-4) split the workload for the Wolverines with a combined 120 innings pitched. Beaubien may get the nod for Michigan to create a lefty/lefty matchup as the Bruins typically start 6 left-handed hitters in their lineup. (Tara Henry)

No. 20 Utah vs. No. 11 Oklahoma State 
Where: Mizuno Classic (Stillwater, Okla.)
Schedule: Saturday, 5:00 p.m. CST
Broadcast: ESPN+ 

Utah, like many cold-weather schools, has been on the road for the entirety of the 2020 season to this point, though they have had a week off since playing a doubleheader at San Diego on Feb. 24. Sydney Sandez continues to carry the bulk of the innings for Utah, and is now 10-2 with a 2.12 ERA and 26 strikeouts.

Three Utes, Alyssa Barrera (.442, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 13 R), Elessa Bonstrom (.436, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 7 R, 12 BB), and Haley Denning (.435, 4 RBI, 14 R, 8 SB) have started all 14 games and are hitting over .400 for the season to this point. This will be Oklahoma State’s second straight weekend playing at home while hosting a tournament, and they’re coming off of a big nine-inning win over Oregon last Saturday. Carrie Eberle has taken the bulk of the innings for OSU, holding a 0.48 ERA with a 7-1 record and 49 strikeouts. Alysen Febrey leads the Cowgirls offense, hitting .365 on the season with team-highs of seven home runs, 22 RBI, and four doubles. Kiley Naomi leads the team with 18 runs scored nine stolen bases. Six players have started every game so far this season. (Amy Symons Hughes)

No. 19 Minnesota vs. No. 24 UCF 
Where: UCLA/Long Beach State Tournament
Schedule: Sunday, 11:30 a.m. PT

As the Gophers final game of the tournament this weekend, Minnesota (12-7) is set to face off against UCF (16-3).

For Minnesota, Natalie DenHartog leads the team with a .439 batting average, 18 runs scored, five home runs, and 19 RBI. She is one of six Gophers to have started all of the team’s 19 games thus far. In the circle, Amber Fiser leads the way with 77 IP, a 2.445 ERA, 110 strikeouts and a 7-6 records.

For UCF, Shannon Doherty leads the team with a .514 batting average while contributing 12 RBI. Georgia Blair has a team-best six home runs and 18 runs scored, while Justene Molina and Kyra Klarkowski each have four stolen bases. Alea White (1.86 ERA, 8-2, 52.2 IP, 63 SO) and Gianna Mancha (3.45 ERA, 4-1, 46.2 IP, 47 SO) have shared the load in the circle. (Amy Symons Hughes)

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