Louisiana's Summer Ellyson is a headliner this weekend. (UL photo)

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Week Three Primer: Matchups To Watch

Analysis

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Staff writers Tara Henry, Rhiannon Potkey and Amy Symons Hughes were contributors to this story.


No. 5 Washington (10-1) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma (8-1)

Where: Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic 
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FloSoftball 

Washington won’t have Sis Bates in the lineup for a second consecutive week (concussion protocol). The Huskies wound up doing OK without Bates last week at the St. Pete-Clearwater Invitational. Aside from their first game without Bates, an 8-0 (5 inn) loss to Alabama last weekend, the Huskies offense has been solid, scoring at least five runs each game. Five players outside of Bates are hitting .300 or better on the season, and Gabbie Plain is now 5-1 in the circle with 38 strikeouts over 31.1 innings pitched.

A stunning loss to Long Beach State at last weekend’s Hillenbrand Invitational is the only blemish on Oklahoma’s record so far this season. Last weekend saw a pile of offense from the Sooners, with two run-rule wins and at least four runs scored in every game. OU did take the battle with host Arizona, prevailing 6-4 with Olivia Rains and Macy McAdoo splitting time in the circle. For the season so far, Kinzie Hansen leads the OU offense with a .394 average, six runs scored, ant 14 RBI. Shannon Saile leads the way with a 0.59 ERA over 23.2 IP and a 9-3 record. All-American senior Giselle “G” Juarez has thrown only 2.2 innings so far this season.

This match-up is the premier game for both schools at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic


No. 21 South Carolina (6-3) vs. No. 11 Michigan (9-0)
Where: Gamecock Invitational, Columbia, SC
When: Saturday, 3:00 PM EST, SEC Network+ 

Michigan’s 9-0 start is the program’s best since 2011. Quality pitching has helped fuel the run. Junior left-hander Meghan Beaubien and sophomore right-hander Alex Storako have combined to go 9-0 with two saves and a 1.72 ERA. Storako ranks third in the nation in strikeouts per seven innings (13.2) and fourth in total strikeouts (62). Senior Haley Hoogenraad leads Michigan with a .458 average and five doubles. The Wolverines are 4-0 in one-run games.

South Carolina is tough to beat in tournaments on its home field. The Gamecocks are 24-0 over the past six seasons in the Gamecock Invitational, and 44-1 in their past 45 home tournament games. Junior pitcher Kelsey Oh is 4-2 with a 2.19 ERA, 50 strikeouts and 14 walks in 32.0 innings. Kenzi Maguire is batting .409 with three doubles, Katie Prebble has driven in 11 runs and Jana John has four doubles, two triples and nine RBIs.


No.10 Louisiana (7-2) vs. No.8 Oklahoma State (6-3)
Where: Blazer Classic, Birmingham, AL
When: Friday, 1:30 p.m. ET; Saturday 10 a.m. ET

Fans at Mary Bowers Field will be treated to two games between these top 10 squads. They share a common opponent in LSU. Louisiana split one-run games against the Tigers while OSU lost to them twice in one-run games.

Louisiana boasts the All-American pitching duo of Summer Ellyson and Megan Kleist. Ellyson was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week this week for a performance that included a six-inning perfect game against Lamar. Ellyson is 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA, 42 strikeouts and only three walks in 27.2 innings. Kleist is 3-2 with a 0.78 ERA, 34 strikeouts and seven walks. Louisiana is batting .333 as a team and Julie Rawls has driven in 11 runs.

OSU has started 6-3 against a strong schedule. Senior transfer Carrie Eberle earned Big 12 Co-Pitcher of the Week honors this week after going 2-0 with two saves at the St. Pete-Clearwater Elite Invitational. The right-hander had a 0.00 ERA in 17 innings pitched while giving up just nine hits. She improved to 3-1 overall with a 0.75 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 28 innings. Naomi Kiley is batting .429 with three home runs and 10 RBIs for OSU.


No. 4 Arizona (9-1) vs. Missouri (9-2)
Where: Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic 
When: Thursday, 5:30 p.m. PST, FloSoftball

Arizona dropped a late inning thriller to No. 2 Oklahoma last weekend at the Hillenbrand Classic, suffering its first loss of the season. The Wildcats have been on fire at the plate, posting a .338 team batting average led by reigning batting champion Reyna Carranco (.441), All-American Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza (.412) and the one chasing the home run record, Jessie Harper (.393). Harper hit 3 home runs in the first 10 games and knocked two out of the park Tuesday night against Team USA, one being off Cat Osterman. The Wildcats’ hot offense is paired with a pitching by committee approach as all four hurlers have seen time in the circle. Mariah Lopez and Alyssa Denham share the majority of the workload with a combined 73 strikeouts and just 16 free passes in 64.1 innings.

#LetThemPlay signs are on full display in the stands during all Missouri games, referring to the postseason ban still in place. However, Mizzou continues to play as if the ban is not in place. It started off the season with a nine-game win streak – one of the best starts in program history – only to drop their last two contests to JMU and ranked Minnesota. Historically, Mizzou has struggled against the Wildcats and trail the all-time series to Arizona (4-11). However, this may be the year the Tigers have enough grit to outlast the Wildcats.


No. 14 Florida (12-1) vs. No. 1 UCLA (11-0)
Where: Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic 
When: Saturday 5:30 p.m. PST, FloSoftball

UCLA made a statement last weekend at the St. Pete-Clearwater Elite Invitational as the only school to win all of its games. The Bruins look to keep that momentum going this weekend, and at a glance their toughest collegiate opponent should be Florida.

Creamy peanut butter fan Aaliyah Jordan paces the Bruins offense with a .577 batting average so far, with 10 runs scored, seven doubles and 14 RBI. But she’s far from the only threat in their offensive lineup. UCLA has an eye-popping nine players with double-digit at-bats and at least a .300 batting average through 11 games. In the circle, you would never know that the Bruins are missing last year’s Collegiate Player of the Year Rachel Garcia. Megan Faraimo has a 6-0 record and 58 strikeouts with a team-leading  38.0 innings in the circle. Holly Azevedo is sharing the load with a 4-0 record and 20 strikeouts through 20.0 IP.

Florida has wins over a dozen ranked teams and a loss to then-No. 17 Michigan on opening weekend. The Gators have a killer schedule this weekend that includes games against Arizona, Northwestern, Arizona State, UCLA, and Nebraska.

Transfer Charla Echols leads the Florida offense with a .513 batting average, and is one of eight players hitting .300 or better so far this season. Echols leads the Gators with 19 RBI, followed closely by Jordan Roberts with 18. In the circle, Natalie Lugo has a 5-1 record with 32.2 IP and 42 strikeouts, while Rylee Trilcek (1.62 ERA, 4-0, 21.2 IP, 21K), and Elizabeth Hightower (2.57 ERA, 3-0, 16.1 IP) have handled the pitching duties in the circle.


James Madison (3-1) vs. No. 20 Georgia (9-3)
Where: Georgia Classic, Athens, GA
When: Friday 6:00 p.m. ET & Saturday 1:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network

James Madison started its season a week later than the rest of the field at the St. Pete’s Clearwater Elite Invitational. The Dukes picked up two wins over ranked teams, Texas Tech and Missouri, but suffered a run-rule loss against Kansas (2-8). The Dukes have strength in the circle in senior Odicci Alexander, who was named Pitcher of the Week by Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Alexander went 2-0 on the weekend pitching 15 innings and punching out 22, including tying her career high record of 12 strikeouts in the shutout over Texas Tech. Sara Jubas batted .700 with at 1.500 slugging percentage and 5 RBI to earn CAA Player of the Week honors.

Georgia went 2-3 on the weekend with losses to Texas Tech, UCLA, and South Florida. Despite losing to unranked USF, Mary Wilson Avant (4-2) threw a complete game in the circle shutting the Bulls out through six. Ciara Bryan enters the weekend with 6 HR and 15 RBI for the Bulldogs and will be the key to jump-starting the offense in the leadoff spot followed by Jordan Doggett hitting .500 with 3 triples and 11 RBI.

The preseason mini-series between the programs should be a quality barometer for both.

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