Scouting Report: Women’s College World Series
June 1, 2022 11:19 p.m.
No. 5 seed UCLA softball (48-8, 19-5 Pac-12) will begin its journey for its 13th national championship Thursday in Oklahoma City. Here is the scouting report of the teams standing in UCLA’s way of two titles in four years from softball staff writer Diego Farinha — who is exhausted from driving five hours from the Bay Area before finishing this.
Texas Longhorns (43-19-1, 12-6 Big 12):
Coach: Mike White
Player to watch: IF Janae Jefferson
UCLA’s first opponent hails from the Lone Star State.
Texas ranks 93rd in ERA and 24th in batting average in the nation. Its offense is led by infielder Janae Jefferson, who ranks 15th in the country with a batting average of .431. Jefferson paces the team in hits, doubles and runs, as well as total bases, and has recorded a hit in 15 of her last 16 games.
No pitchers in the Longhorn staff boast an ERA of less than two, but the closest is their ace Hailey Dolcini who gives up 2.19 runs per seven innings. Despite the low ranking in ERA, the team has allowed more than two runs in only one of its past six contests.
Oklahoma Sooners (54-2, 17-1 Big 12):
Coach: Patty Gasso
Player to watch: UTIL Jocelyn Alo
Simply put, No. 1 seed Oklahoma is the best team in Oklahoma City. The Sooners jumped out to the best start in college softball history with 36 consecutive wins to begin their campaign and ended the regular season 54-2. One of those victories came against the Bruins when the two teams met in early February on neutral ground, where the Sooners managed a 4-1 triumph.
Led by designated player and USA Collegiate Player of the Year Jocelyn Alo, the Sooners have power up and down the lineup. They tout five players with at least 14 home runs and three batters hitting over .400.
Oklahoma not only leads the nation in many offensive categories, but its pitching staff is ranked first in ERA.
In the circle, Jordy Bahl led the team in wins throughout the regular season but has yet to pitch in the postseason because of an injury. So far, Hope Trautwein and Nicole May have taken over pitching duties in Bahl’s absence, but if the Sooners get their freshman arm back in the WCWS, they will be as dangerous in the circle as they are in the batter’s box.
Northwestern Wildcats (45-11, 19-4 Big Ten):
Coach: Kate Drohan
Player to watch: P/UTIL Danielle Williams
The Wildcats are led by the arm of Danielle Williams.
Williams is one of the most prolific pitchers in the country. The senior ranks second in wins and is tied for second in both appearances and innings pitched, with 47 and 241, respectively. Eight of the 241 were thrown against the Bruins back in February in the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational.
Williams limited UCLA to four runs – two earned – to earn the victory and hand the Bruins their second loss of the season at the time.
Oklahoma State Cowgirls (46-12, 14-4 Big 12):
Coach: Kenny Gajewski
Player to watch: P Kelly Maxwell
The strength of the Cowgirls lies in their arms.
Oklahoma State ranks 10th in team ERA with Kelly Maxwell slotting in at 11th in the nation among individual pitchers, one spot above UCLA redshirt senior Holly Azevedo. Maxwell leads the team with 19 wins while teammates Miranda Elish and Morgan Day each boast 13 wins.
The Cowgirls are on an eight-game winning streak, including a Big-12 Championship win over Oklahoma. Maxwell appeared in six of the eight victories, pitching at least three innings in five of those, earning four wins and one save.
Florida Gators (48-17, 13-11 SEC):
Coach: Tim Walton
Player to watch: IF Skylar Wallace
The Gators are back in the WCWS for the 11th time in program history and seven years removed from their back-to-back titles.
Florida ranks in the top 15 for batting average and top 30 for ERA, while leading the nation in innings pitched. The team’s leader in the circle is Elizabeth Hightower, who led the staff with 17 wins.
Shortstop Skylar Wallace bats third in the Gator lineup and leads them in home runs, batting average and walks. So far this postseason, Wallace has tallied 10 RBIs in five games, including four in the team’s clinching win over Virginia Tech.
Arizona Wildcats (38-20, 8-16 Pac-12):
Coach: Caitlin Lowe
Player to watch: UTIL Allie Skaggs
One of three Pac-12 teams in the tournament, the Wildcats were swept by the Bruins to begin conference play as part of an eight-game losing streak. Since then, Arizona is 19-8, riding five straight postseason victories into Oklahoma.
The familiar opponent’s offense is boosted by utility Allie Skaggs, who leads the team in home runs and places second in both batting average and RBIs. Skaggs is one of three Wildcats who have driven in 50-plus runners in an explosive Wildcat offense that ranks ninth in the nation in home runs.
Oregon State Beavers (39-20, 9-15 Pac-12):
Coach: Laura Berg
Player to watch: P Mariah Mazon
In the same bracket as the Wildcats is another Pac-12 opponent the Bruins swept during the regular season: the Beavers.
All three games between UCLA and Oregon State were decided by one run in the Bruins’ favor.
To get to Oklahoma City, the Beavers relied not only on pitcher Mariah Mazon’s arm, but also her bat. At the mound, Mazon has recorded two wins and two saves in her past four outings while also blasting two home runs and eight RBIs.
If Mazon can be contained both in the circle and the batter’s box, the Bruins should be able to replicate the same success they had against the Beavers earlier in the season.