After losing Game 1 of the NCAA Division I Softball World Series, the Alabama Crimson Tide will enter a must-win situation in Game 2 of a best-of-three series against the Oklahoma Sooners. The No. 2 Tide was favored entering the series, but the No. 4 Sooners are now just one win away from championship glory.
The series isn't over by a long shot, though, as the Tide is an impressive 58-8 on the season, so 'Bama is resilient to say the least. Both teams feature several of the best players in the nation, so there is no telling who the hero may be in the next game or a possible third game. Every star will have to put in maximum effort in order for their respective teams to win it all, however.
Here are the biggest key players to watch for the remainder of the Softball World Series.
Although she was beaten in Game 1 of the series, Alabama pitcher Jackie Traina was perhaps the best pitcher in the nation all season long. The sophomore star went 40-3 on the season with a 1.71 ERA and an incredible 347 strikeouts. Almost as important is Traina's offensive production, as she hit .313 with 10 home runs on the year.
Traina is likely to be Alabama's go-to pitcher in a decisive Game 3, but she will have to have an impact in Game 2 if the Tide is going to force a deciding game. She has the ability to be a big-time run producer and if her bat can get hot over the next two contests, then Alabama has a legitimate shot to come from behind and win it all.
Which player will have the biggest impact on the remainder of the Softball World Series?
Last season, Oklahoma catcher Jessica Shults was laid up with a condition called ulcerative colitis, which limited her availability and effectiveness. The star has bounced back this season, however, to become an important player for the Sooners. Shults has a fantastic .381 batting average on the season and drove in two huge runs in Oklahoma's Game 1 victory over Alabama.
Shults is not only the team's offensive leader, but she is the spiritual leader as well. All of her teammates rallied around her last season, and they have done the same this year. At some point in either Game 2 or Game 3, the Sooners are going to need a hit in a big spot in order to win. If Shults is at the plate during one of those moments, then Oklahoma has a great shot.
As vital as it is for both teams' big boppers to come through, those run producers can't do much if nobody is on base. That is where outfielder Jennifer Fenton comes into play for the Crimson Tide. The experienced senior is the perfect hitter for the top of the order as she has a .392 batting average and reaches base nearly half the time overall.
On top of that, Fenton wreaks havoc on the base paths with 43 steals on 46 attempts. With several great pitchers taking the hill in this series, runs will be difficult to come by. That means that if Fenton is able to get on base, she should be looking to take second at every opportunity. Provided Fenton can find a way to get on, Alabama will be in good shape moving forward.
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