(Nate Billings, The Oklahoman)
Oklahoma boasts one of the most fearsome lineups in recent memory, a two-time player of the year in Keilani Ricketts and essentially will play the championship round at the Women's College World Series at home.
Tennessee has three All-Americans of its own (second baseman Lauren Gibson, shortstop Madison Shipman and third baseman Raven Chavanne) and a pair of sisters (Ellen and Ivy Renfro) that can silence the most explosive of bats.
The championship round promises to be a real doozy, folks. Let's preview Game 1.
When: Monday, June 3 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
What They're Saying
Let's be honest—Oklahoma is the prohibitive favorite going into this championship series, and the Vols will have their work cut out for them. Graham Hays of ESPN breaks down just how daunting the Sooners have been this year:
The Sooners have already scored 82 runs in the NCAA tournament. Without even playing a game yet in the championship round, that's already more than nine of the past 10 national champions scored in their entire postseason runs. There is world-class power in the top half of the lineup and speed and contact in the bottom half—bats that wouldn't be in bottom half of just about any other lineup.
Not to mention that runs of support are going to be hard to come by against Oklahoma ace Keilani Ricketts, the two-time reigning national player of the year.
Or that the record-breaking crowds have a certain audible affection for the local team in what is a neutral venue in name only.
Tennessee Player to Watch: Lauren Gibson
The All-American and SEC Player of the Year has been fantastic for Tennessee this season, hitting .414 with 19 home runs, 68 RBI, 67 runs and 15 stolen bases. She also hit a key home run in the first inning against Texas ace Blaire Luna that helped lead Tennessee to the championship game.
Championship series are generally hinged on two things—which team's pitching holds up, and which team's star shines the brightest. Gibson has been coming up clutch for Tennessee all season long, and she'll need to come up with some more magic if Tennessee are to pull off the upset.
Oklahoma Player to Watch: Keilani Ricketts
Ricketts has been insanely good this season, going 31-1 with a 1.22 ERA and 311 strikeouts in 207.1 innings pitched. I would say she's the Justin Verlander of college softball, but I'm pretty sure Verlander is actually the Ricketts of Major League Baseball.
Oh, and she hits too, slugging .375 with 13 home runs and 54 RBI this season. There's a reason she's a two-time player of the year, and a reason she'll lead a talented Oklahoma team in this contest.
Which team wins Game 1?
Tennessee is a very talented team and Ellen and Ivy Renfroe are good enough to quiet the Oklahoma bats. But Oklahoma has too much star power and too stacked a lineup to be denied a national championship.
The Sooners will take Game 1, 6-2.