The 2014 NCAA softball championship tournament is in full swing, and the College Softball World Series is on the horizon. The World Series portion of the NCAA tournament will take place on May 29 and run through June 3, though the Super Regionals will dictate which teams are in the hunt.
The official NCAA website details what the Super Regionals consist of:
Super Regionals for the NCAA Division I Softball Championship will be held May 22-25 on eight campus sites. At each site, two teams play in a best-of-three tournament format. The winners from each site advance to the NCAA Women’s College World Series.
After the Super Regionals end, the remaining teams will compete for the chance to win the NCAA softball championship.
Fans won't want to miss a single pitch. To ensure you don't, you'll find everything you need to know for the tournament below.
An updated bracket can be found here, via NCAA.com.
The remaining schedule for the tournament is provided in the below table.
|May 22||7 p.m.||ESPN||Michigan vs. Florida State|
|May 22||9 p.m.||ESPN||Nebraska vs. Alabama|
|May 23||2 p.m.||ESPNU||Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Michigan|
|May 23||4 p.m.||ESPNU||Florida State vs. Michigan|
|May 23||6 p.m.||ESPNU||Alabama vs. Nebraska|
|May 23||7 p.m.||ESPN||Florida State. vs. Michigan (if necessary)|
|May 23||9 p.m.||ESPN||Alabama vs. Nebraska (if necessary)|
|May 29||Noon||ESPN||Game 1 - Teams TBD|
|May 29||2:30 p.m. (approx)||ESPN||Game 2 - Teams TBD|
|May 29||7 p.m.||ESPN2||Game 3 - Teams TBD|
|May 29||9:30 p.m. (approx)||ESPN2||Game 4 - Teams TBD|
|May 30||7 p.m.||ESPN2||Game 5 - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2|
|May 30||9:30 p.m. (approx)||ESPN2||Game 6 - Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4|
|May 31||Noon||ESPN2||Game 7 - Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2|
|May 31||2:30 p.m. (approx)||ESPN2||Game 8 - Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4|
|May 31||7 p.m.||ESPN||Game 9 - Winner Game 7 vs. Loser Game 6|
|May 31||9:30 p.m. (approx)||ESPN||Game 10 - Winner Game 8 vs. Loser Game 5|
|June 1||1 p.m.||ESPN||Game 11 - Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 9|
|June 1||3:30 p.m. (approx)||ESPN||Game 12 - Winner 6 vs. Winner Game 10|
|June 1||7 p.m.||ESPNU||Game 13 (if necessary) - Rematch Game 11|
|June 1||9:30 p.m. (approx)||ESPNU||Game 14 (if necessary) - Rematch Game 12|
|June 2||8 p.m.||ESPN2||WCWS Finals - Bracket 1 vs. Bracket 2 Winners|
|June 3||8 p.m.||ESPN||WCWS Finals - Bracket 1 vs. Bracket 2 Winners|
|June 4||8 p.m.||ESPN||WCWS Finals (if necessary) - Bracket 1 vs. Bracket 2 Winners|
Matchups to Watch
Nebraska vs. No. 2 Alabama
Unseeded Nebraska defeated No. 15 Missouri twice in the regionals to advance to the next round of play, and its success can be attributed to the play of one star—sophomore Hailey Decker.
New meaning to hitting for the cycle. Nebraska'a Hailey Decker said the four pitches she hit for HRs today were: drop, rise, change, curve.— Graham Hays (@grahamhays) May 18, 2014
Decker went 5-for-8 in Sunday's doubleheader against Mizzou, with four of those hits leaving the yard. She also drove in eight and scored five runs. On her extraordinarily successful day, Decker said she didn't have a different approach at the plate, via Graham Hays of ESPN:
I've had good days, I've felt good at the plate, I've seen the ball well. But I've never quite hit like I did this weekend. I don't really know that there was something specific I was focused on.
I didn't put my pants on differently this morning or anything. I just came out and tried to hit line drives.
Alabama has a star of its own in Haylie McCleney, however. In her team's regional matchup in Tuscaloosa, she went 6-for-10 with two walks, five steals and a two-run triple against South Alabama.
Oh yeah, and she made this ridiculous catch against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville:
In a game often dominated by pitching, the play of these two top stars could seriously dictate the outcome of the Super Regionals.
This game figures to be a high-scoring affair. Whichever team can limit the damage each of these star hitters does will have the upper hand.
No. 7 Oklahoma vs. No. 10 Tennessee
Oklahoma and Tennessee have been in this exact position before, and ESPN's Hays ensures that this sequel won't be as disappointing as others: "The super regional in Norman, Oklahoma, between No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 10 Tennessee should be one of the rarest of things. A sequel worth watching."
The matchup between these two teams is filled with stars, and it will be those stars who steal the show in Oklahoma.
Lauren Chamberlain and Shelby Pendley will look to do the heavy lifting for Oklahoma. Check out the video below of Chamberlain launching everything—literally, everything—around the yard:
Chamberlain has a ton of power and can easily take control of the game if Tennessee's staff throws it in her comfort zone. She gets great plate coverage and has a strong, solid swing. That pretty much makes her comfort zone anywhere around the plate, making it difficult for opposing pitchers to find advantages with location.
The Lady Vols will need to go on with in-depth scouting reports in an effort to keep her in the yard. They also carry over some emotional momentum after sophomore Lexi Overstreet's two-run homer pushed Tennessee past Lipscomb.
The Sooners are the defending national champions, but the Lady Vols are going to be a tough challenge.
Baylor vs. Georgia
Georgia ace Chelsea Wilkinson showed her value to the Bulldogs on Sunday. She tossed a five-inning no-hitter and allowed just one baserunner against NC State.
Wilkinson improved to 33-8 on the year following the impressive performance. In fact, her performance was probably the most impressive because of how effective she moved the ball around the plate. She only struck out four batters, per NCAA.com. That means 11 of her outs were recorded by the defense behind her.
Dominance in softball often comes when the pitcher posts high strikeout totals. Pitching to contact is difficult in the sport, but Wilkinson was extremely effective in inducing weak contact and letting her teammates make plays.
Baylor has some tough bats in the lineup, however, so it will be essential for Wilkinson to continue her dominance of the strike zone.
Lady Bears ace Whitney Canion will likely oppose Wilkinson. Canion tossed 305 pitches in a double-header on Sunday to advance her team to the Super Regionals, per Hays, and it will be her will that keeps Baylor in it.