Although it was a long path for each team to get here, the hard part is still ahead for the eight teams looking to contend for a College Softball World Series title.
Favorites like Oregon and Alabama have cruised through the NCAA tournament to this point, winning all five of their games to earn a trip to Oklahoma City. Each squad has reached expectations, but things only get tougher from this point.
Ducks head coach Mike White explained the need to remain calm heading into the pressure-filled atmosphere, via Andrew Greif of The Oregonian:
It's something they've dreamed about as little girls but we've just got to take it as it is. We've been ranked No. 1 for six weeks and I don't think they blew that out of proportion. Hopefully we can take it in stride and just go down and play our game. Again it's not to make it bigger than what it is. We always go back to the fact that it's 60 feet, turn left. It's 43 feet from the mound to the home plate and a 12-inch ball, so we just try to keep it as normal as possible.
On the other hand, teams like Kentucky and Baylor had to scratch and claw just to get to this point and should be satisfied to be on the same field as the powerhouses. Of course, they do not plan on going away anytime soon.
The World Series began with four matches, each of them a part of a double-elimination bracket to decide who will play in the finals. Here is a look at the results from the first day of play as it becomes available.
|1||Florida 11, Baylor 0|
|2||Oregon 3, Florida State 0|
|3||Kentucky 4, Louisiana Lafayette 1|
|4||Alabama 6, Oklahoma 2|
Day 1 Recap
Florida 11, Baylor 0
It took only five innings for Florida to completely annihilate Baylor 11-0 before the game was called due to the mercy rule.
As OnlyGators.com notes, this is not a unique occurrence this postseason:
Hannah Rogers cruised in her start, notching five shutout innings while allowing just three hits to go with three strikeouts. John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald noted how easy things were early on for the All-American:
Hannah Rogers breezes through Baylor order in the first inning.— John Werner (@JohnWernerTrib) May 29, 2014
This did not stop as Baylor was never able to get a runner past second base the entire game.
Meanwhile, Bears starter Whitney Canion has much more trouble on the mound. After Kirsti Merritt scored the opening run on a sacrifice fly, Bailey Castro provided much more damage with a two-run double in the first inning to give Florida a 3-0 lead.
Although these were all unearned runs for Canion, it still put Baylor in a major hole.
Florida added to the lead with a Merritt home run in the third inning and a Kelsey Stewart RBI single in the fourth. The Gators then blew the game open in the sixth inning with runs by Jessica Damico and Stephanie Tofft to make it 7-0 with the bases loaded for Chelsea Herndon. The pinch-hitter then did quite a bit of damage, via Brice Cherry of the Waco Tribune-Herald:
Chelsea's Herndon grand slam gives Florida a resounding 11-0 run-rule win over Baylor in the WCWS opener.— Brice Cherry (@BriceCherry) May 29, 2014
The Gators were able to get their own form of a walk-off win as the mercy rule was able to end the game. Florida now advances to the next round where it will face the winner of Florida State and Oregon. Based on what the squad has done until this point, it is hard to imagine it slowing down anytime soon.
Things get more desperate for Baylor, which is now one game away from elimination. It must provide a better effort in all phases of the game in order to remain in contention for a title.
Oregon 3, Florida State 0
Oregon remained undefeated in the NCAA tournament thanks to an incredible performance by ace pitcher Cheridan Hawkins, as described by Chris Brooklier of KEZI9:
Cheridan Hawkins is a monster - shut out FSU in a complete game performance. Hawkins didn't allow a hit after the first inning— Chris Brooklier (@ChrisBrooklier) May 29, 2014
Hawkins finished with seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball, allowing just two walks to go with six strikeouts in the win. While her counterpart Lacey Waldrop was solid as well while giving up three runs in five innings, it was not enough for Florida State.
The Ducks did most of their damage early on in the game. Alyssa Gillespie scored in the first inning on a groundout, and then Nikki Udria made it 2-0 on an RBI single in the second inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Alexa Peterson knocked home a run with an RBI double to extend the lead to 3-0. This was plenty of Hawkins, who did not allow a runner to reach second after the first inning.
Oregon was able to celebrate the victory with its fans after the game:
The Ducks will now attempt to keep this strong play going against red-hot Florida. The Gators have outscored opponents 60-4 in their seven tournament games and will be a tough opponent to beat. The good news is that both sides will know that even a loss will not eliminate them from contention.
On the other hand, Florida State will try to hold on against Baylor, which also was shutout in its first game of the College World Series. Both sides will hope to get more offense going when they battle on Saturday.
Kentucky 4, Louisiana Lafayette 1
In the third game of the day, the No. 6 seed Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns took on the No. 14 seed Kentucky Wildcats.
The Wildcats from the SEC already knocked off the No. 3 seed UCLA in the Super Regionals and looked the part again early Thursday with a run in the top of the first inning. However, Lexie Elkins responded with a blast in the bottom of the first inning, and the Ragin’ Cajuns official Twitter account was there to capture it:
Lexie Elkins BLASTS her 23rd homer of the season to left field to tie the game at 1! #IDontThinkTheresAnyoneBackThere— Ragin Cajun Softball (@RaginCajunSB) May 29, 2014
Louisiana Lafayette’s offense didn’t score again though, thanks to the excellent pitching of Kelsey Nunley. After allowing the initial home run in the first, she completely settled in and made quick work of Louisiana Lafayette’s lineup.
The Kentucky Wildcats softball Twitter page highlighted just what the Ragin Cajuns were up against and praised Nunley for her work:
In the circle for the Wildcats is RHP Kelsey Nunley. The sophomore is 29-9 with a 1.85 ERA. Nunley is 5-2 in the 2014 NCAA Tourney. #WCWS— UK softball (@UKsoftball) May 29, 2014
When Lauren Cumbess went deep in the fourth inning, Kentucky had more than enough to win with Nunley on the mound. Louisiana Lafayette never really looked like it was going to mount a comeback, and the Wildcats won their first ever Women’s College World Series game.
Alabama 6, Oklahoma 2
The No. 2 seed Alabama pushed the SEC to an impressive 3-0 on the day when it handed No. 7 Oklahoma a 6-2 loss.
Jaclyn Traina started for the Crimson Tide on the mound and picked up her 104th career victory behind nine strikeouts. However, it was Oklahoma that got on the board first with a solo home run from Shelby Pendley, as the team’s Twitter page pointed out:
The middle innings were defined by the defense of each team, which was a good sign for the Sooners:
Top of 4 comes to a close but #Sooners regain the lead at 2-1 thanks to a walk and pair of BAMA errors in the inning— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) May 30, 2014
It looked as if Oklahoma may upset the No. 2 ranked team at the tournament, but Peyton Grantham swung the entire game when she blasted a critical three-run home run over the wall to open up a 4-2 lead for the Crimson Tide. Teammate Jadyn Spencer tacked onto the lead with a bomb of her own, and the team’s Twitter page was there to capture both game-defining moments:
Jadyn Spencer with a line-drive TWO RUN HOMER! Alabama now leads 6-2 in the B5th!— Alabama Softball (@AlabamaSB) May 30, 2014
Alabama, behind the excellent pitching of Traina, held onto the lead and earned some celebrating time with its fans:
This is Alabama's third-straight #WCWS appearance in which it has won the opening game (2011, 2012, 2014)— Alabama Softball (@AlabamaSB) May 30, 2014
Day 2 Schedule
|Game No.||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV|
|5||Florida vs. Oregon||7 p.m.||ESPN2|
|6||Kentucky vs. Alabama||9:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
A full bracket is available at NCAA.com.
The second day of the College World Series will feature just the winners of the first set of games. The winners of these games will then get a free pass to what is essentially the semifinals of the World Series.
Meanwhile, the losers will know that one more defeat would end their seasons and for some athletes their careers. This is certain to create a great deal of drama in the coming days of this exciting event.
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