Is This the Year the SEC Will Win the Women's College World Series?

Samantha Cooke@sportycookieCorrespondent IJune 2, 2011

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Predicting athletic tournaments is very difficult. Some teams that you expect to win and go all the way bow out to a "lesser" team in the first round. There are always upsets.

The Women's College World Series is no different. This year features one unranked team, a number nine seed and a number 11 seed. There were some big upsets in the Regionals and Super Regionals.

Will there be upsets in the WCWS? Here is a look at my predictions for this year's tournament. Bear in mind that there are two brackets.

One bracket features California, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Baylor. The other holds Oklahoma, Arizona State, Missouri and Florida.


California (44-11):

How they got here: defeated Kentucky in three games with a decisive 9-0 victory in game three.

Players to watch for: Jamia Reid – She leads off the batting order and has lightning speed on the base paths. She can create runs if she gets on.

Britt Vonk – She has stepped up her game in the NCAA tournament, now batting .400 for the tourney.

Jolene Henderson – She is second in the country with a 0.87 ERA. She will work down in the zone, creating a lot of strikeouts and groundouts.

Keys to winning: Henderson has to hit her spots. She struggled finding the strike zone in game two against Kentucky and they took advantage. The Reid twins have to get on base. They have stellar speed that will produce runs. The middle of the line-up has to continue to produce. They have been a little inconsistent but have home run capability.

How far they will go: Championship Series


Alabama (51-9):

How they got here: defeated Stanford in three games by winning two on Sunday to come back from a 0-1 deficit.

Players to watch for: Whitney Larsen – She is batting .474 in the NCAA tournament with two doubles, a triple, a home run and 11 RBI.

Kayla Braud – just named Top 10 Finalist for Player of the Year. She has not had a ton of success in the tournament but can shine at any moment.

Kelsi Dunne – She has been here before and wants to be back. She has a 1.15 ERA and will work the rise and drop to keep hitters off balance.

Keys to winning: Dunne’s rise ball has to be effective. When she can get hitters to bite, she is dangerous with the drop and change right after the rise. She gets a lot of teams to chase. Larsen has to keep producing. She is in the top of the line-up and will generate a spark to the bottom. The bottom of the line-up needs to help. They have not seen a ton of hits in the bottom, but they need to set the table for Braud and Larsen.

How far they will go: Bracket finals


Oklahoma State (42-18):

How they got here: defeated Houston in three games by winning the first and third games.

Players to watch for: Mariah Gearhart – Their lead-off hitter, Gearhart boasts a .358 batting average. She leads the team in hit-by-pitches with 22, so she will find a way on base.

Alysia Hamilton – She leads the team in batting average with .400.  She only has six home runs, but has an on-base percentage of .467.

Kat Espinosa – She earned the save against Houston in game three and got the win in game one. 

Keys to winning: They need to keep playing the do-or-die in the tournament. They need to make sure and just have fun because they have little pressure on them.

How far they will go: two and done


Baylor (45-13):

How they got here: defeated Georgia in three games by winning game three 9-2 after getting mercied in game two.

 Players to watch for: Whitney Canion – She has an ERA of 1.28. A very competitive player, she struggled in game two against Georgia but came back to win game three.

Dani Leal – A fierce competitor, she has 14 home runs and a .678 slugging percentage. She has also been walked 33 times, giving her a .462 on-base percentage.

Keys to winning: It starts with Canion in the circle. She needs to be competitive and on her game all the time. She will get some run support, but it begins with her. Baylor also needs to play the underdog if they beat Oklahoma State. Keep the pressure off.

How far they will go: Bracket semifinals


Oklahoma (42-17):

How they got here: defeated Arizona in two games, including a mercy in game two.

Players to watch for: Keilani Ricketts – She has an ERA of 1.44 with 443 strikeouts. She has a cannon for an arm, throwing in the high 60’s. When she mixes in her change-up, she really throws teams off.

Brittany Williams – She is just a freshman but leads the team in on-base percentage with .490. She has 47 walks, so she has a good eye at the plate.

Jessica Shults – She did not play in the Super Regional because of an illness. If she is able to come back, she will help her team with her leadership behind the plate.

Keys to winning: Ricketts has to mix up speeds or she will struggle against the hitters. Her change needs to hit the spot. She has to use this as a go-to pitch. Her line-up needs to keep producing. All the pressure cannot be on Ricketts, though she has the home run capability.

How far they will go: National Champions


Arizona State (55-6):

How they got here: defeated Texas A&M in two games.

Players to watch for: Krista Donnenwirth – She has the ability to hit it over the fence at any moment with any pitcher. As a senior, she won the National Championship in 2005, so she has experience.

Katelyn Boyd – This junior shortstop is the leadoff hitter and has the highest batting average on a team who starters are all batting over .300. She is definitely the spark plug of this team.

Dallas Escobedo – The freshman pitcher will have some nerves at the WCWS, but she has the golden arm to lead the Sun Devils.

Keys to winning: The seniors have to step up in this situation to lead the team. With a freshman pitcher, her nerves will be flying around like crazy. They need to calm her down. ASU also needs to score first. This will take the pressure off Escobedo and let her relax a little.

How far they will go: Bracket finals


Missouri (52-8):

How they got here: defeated Washington in two games.

Players to watch for: Rhea Taylor – She is the whole offense. When she gets on base, she sparks this entire team. Taylor leads the team with a .371 batting average with 52 runs scored and 43 stolen bases. If she gets on, watch out, because she is lightning on the base paths.

Chelsea Thomas – The redshirt sophomore is leading the country with a 0.83 ERA. She primarily keeps the ball down, but has a vicious off-speed that hits the brakes and falls off the table.

Keys to winning: Taylor has to get on base every time. She creates havoc on the base paths and scores almost every time. Thomas has to get her off-speed working in the zone. If she starts the game missing the zone, she will struggle all game long.

How far they will go: Two and done


Florida (52-10):

How they got here: defeated Oregon in two games, outscoring the Ducks 16-1.

Players to watch for: Brittany Schutte – hit three home runs in the Super Regionals to tie Megan Bush’s single-season record of 20 home runs.

Megan Bush – leads the team in home runs with Schutte. She also has 30 walks and a .723 slugging percentage.

Hannah Rogers – Stephanie Brombacher is the leader of this team, but has been hurt all season, so Rogers has had to step up. She has 33 wins on the season with 10 shut-outs.

Keys to winning: Like ASU, Florida will have some pitching struggles. Brombacher is hurt and Rogers is young and inexperienced. They have to score first to take the pressure off the pitching. They have seemed to hit their stride so they need to continue to produce. Florida cannot swing for the fences, though; they need to just let the hits and home runs come.

How far they will go: Bracket semi-finals


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