Eight programs are headed to Oklahoma City for the 2019 Women's College World Series to decide softball's national champion.
Seven of the eight top-seeded teams advanced through the regional and super regional stages. Defending champion and No. 4 Florida State fell to No. 13 Oklahoma State and will not defend its crown.
But the undisputed favorite in 2019 is Oklahoma.
The Sooners carry a 54-3 overall record into the World Series and have surrendered just two runs in six NCAA tournament games. Senior stars Sydney Romero, Caleigh Clifton and Shay Knighten are seeking their third national title in four seasons.
Oklahoma's clash with Alabama rounds out Thursday's first-round action. The double-elimination WCWS is split into two brackets; the winners of each section play a best-of-three championship series.
2019 Softball Championships Dates
Thursday, May 30
Game 1: No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 3 Washington, Noon ET (ESPN)
Game 2: No. 7 Minnesota vs. No. 2 UCLA, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3: No. 13 Oklahoma State vs. No. 5 Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 4: No. 8 Alabama vs. No. 1 Oklahoma, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Friday, May 31
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Saturday, June 1
Game 7: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 8: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 2:30 p.m (ESPN)
Game 9: Game 7 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 10: Game 8 winner vs. Game 5 loser, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday, June 2
Game 11: Game 5 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 12: Game 6 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 13*: Game 11 teams, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 14*: Game 12 teams, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
World Series Schedule
Game 1: Monday, June 3, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 2: Tuesday, June 4, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3*: Wednesday, June 5, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Full WCWS bracket is available on NCAA.com.
Players to Watch
Oklahoma City will be flooded with All-American talent, and the Sooners bring a handful of top-level players.
Romero has 39 extra-base hits and owns a .435 average. Clifton is batting .419 but also boasts a .564 on-base percentage thanks to 43 walks. Led by Giselle Juarez, OU has a three-headed monster in the circle. Juarez, Mariah Lopez and Shannon Saile―all juniors―have a combined 1.37 earned run average in 341 innings.
Romero is a finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year alongside UCLA standout Rachel Garcia. The junior has 253 strikeouts in 166 innings of work, holding a near-perfect 24-1 record and 1.01 ERA. Garcia is also a .344 hitter with a .443 OBP.
Garcia landed on the same shortlist in 2018 with Florida stars Kelsey Barnhill and Amanda Lorenz. Barnhill―who won the award last season―has a 34-12 record and 1.45 ERA, while Lorenz flaunts a sterling .563 OBP with 28 extra-base hits and 62 walks.
Barnhill and Lorenz recently were the first two overall picks of the 2019 National Pro Fastpitch draft, and Romero went third.
Oklahoma State has a dominant two-way producer in Sam Show. In addition to a 21-8 record and 2.37 ERA, the senior is batting .333 with 18 homers and 54 runs batted in.
Other stars of note include Washington ace Gabbie Plain (23-2, 1.14 ERA), Arizona second baseman Reyna Carranco (.420 average), Alabama phenom Montana Fouts (19-5, 1.44 ERA) and Minnesota pitcher Amber Fiser (31-7, 1.17 ERA).
Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.