By Arnie Leshin
Whatever it takes, it happens when you’ve been around something so long. Now, if you predicted this, step forward. I dare you, then I double dare you,
Me, well I’ve been tuned in to NCAA women’s Division I softball for a long time. must but I never, ever thought I’d see this, and by now you must have learned that tonight’s game one of the World Series in packed Oklahoma City’s Hall of Fame Stadium will be two losers who became winners.
In one dugout you have top-seeded Oklahoma (54-3), in the other you have 10th-seeded Florida State (47-11-1). On the playing field, it will be both remarkably coming through the loser’s bracket.
The Sooners back-to-back over unseeded James Madison after blanking Georgia and embarrassing defending champion, 12-time national champion UCLA. The Seminoles also took care of business by stunning 3rd-seeded Alabama following wins over Arizona and Oklahoma State.
Bye bye Dukes and Crimson Tide and take your previous 2-0 records with you, but you can catch the best-of-3 series on the tubes or, if you like, try to grab seats at this picturesque, newly dressed up ball park only 30 miles south of Oklahoma’s campus in Norman and a longer ride for FSU.
No matter, that’s it, for despite two days of constant rain delays, the Sooners now have a shot at a fifth national title and the Seminoles their second. In fact, Oklahoma is the only school Big 12 school to win this or even be in the finals. Ditto Florida State. It won in 2018 and is the only Atlantic Coast Conference school to gain a final and win the title.
Who will get the call to start in the circle? Well, long-time head coach Patty Gasso Oklahoma can just hand the ball to senior southpaw Giselle Juarez because she has been on top of her game. Coming back after an elbow injury sidelined her for awhile, she’s been mixing up her rise ball, her curve, her heat, and even adding a change-up to go 3-0 in the World Series.
She has baffled the hitters in three games, two in a start and one in relief by striking out 27, walking only two, and being reached for just a pair of runs on eight hits. Will she get the call? Well, you didn’t predict this happening, so it’s all up to Gasso now in her 27th season.
One big plus is that the Sooners have three ready starters, Juarez, senior Shannon Saile and freshman Nicole May. Then you can add a batting order that is awesome from top to bottom, and an alert, quality defense that doesn’t make many mistakes.
Now move over to FSU. It did not have a rousing ACC season, but head coach Lonni Alameda certainly had it prepared for the post-season. She was head coach when the Seminoles went 58-12 in 2018 and hoisted the championship trophy, and she’s in her 12th season.
Pitching-wise, her stopper is sophomore righty Kathryn Sanderdock and no doubt she will start in the circle tonight. She’s crafty, has good control, and works her way out of jams. Behind her are right handers Caylan Arnold and Danielle Watson, Arnold a senior, Watson a junior, and they, too, have been reliable.
This is a scrappy, single by single, single by single team. It is alert, fast, and can turn singles into doubles and triples. Nothing compares to Oklahoma’s nation-leading 154 home runs and total runs, but the Seminoles do have some long-ball hitters, and is a squad that doesn’t give in.
While Gasso is 1,334-340-1, Alameda has won 538, lost 160, and like the Sooners played one tied game.
You can catch this on the tubes at 7:30 EST, but in the MTS, you best turn in on at 5:30.
FLORIDA STATE —
(6) Katey Mudge, short stop, freshman
(24) Sydney Sherrill, third base, junior
(5) Elizabeth Mason, first base, senior
(70) Cassidy Davis, designated player, senior
(9) Devyn Flarerty, second base, freshman
(1) Dani Morgan, center field, senior
(10) Josae Muffrey, infield, sophomore
(13) Anna Shainutt, catcher, senior
(8) Kalei Harding, right field, freshman
(4) Jahi Kerr, outfield, freshman
(2) Meagan Tomlinson, outfield, sophomore
(14) Autumn Belviy, catcher, senior
(32) Kathryn Sandercock, pitcher, sophomore
(12) Caylan Arnold, pitcher, senior
(31) Danielle Watson, pitcher, junior
Head Coach — Lonni Alameda