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Sooners Sail to 2016 National Title

Paige Parker & Oklahoma Defeat Auburn in WCWS Finals

By TSC Analyst/Contributor DANIEL URBAN 
 
OKLAHOMA CITY  We have come to expect plenty of surprises during the NCAA Division I Softball Championship, and this year was no exception.  First and foremost, the #1-ranked Florida Gators—two-time defending champs and poised for a three-peat—were eliminated in the Super Regionals by Georgia.

It may sound hard to believe, but the Bulldogs defeated Florida in two straight games 3-0 and 3-2.  Georgia had a 12-12 record in conference this year and was the 15th seed in the Regional field this year, but it was hot at the right time and just systematically doled out the biggest upset of the 2016 season.

Florida looked unstoppable at many times in 2016, posting only 5 losses to 56 wins heading into the Super Regionals.  But all that didn't mean much to Georgia!

The Dogs won this series with stifling defense.  In game 1 Georgia's Chelsea Wilkenson pitched 7 innings of shutout ball with only 3 hits, 2 strikeouts and 0 earned runs.  In game 2 Wilkenson again took the circle and pitched 7 innings with 5 hits, 1 strikeout, and 2 earned runs. 

Wilkenson is not a power pitcher relying on the strikeout.  She pitches to contact and lets her defense get outs.  It turned out to be an unbeatable formula, with the Georgia offense putting up just enough to take both games.

Unreal!  The Dogs knew if they could beat Florida, they could beat anyone—and they couldn’t wait to see how they would fare at the big dance.

The 2016 Women’s College World Series features a star-studded lineup: #16 Georgia vs #8 Florida State, #4 Auburn vs #12 UCLA, #6 Alabama vs #3 Oklahoma and #10 LSU vs #2 Michigan.

In the first round Georgia defeated Florida State 5-4 to advance in the winners’ bracket, and Auburn defeated UCLA 10-3. 

Auburn looked very strong in its first matchup.  But UCLA got shallacked by Oregon in its first Super Regional Game and came back strong.  Maybe they could do it again.  As the lone Pac-12 representative in the WCWS, there was a lot of pressure riding on the Bruins—the pride of the Pac-12 was riding on their shoulders!

Oklahoma then beat Alabama 3-0.  Paige Parker pitched eight innings of shutout ball while only allowing 4 hits and striking out 7.  Alabama's Alexis Osorio pitched almost as well, allowing zero runs while striking out 10 batters in a complete game performance.  But Oklahoma freshman Shay Knighten belted a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th to secure the victory for Oklahoma.

Paige Parker's pitching and Oklahoma's potent offense were looking like a dynamite combination.  Possibly a national title winning combination.

Michigan beat LSU 2-0 to advance to the winners’ bracket along with Auburn, Georgia, and Oklahoma. 

The Wolverines’ opening game was all about junior pitcher Megan Betsa who pitched all 7 innings, striking out 9 and only allowing only 4 hits and 0 runs.  LSU could not figure her out, and now the Tigers found themselves in an elimination game against Alabama.

Florida State—a team I've seen previously mentioned as the weakest entry in the WCWS this year—staved off elimination and defeated UCLA.  With the loss the Bruins, unfortunately, earned the dubious distinction of being the first team sent home from the WCWS and the last hope for the Pac-12.

The Florida State vs UCLA game featured a lot of offense, with the Seminoles winning 8-4.  No pitcher for either team lasted the whole game, but the 11 hits and 7 earned runs let up by UCLA was too much to overcome. 

In winners’ bracket action, Auburn defeated Georgia 4-3 and Oklahoma defeated Michigan 7-5.

Auburn jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, but Georgia took back the lead and expanded it to lead 3-1 by the 4th inning.  Auburn then countered with a sensational 3-run barrage and held on to win 4-3. 

Oklahoma also jumped out to an early lead 4-0 in the third inning before Michigan battled back to make the score 4-3 by the 4th inning.  Oklahoma put up 3 runs over the final 3 innings and held off a furious 2-run comeback by Michigan in the 7th inning to secure the victory.

One popular complaint of college softball over the past several years has been that it is a pitching- and defense-dominated game and the lack of offense makes it boring, but so far the games have been anything but boring.  The offense and scoring have made for a very exciting experience!

I have seen many WCWS tournaments where one pitcher gets hot and shuts down every team she faces.  Whichever team has that one pitcher wins the title.  But this year—and you could tell by the scores of the games and the number of pitching substitutions the teams were making—it seemed there was no one uber-dominant pitcher.  All teams were actually scoring runs!

Then came the Finals, and Paige Parker.

The sophomore pitching sensation effectively neutralized the powerful Auburn offense, leading Oklahoma to its second WCWS title in four years.

In game #1 Parker pitched 7 innings and allowed only 4 hits and 2 runs while striking out 1.  Oklahoma's offense then provided just enough muscle to push the Sooners over the top 3-2.

In Game #2 Auburn came back firing against Oklahoma's #2 and #3 pitchers in Kelsey Stevens and Jayden Chestnut.  Auburn hitters slugged 3 home runs and scored 11 runs off 13 hits.  Oklahoma's offense also played well, belting 1 home run and logging 7 runs off 10 hits, but its numbers were not enough to overcome Auburn's offensive onslaught.

But in game #3 Paige Parker was back in the circle with the team's title hopes on her back, and she delivered with gusto.  Parker again pitched all 7 innings and scattered 5 hits and 1 earned run over the course of the game while striking out 5.  Parker was magnificent, and she and the Sooners proved they deserved the title.

A power pitcher with a potent offense behind her: the Sooners fit the mold and made it happen.  The Oklahoma Sooners are your 2016 WCWS National Champions! Read more.

 

 

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