No.5 LSU vs. No.4 Auburn Thursday May 28th, 1:30 PM, ESPN
No. 4 Auburn Tigers (53-9-0, SEC 18-6)
How they got there: The only SEC team hotter than the Vols would be Auburn which has just one loss in the month of May, which included a series win over LSU in Baton Rouge in the season finally and then winning the SEC Tournament a few days later. The offense is the main force for the Tigers, ranking the top-15 nationally in a few major categories.
Who to know: Auburn is another strong offensive team in the Series. Not only is it a deep offense it also has one very dangerous bat in Emily Carosone. The First Team All-SEC infielder led the Tigers in average and RBI’s with 80 and finished second on the team in home runs with 18 and slugging .851 on the season.
No. 1 Florida ( 55-6-0, SEC 18-5)
How they got there: Pitching has been the big reason for the Gators success. The team heads to Oklahoma City having not allowed a run in both the Regional and Super Regional. Florida hovered around the top-five for most of the year with the team’s only losing streak coming at the hands of LSU. Coincidentally, the first loss to LSU was also the Gators first loss of the season.
Who to know: Florida's pitching staff is talented and deep with an SEC leading 1.67 team ERA. The top pitcher, statistically, is Lauren Haeger. Haeger ranks fourth in nationally with a 1.24 ERA while boasting an record of 28-1 and striking out 194. Haeger is joined by Aleshia Ocasio and Delanie Gourley who struck out 152 and 104 batters, respectively.
No.8 Tennessee (47-15-0, SEC 15-9)
How they got there: Tennesee has been playing it’s best softball in the month of May. Since the month began the Vols have lost just two games. One was against Florida State in the Super Regional and the other was in the SEC Championship game to Auburn. Two of the wins came over higher ranked teams in LSU and Florida.
Who to know: The Vols offense is what will likely carry the team. Statistically, there is not one standout player, but the lineup is deep with five players hitting double-digit home runs probably the best of which is Meghan Gregg. Pitching wise Tennessee has two quality starters in Rainey Gaffin and Erin Gabriel.
Elsewhere In The Bracket
No. 3 Michigan (56-6, B1G 21-2)
How they got there: Michigan hasn’t lost a game since April 3rd. Part of this is due to the fact that Michigan has feasted on some less than spectacular B1G teams. In fairness, Michigan did cruise in the Regional with a victory over No.19 California and then then won two straight against a good Georgia team so Michigan has shown it can play with some of the better teams
Who to know: Michigan’s power both on offense and defense, comes in twos. Sierra Romo and Kelly Christner have combined for 41 home runs and 143 RBI as of May 22nd. Pitchers Megan Betsa and Haylie Wagner lead the team in pitching. Both are adept at getting the strikeout as Wagner has 119 and Betsa with 310.
No.6 Alabama (47-13-0 SEC 17-7)
How they got there: The Tide have been remarkably consistent all season, having only lost one series during the regular season, and that was to Florida. Like the Gators, Alabama relies on excellent starting pitching with three quality hurlers. The offense is one that is ranked 14th nationally but, at least statistically, does not have players with eye popping numbers.
Who to know: The two batters to know are Marissa Runyon who provides the power for the lineup leading in home runs and RBI, while Haylie McCleney is the table setter leading the team in stolen bases and onbase percentage. Pitcher Sydney Littlejohn enters the series with a 1.49 ERA and Alexis Osorio leads Bama in strikeouts with 211.
No.7 UCLA ( 50-10-0, Pac 12 19-5-0)
How they got there: UCLA enters the tournament having only lost two games since April and only one series in Pac-12 play, which was to No.2 Oregon. The bats in particularly have had a strong showing having scored four or more runs in every game since April 8th when the team was shutout for first, and only time this season.
Who to know: The pair of Delaney Spaulding and Stephanie LaRosa provide most of the power for the Bruins. Spaulding led the team with 20 home runs and 71 runs driven in. LaRosa is right behind her 19 homers and 69 RBI’s. The Bruins top pitcher is Ally Carda who leads the team in ERA and strikeouts.
No.2 Oregon (51-6-0, Pac-12 21-3-0)
How they got there: All Oregon hasn’t lost a series all year and the few games they have dropped have only been to ranked opponents. Oregon concluded the regular season with an impressive stretch which included series wins over then No.9 ULL, No.18 Cal and No. 17 Arizona.
Who to know: The Ducks feature a very deep staff with four pitchers who all have seen significant action this season. Cheridan Hawkins is the undisputed ace with a 1.41 ERA and 239 strikeouts. Oregon will also rely heavily on Karissa Hovinga and Jasmine Willett-Smitson who have ERA’s of 2.71 and 3.73 respectively.