Photo courtesy of Florida State athletics

In a year in which college softball has gotten its greatest exposure in the sport’s history, we’ve now reached the end point to the historic 2021 season. 

When the 2021 Women’s College World Series began last Thursday afternoon, we had no idea what this past week would bring at USA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. 

Since then, we’ve seen James Madison make an improbable run carried on the back of star pitcher Odicci Alexander – who has stolen the nation’s hearts. We’ve seen the defending national champions in UCLA go down early.

We also saw two legendary head coaches retire from teams that participated this season in Oklahoma City. That would be Georgia’s Lu-Harris Chamber, and Arizona’s Mike Candera – who retires as college softball’s winningest head coach with 1,674 wins. 

As we now shift our focus to the final two teams, we gaze upon them as if they are familiar faces, because in Oklahoma City, they are. But the road for both teams was not easy.

The top-seeded Oklahoma Sooners (54-3, 16-1 Big 12) avenged that Game 1 loss to James Madison and reached the championship series. No. 10 overall seed Florida State (48-11-1, 26-5-1 ACC) had to follow a similar path – dropping its opening game to UCLA before walking off Arizona, and defeating powerhouse Alabama twice to advance to this week’s finals. 

Whoever is crowned champions of college softball later this week, will have the privilege of being called just the fourth team in history to come all the way back after losing its WCWS opener. The Seminoles did it in 2018 with a handful of players still on the roster, so they’re accustomed to pressure. 

If you read ESPN’s bottom line before you went to bed on Monday night, it flashed “Florida State refuses to get knocked out.” That is true; the ‘Noles haven’t lost an elimination game in eight tries. 

But the Sooners will be ready, and so will their home crowd in nearby Oklahoma City. 

Let’s get you ready for all you need to know about the 2021 Women’s College World Series championship series, which revs up on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. 

What To Watch For – Oklahoma 

Let’s start with the top-seeded Sooners. They’re a team many expected to be right back here on this stage. 

Head coach Patty Gasso’s team hasn’t missed out on Oklahoma City since 2015. It hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament since she took over as the program’s leader back in 1995. 

Oklahoma cruised to the WCWS this season with relative ease, in both the regular season and the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners dropped just two regular season match-ups – both to teams that ended up in Oklahoma City – and swept both the Regional and Super Regional rounds with no problems whatsoever. 

The Big 12 champions have done what is expected of them year in and year out. This team continues to produce just premier offensive talent with a lineup that could be considered “murderer’s row” in college softball.  

Six of the Sooners’ starting nine sit comfortably above a .400 batting average. Star-studded freshman Tiare Jennings (.473, 27 HRs, 92 RBIs) and Hawaii native Joceyln Alo (.462, 32 HRs, 86 RBIs) lead the way for this stacked Oklahoma team. 

Giselle Juarez (21-1, 2.92 ERA) is the true ace out there in the circle for the Sooners, but Shannon Saile (17-1, 1.76 ERA) and Nicole May (14-1, 2.41 ERA) will most definitely contribute for Gasso’s team in this best-of-three series. 

All the cards are on the table now. Here’s how Oklahoma may pencil in its championship series lineup, as the Sooners try to secure their first national championship since 2017. 

Projected Starting Lineup

  1. 2B Tiare Jennings 
  2. DP Jocelyn Alo 
  3. 1B Kinzie Hansen
  4. RF Nicole Mendes
  5. SS Grace Lyons
  6. LF Mackenzie Donihoo
  7. C Lynnsie Elam
  8. CF Jayda Coleman
  9. 3B Jana Johns 

P Giselle Juarez/Shannon Saile/Nicole May

What To Watch For – Florida State

And then there’s the Seminoles. FSU came in as the No. 10 overall seed. Other than one little blip against UCLA, it has also cruised to the championship series. 

Giving up only two runs in your regional and sweeping the Baton Rouge Super Regional certainly earns you the right to say that. 

Lonni Alameda’s team will be seeking just the program’s second national championship. That may be surprising when one thinks about the history of Florida State softball. 

The ‘Noles will look to repeat what they did in Oklahoma City back in 2018. Luckily for them, they have a few key pieces on the roster that remember that feeling. 

Third baseman Sydney Sherrill (.301, 2 HRs, 31 RBIs) is the perfect example. The Oklahoma native was second on the team with a .370 batting average during her freshman campaign. She also played a major role in the Seminoles’ path to securing their first title. 

Redshirt freshman Devyn Flaherty (.291, 5 HRs, 22 RBIs) also has been a huge contributor with the bat as well for Alameda and company.

Now, Florida State doesn’t put up near the numbers that Oklahoma does offensively. Pitching-wise however, it can compete with anyone. 

Ace of the staff Kathryn Sandercock (27-3, 1.22 ERA) is as tough as anyone in the country. Caylan Arnold (10-6, 1.84 ERA) and Danielle Watson (11-1, 2.30 ERA) complement her nicely. The ‘Noles used all three in the 8-5 winner-take-all victory over Alabama on Monday night. 

Here’s who Florida State may run out there for the rest of the week in Oklahoma City. 

Projected Starting Lineup

  1. LF Kaley Mudge
  2. 3B Sydney Sherrill
  3. 1B Elizabeth Mason
  4. DP Cassidy Davis
  5. 2B Devyn Flaherty
  6. CF Dani Morgan
  7. SS Josie Mufley
  8. C Anna Shelnutt
  9. RF Kalei Harding 

P Kathryn Sandercock/Caylan Arnold/Danielle Watson