2008 Women’s College World Series (WCWS) Preview

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Virginia Tech (49-17, ACC Champions)

  • Top Pitcher:
    Angela Tincher (38-8, 0.62 ERA, 651 strikeouts,
    329 innings pitched)
  • Top Hitters:
    Charisse Mariconda (.340, nine doubles, 37 RBI)
    Jenna
    Rhodes (.314, 41 stolen bases)
    Misty Hall (.249, seven home runs, 38 RBI)


The Virginia Tech Hokies are an unseeded team making their inaugural trip to
the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) in Oklahoma City. The Hokies advanced to
this point by winning the Knoxville Regional and Ann Arbor Super Regional. Both
times Tech had to take two of three games from powerful foes Tennessee and
Michigan to advance. This postseason road had been difficult for the Hokies, but
it has made this team better and stronger. Six of the eight teams in Oklahoma
City were supposed to be there and other than VT, only Louisiana-Lafayette can
say they had to travel both weekends so far. The Hokies have also handled
adversity by facing loses at both Tennessee and Michigan. They responded
brilliantly with wins and that adversity will serve them well against the WCWS
field.

One thing Virginia Tech needs to guard against is the mentality of “just
happy to be there.” This team has proven they can win against the top teams by
advancing this far and by playing tough teams in the regular season
(Northwestern, Houston, Arizona, UCLA, and Team USA). A good sign is the offense
got contributions from pretty much the whole lineup this past weekend in Ann
Arbor after some of them had struggled in the ACC Tournament and Knoxville.
Jenna Rhodes with three hits on the weekend, Misty Hall four hits alone on
Sunday, and invited walk-on Whitney Davis going 2-for-3 in the deciding game
Sunday with her first career home run were just a sample of the good things
provided by the Hokies from top to bottom.

The nation now knows who Angela Tincher is, and if the TV games these past
weekends did not do the trick, the fact she was named the National Player of the
Year on Tuesday night will most definitely do it. Tincher must continue her
postseason dominance if the Hokies are to be successful at all in Oklahoma City.
She also must deal with the pressure that national award brings with it, but if
anyone can it would be Tincher. All the opposing offenses on the Hokies side of
the bracket are powerful, but if Tincher can keep it in the park (five home runs
given up all season) it will give Tech a chance as teams only hit a paltry .110
against the senior right-hander. Virginia Tech will not be favored in any of its
games at the WCWS and that makes them a dangerous team.

#5 Texas A&M (54-7, Big 12 Champions)

  • Top Pitcher:
    Megan Gibson (38-1, 0.98 ERA, 315 strikeouts, 264 innings
    pitched)
  • Top Hitters:
    Jamie Henshaw (.353, 12 doubles, 33 RBI)
    Megan Gibson
    (.345, 15 doubles, 13 home runs, 48 RBI)


The fifth seeded Texas A&M Aggies are making their seventh appearance at
the WCWS and posted a regular season record of 20-5 against teams that made the
NCAA Tournament. People thought A&M might struggle this year when
All-American pitcher/first baseman Amanda Scarborough was lost for the season
with a foot injury after playing just 15 games. The Aggies responded by winning
the Big 12 Conference regular season and tournament titles. A&M advanced to
this point by dominating at home, hosting the College Station Regional and Super
Regional, and outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 27-5.

After Scarborough went down, Megan Gibson stepped up and took over as the
staff ace, only losing once, and became the top RBI producer as well. The only
loss on Gibson’s record was to Oklahoma State, whose assistant pitching coach is
former Virginia Tech softball great Clarisa Crowell who played at VT from ’99 to
’02. Texas A&M hits .303 as a team and averages over five runs a game with
ten players having double digit RBI totals. The Aggies also have 19 games this
season where they had ten or more hits as a team. The Aggies contest against
Tincher and the Hokies will be strength against strength. This will be the
second consecutive year that Texas A&M will face the National Player of the
Year in their opening WCWS game, as they faced former Tennessee star Monica
Abbott last year.

If Gibson does get into any trouble, their second pitcher Rhiannon Kliesing
is the starting first baseman and the two of them can just switch as Gibson
plays at first when not pitching. Texas A&M has something to prove this trip
to Oklahoma City as they have made it a couple times recently and want to
advance deeper into the weekend. Some teams show up excited to be there and then
there are teams that make it a business trip and are there to win. The Aggies
will also have the extra motivation of wanting to prove that Gibson was worthy
of the award Tincher received and to not lose in the first round like they did
last year to Tennessee.

Louisiana-Lafayette (51-13, Sun Belt Champions)

  • Top Pitchers:
    Ashley Brignac (30-6, 1.38 ERA, 308 strikeouts, 213.1
    innings pitched)
    Donna Bourgeois (16-4, 0.97 ERA, 172 strikeouts, 145 innings
    pitched)
  • Top Hitters:
    Holly Tankersley (.452, 21 HRs, 72 RBI)
    Vanessa Soto
    (.340, 22 doubles, 65 RBI)


The Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL) Ragin Cajuns are another unseeded team in
Oklahoma City and making a fifth appearance at the World Series. Their trip was
much easier as they stayed in their home state and advanced out of the Baton
Rouge Regional with an injured LSU pitching staff not able to shut down the ULL
offense. Next up was a trip to over-seeded #8 Houston in the Super Regional
round where the Ragin Cajuns took the first and third games to win the series
2-1. ULL posted a regular season record of 8-7 against NCAA bound teams and a
1-3 record versus teams at the World Series.

The offense is very powerful as Lafayette hits .317 as a team and averages
over six runs per game. Senior Holly Tankersley has similar numbers to those of
Tennessee’s Tonya Callahan and Michigan’s Samantha Findlay who the Hokies have
both faced. Vanessa Soto has other players ahead of her in batting average but
we highlight her as she is an LSU transfer and one of the catalyst for this team
as Soto brought a tougher mentality to this team and the experience of playing
in the SEC. ULL would not be in this position without Soto.

If the Ragin Cajuns have a weakness it is pitching. Their ace Ashley Brignac
has an ERA over one and teams hit a decent .152 against her. Most teams will go
with one pitcher at this point in the season; however ULL is very likely to use
more than one. Lafayette even started a third pitcher in their Super Regional
series with Houston, which is typically unheard of at this time of year. ULL may
have 25 shutouts on the season, but a majority of them were against subpar
teams, thus average to good teams can score runs against this team. ULL must
hope their bats can keep them ahead of their average pitching staff if they are
to advance.

#1 Florida (67-3, SEC Champions)

  • Top Pitcher:
    Stacey Nelson (45-3, 0.73 ERA, 337 strikeouts, 316.2
    innings pitched)
  • Top Hitters:
    Ali Gardiner (.405, 17 doubles, 56 RBI)
    Kim Waleszonia
    (.368, team-leading 85 hits, 22 stolen bases)
    Francesca Enea (.338, 15 home
    runs, 60 RBI)


The Florida Gators are the overall #1 seed in the tournament and making their
first-ever trip to the Women’s College World Series. Being the #1 seed allowed
the Gators to stay at home for both the Regional and Super Regional rounds. On
May 18th, Florida was forced into a winner take all Regional final as
Central Florida defeated them 1-0 which broke a 37-game win streak that began in
mid March. During the year, Florida was 31-2 against teams that made the NCAA
field and are just three wins shy of being the first team ever to win 70 games
in a season. The only things that may go against the Gators are youth and
experience at this level. Starting outfielder Mary Ratliff is the only senior on
this team and to be the favorite in their first appearance in Oklahoma City can
only add to the pressure.

The Gator offense is balanced and explosive. Florida has outscored their
opponents this year by a combined 401-to-89. Now their average runs per game may
not matchup with other teams at the World Series, but when a team has played an
NCAA high 70 games that tends to hurt the averages. Nine players have double
digit RBI totals and of those nine regular players the lowest hit total is 38,
compare that to the Hokies ninth player with 21 hits. Florida is a selective
running team as they have stolen 94 bases on the year, however only three
players are in double digits in that statistic.

Stacey Nelson is the anchor in the circle for the Florida Gators. Nelson is
not a flashy pitcher as her strikeout numbers are average, teams hit .161
against her and she’s walked 104 batters on the year; but
she gets the job done and wins. Her most amazing statistic is that she has only
surrendered one home run all season and that was in the final regular season
game against Tennessee. Teams will have to manufacture runs against the Gators
to be successful. However with the Florida offense, one or two runs by the
opposition may not get it done. Also UCF probably did Florida a favor by beating
them once in the Regional round as carrying a win streak that began March 12th
into June would have been almost too much pressure for any team to bear.

ESPN
College Sports Broadcast Schedule (including WCWS)

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