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Five Biggest Takeaways from 2023 NCAA Softball Regionals

The first weekend of the 2023 NCAA Softball Tournament is behind us, with Regional weekend coming to a close on Sunday night. With a healthy mix of chaos and chalk, the postseason is certainly here and the stakes are as high as ever as we head into Super Regionals.

Over the past three days, we’ve seen 48 teams had their postseason hopes cut short and just 16 teams move on to the next round of the tournament.

Here are five of the biggest takeaways from what we’ve seen so far and what it might mean going forward for the remainder of the field.

 

1. UCLA Goes Up in Flames

There’s just one team that has been as much of a mainstay at the Women’s College World Series as Oklahoma, and that’s UCLA. The Bruins had been to every WCWS since 2015, but after going 0-2 in their own regional, UCLA will have to watch the rest of the tournament from home.

The Bruins have been the standard for softball for decades, and until the rise of the Oklahoma program under Patty Gasso, the undisputed top program in the country. That’s why their back-to-back losses against Grand Canyon and Liberty were such a shock.

After going 52-5 in the regular season, UCLA earned the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament but ended up with the toughest region in the nation, according to our metrics. Despite a 25-game winning streak from March 25 to May 12, the Bruins finished their season with three consecutive losses to Utah, Grand Canyon, and Liberty.

The Flames ended up getting eliminated by San Diego State, sending the Aztecs to the Super Regionals for the first time in history. And, as if it were written in a storybook, the Aztecs will head to Salt Lake City to face the team that got UCLA’s losing streak started: the Utah Utes.

 

2. Oklahoma Turns Up the Heat

My goodness. The Oklahoma Sooners entered the NCAA tournament as the runaway favorite to win the whole thing, and that is definitely still the case after Regional weekend. Oklahoma hosted Hofstra, Missouri, and Cal this weekend, and beat each of them one time apiece in the Norman Regional. Well, maybe beat isn’t the right word.

Oklahoma outscored opponents 38-3 over the weekend, with an 11-0 (5) win over Hofstra, an 11-0 (6) win over Missouri, and a 16-3 (5) win over Cal. The Sooners rained down offensive firepower with 42 hits and 10 home runs on the weekend while limiting opponents to just seven hits over the same stretch.

Sunday’s victory marked the Sooners’ (54-1) 46th straight win, extending the program record and moving one win shy of tying the NCAA record set by 1996-97 Arizona. 

Patty Gasso has to be pleased with what she saw from her team this weekend, but there’s still plenty of work to do before they can call themselves champions once again.

 

3. Oklahoma State Finally Wakes Up

There wasn’t a ton of confidence in Oklahoma State as the No. 6 seed coming into this tournament as the Cowgirls had dropped 11 of their last 13 and five straight games. However, they silenced the doubters and find themselves in the Super Regionals after going 3-0 in the first weekend.

After taking down the UMBC Retrievers 9-0 (5), and Wichita State 6-0 on Saturday, the Cowgirls capped off a perfect weekend with a comeback 5-2 victory over upset-minded Nebraska.

While the win over Wichita State is what most folks would point to as the “turnaround” moment for Oklahoma State, I would argue that Sunday’s win was the biggest moment of OSU’s weekend. After finding themselves in a familiar position of late (a one-run deficit late in the game), the Cowgirls battled their way out of a hole and found a way to win.

The win sends Oklahoma State to its fourth consecutive Super Regional, where it will host Oregon. Two wins against the Ducks, and Oklahoma State will be headed back to Oklahoma City for a fourth straight year.

4. Sandercock Shines to Keep ‘Noles Alive

In 2022, the second-seeded Seminoles were one of the biggest storylines early on, after falling to Mississippi State in back-to-back games in the Tallahassee Regional and dropping out of the tournament.

On Sunday, the Seminoles again found themselves facing elimination as a heavily-favored national seed at home. After a 4-0 loss to South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, Florida State was one loss and as it turns out, just one run, away from disaster.

However, Kathryn Sandercock had other plans for the 2023 version of the Seminoles. Florida State’s top arm went the distance in the if-necessary game and threw a perfect game to ensure that their national title hopes remain alive and well.

While retiring 21 of a possible 21 batters, Sandercock struck out five over seven innings and earned her 25th win of the season with a 1-0 victory for the home team.

5. A Huskey Miracle

The best game of the weekend was also the final game of the weekend between No. 7 Washington and McNeese. Entering the seventh inning, McNeese held a 6-0 lead and looked as if it was headed to its first Super Regional in school history. Washington fans were leaving the game, and all hope seemed to be lost. Then, it started to rain.

With the rain came a roaring-comeback from the Huskies, who mounted an impossible seven-run seventh to do the impossible.

Jadelyn Allchin got the scoring started for the Huskies with an RBI double, followed by a sac fly from RyLee Holtorf, making it 2-0. Then, pinch hitter Kelley Lynch singled up the middle and advanced to second on a throwing error, sending Avery Hobson in to score.

Then, Sami Reynolds made the play of the game with a three RBI double to left-center field, bringing the score to 6-6. Finally, Madison Huskey, who went three of four on the day and was the star of the game, doubled to center field and brought Sami Reynolds home for a 7-6 lead.

With Washington being the road team in this game, the Huskies had to collect three outs to make the comeback complete, and did just that in front of a half-full stadium of shocked and elated fans.

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