Dawg Days in OKC: a 2016 WCWS primer

Georgia outfielder Samantha LaZear (3) stands on third base during an NCAA softball game between Georgia and Georgia Tech at Jack Turner Stadium on March 29, 2016 in Athens, Ga.(Photo by Emily Selby) - Georgia Sports Information and Emily Selby

Let's do this one more time, shall we? By now, you've probably heard that our own Lady Diamond Dawgs swept 2-time defending national champion (I hate) Florida on their own field in Gainesville, and it was glorious. This was the third time the #1 overall seed lost a super regional since the super regional format was introduced, and the first time the #1 has lost the first game, much less been swept in two. In short, it was the sort of historic win that other college sports programs seem so often to have at our expense. More importantly, the win sent us to Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series, which begins Thursday at noon. So, let's take a look at what we're up against in OKC.

Where we are

As HokieDawg stated earlier this week, we're pretty much playing with house money at this point. You've probably seen/heard/read how the Super Regional win happened--if not, check out MaconDawg's post from a couple of days ago.

The Good: Chelsea Wilkinson did Chelsea Wilkinson things, limiting the Gators to two runs in two games. If she keeps firing like that, we could stay in this thing for a while. Our offensive production came mostly from the middle/bottom of the line-up. You've heard about Kaylee Puailoa by now, but Maeve McGuire, who has struggled a bit at the plate recently, had an excellent Super Regional. Katie Browne also chipped in a couple of RBI, most notably the solo homer in Game 2.

And y'all. Our defense. We've been a little hit-or-miss in the field at times, but last weekend we played 14 innings of error-free ball. This included a couple of highlight-reel plays from Alex Hugo--while she didn't have a great offensive weekend, her play in the field was indispensable. I would love, love, love to see us keep playing D like this for another week--makes our already-excellent senior ace look even better.

The question marks: The Emanuel sisters went a combined 1/14 in Gainesville, which is the sort of thing that tends to tank us offensively. Glad to see our offense find other ways to get it done--we'll need that sort of resilience--but I suspect we'll also need Sydni and Cortni back on base to do well. If that happens and we continue producing with the bottom half of the lineup, our offense could go from very good to absolutely lethal.

We didn't see Brittany Gray at all last weekend. If we can stay in the winner's bracket, it's possible that we could throw Wilkinson all the way, but I think we'll need a few quality innings from Gray at some point (plus I'd love for her to have some positive postseason experience going into next year).

What about the other guys (or rather, girls)?

There's no way to sugarcoat the numbers: UGA is 2-8 against the WCWS field this year (0-3 to Auburn, 1-2 to Alabama, 1-2 to LSU, 0-1 to UCLA). There are mitigating factors here--we suffered narrow losses at Auburn, Alabama, and LSU in games we let get away from us in the last two innings. A particularly maddening example: Wilkinson gave up a total of 3 runs to Auburn in two games, and we still left the Plains without a win. If we close like we did against Florida, there's no reason we can't beat any of those teams. The UCLA game was a complete all-systems meltdown, but it was also early in the season, and I'd like to think we've figured out a thing or two since then.

We'll open up against FSU at noon Thursday. To be honest, I haven't seen enough of them to have a good idea of how we match up. By the stats, their team ERA is a little better, their BA a little worse, and their fielding % barely edges ours. They did play in a pretty weak ACC (and swept through with no difficulty), so that may be giving their stats a boost. On the other hand, against common opponents, they're 16-3, while we're 8-7.* They've gone 3-3 against the SEC, while we've put up a 3-1 mark against the ACC. Statistically, it looks like a toss-up. If we come out firing on all cylinders again, I don't see why we can't take this. The CWCS is double-elimination, so we'll face either Auburn or UCLA depending on Friday's results.

(Side note--it looks like the committee was enjoying a fun game of "pit the #1 seed against its bitterest rivals," given that they probably expected Florida to be playing this game.)

*Common opponents include UAB, Cal State Fullerton, UCLA, Florida, Auburn, Boston College, North Carolina, South Carolina.

At some point, the bracket flips (I've never understood entirely how that one works), so we could end up facing off with Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, or Michigan. Based on what happened in our regular-season matchups, we're fully capable of a win against Bama or LSU. Oklahoma and Michigan are a different matter: they're the two highest seeds remaining, and look the part. Michigan still has most of the offensive pieces from the team that beat us soundly in the 2015 Super Regional, and Oklahoma is on an absolute tear right now. We'll probably have to beat at least one of these teams to win (or perhaps even play for) a championship, but the later in the tournament we get them, the better.

Bottom line? I like our chances here. The Super Regional was the sort of performance I've been looking for from this team for a long time; if we keep playing at that level, we can definitely make some noise. Thursday's game is on ESPN at noon eastern--the rest of the schedule will depend on what we do there. Our last two trips to OKC ended in the semifinals--let's see if we can do at least one better this time around!

Go Dawgs!

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