With the seasons coming to a conclusion, two teams stand at the highest of the school baseball and softball worlds, far, far above their rivals.
In baseball, Tennessee is the favourite to win the College World Series after a 53-7 season. In softball, it’s Oklahoma, at a scarcely believable 54-2.
Tennessee has put up its impressive record and gained the No. 1 rating while playing within the tough Southeastern Conference, which has nine teams within the tournament, including three other top 16 seeds. Tennessee ended that tough slate with a 25-5 conference record, then won 4 straight to take the SEC tournament.
Drew Gilbert hit .385 this season, and Trey Lipscomb had a slugging percentage of .737 with 21 homers. But Tennessee’s entire lineup can hurt you. Eight players reached double-digit homers this season despite only 150 to 200 at-bats for many of them. The team’s slugging percentage was .604, best in Division I, and it ranked fourth in on-base average.
But as great because the hitters are, the primary problem for opponents is that Tennessee is incredibly difficult to hit against. The five primary starters posted E.R.A.s from 1.67 to 2.61 and allowed batting averages from .159 to .213. The staff led Division I with a 2.35 E.R.A., and no other team was below 3.00.
Three players are expected to go in the primary round of Major League Baseball’s 2022 draft: Gilbert; Jordan Beck, one other outfielder; and pitcher Blade Tidwell, despite his missing much of the season with an injury.
But despite the Volunteers’ dominance this season, they can’t be considered a sure thing. The College World Series is notoriously difficult to win. While the double-elimination preliminaries tend to not be that difficult for the highest seeds, the best-of-three “super regional” that follows is mostly against a tricky opponent. And the actual eight-team World Series normally requires wins over several top-five or top-10 teams to win the title.
In consequence, top seeds have frequently fallen through the years. Indeed, Miami in 1999 was the last No. 1 to win. Within the 20 tournaments since then, three No. 2s and three No. 3s have won, but top eight seeds have won just nine times, compared with 11 teams not in the highest eight.
And Tennessee is hardly a historically dominant college baseball power. Although the Volunteers made the College World Series last season, ending tied for seventh, that they had a losing record within the SEC every season from 2006 to 2019. Their best finish within the World Series was runner-up in 1951.
So though they’re favored by oddsmakers, they aren’t an especially short price. They currently stand at only 5-2 (next best are No. 3 Oregon State at 9-1 and No. 2 Stanford and No. 4 Virginia Tech at 12-1).
To buck that history, Tennessee will first must win a gaggle that features Georgia Tech, Campbell and Alabama State, starting Friday at home, then beat potentially No. 16 Georgia Southern next week to make the World Series in Omaha starting June 17. Then it’s more likely to face a gantlet of strong teams that might include most or the entire other favorites.
Oklahoma Seeks a Repeat in Softball
College softball also has a dominant team this season. If anything, it’s clobbering its rivals by much more.
Oklahoma has put up a staggering 54-2 record, including a 17-1 Big 12 regular season and five straight wins within the N.C.A.A. tournament, to qualify for the eight-team World Series in Oklahoma City starting Thursday.
Its two losses got here against Texas within the regular season and Oklahoma State within the SEC tournament by the scores of 4-2 and 4-3. In contrast, its wins include loads of scores like 21-0, 19-0 and 15-1. Those margins would undoubtedly be far greater without softball’s mercy rule, which stops a game after five innings if one team is up by at the very least eight runs.
Daunting for possible opponents is that in all likelihood they are going to must beat the Sooners twice to eliminate them. In the sooner rounds, Texas A&M managed an in depth loss, 3-2, to Oklahoma. The rematch finished, 20-0.
Oklahoma is led by Jocelyn Alo, the back-to-back college player of the yr, who has hit more profession home runs than every other player in Division I history. She has 29 homers this yr and is hitting .497 (each second within the nation) and slugging 1.163. She isn’t the one threat: Tiare Jennings has 24 homers and Grace Lyons 21. The team hit .369, best within the nation.
And good luck getting runs against them. Hope Trautwein is 18-1 with a national-best 0.40 E.R.A. How does one post such a formidable number? In brief, just throw 104⅓ innings while giving up only six runs.
Jordy Bahl, the national freshman of the yr, is 21-1 with a 0.95 E.R.A. Think the third starter gives you a likelihood for a win? Nicole May is 15-0, with a 0.99 E.R.A.
And history is far kinder to top seeds within the Women’s College World Series. The No. 1 won in 4 of the last 10 years, including last season’s No. 1: Who else but Oklahoma?
But in that World Series, Oklahoma lost its opener to unseeded James Madison, 4-3, in eight innings: a ray of hope for those having nightmares about Trautwein fastballs and Alo bombs.