No. 1 seed Oklahoma brings home run power to Women’s CWS

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo leads one of the most prolific home run-hitting teams in NCAA history into the Women’s College World Series.

The nation’s leader with 30 homers, Alo has been named the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. She paces a team that has 146 total homers, second all-time to Hawaii’s 158 in 2010. The Sooners lead the nation with 2.81 homers per game — the second-place team averages 1.94.

“I think this team is very special, and I think that if we just continue to play our game and do what we do and not try to do too much, we’re going to be in a really good spot,” Alo said.

Oklahoma (50-2) faces James Madison (39-2) in the opening game on Thursday. In other matchups, No. 5 seed Oklahoma State (47-10) will play Georgia (34-21), No. 3 seed Alabama (50-7) will face No. 11 seed Arizona (41-13) and No. 2 seed UCLA (46-5) — the 2019 champion — will play No. 10 seed Florida State (44-10-1). The two teams that emerge from double-elimination play will face off in a best-of-three championship series starting June 7.

Alo is tied for the Oklahoma single-season school record she shares with Lauren Chamberlain, yet she is just one of the team’s many threats.

Tiare Jennings, who has 25 homers and leads the nation with 84 RBIs, has been named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA)/Schutt Sports Division I Freshman of the Year — an award Alo won in 2018. Both were named first-team NFCA All-Americans on Wednesday.

Kinzie Hansen, a catcher and a second-team All-American, has 21 homers. Jayda Coleman, a freshman and a first team selection, has eight homers and 19 stolen bases. Shortstop Grace Lyons, a second-teamer, has 14 blasts.

OPPOSITES MEET

Oklahoma won national titles in 2000, 2013, 2016 and 2017 and was the runner-up in 2012 and 2019. The Sooners will play in front of what will amount to a home crowd of roughly 13,000 at a newly expanded stadium just 25 miles from campus.

James Madison is a first-time qualifier. The Dukes will be confident — they won all their games on the road in regionals and super regionals to advance. Odicci Alexander has a 16-1 record and a 1.14 ERA with 186 strikeouts in 117 innings.

“I think what’s very important for us is that we stay grounded, we stay within ourselves, we don’t let anything affect us and we keep playing JMU softball,” James Madison coach Loren LaPorte said.

SOONER RIVAL

Oklahoma State is playing close to home, too, and the Cowgirls are responsible for one of Oklahoma’s losses.

First baseman Alysen Febrey and pitcher Carrie Eberle are first-team All-Americans. Febrey is batting .409 with 18 home runs and 59 runs batted in. Eberle is 25-3 with a 1.41 earned run average.

Utility player Hayley Busby is a second-teamer. She bats .389 with 19 home runs and 49 RBIs.

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could face off on Friday in a winners’ bracket showdown. But Oklahoma State shouldn’t get ahead of itself. Georgia — Thursday’s opponent — is the other team that beat Oklahoma. The Sooners won their first 33 games before losing in Athens, Georgia.

U.S. OLYMPIANS

All three college players who are on the U.S. Olympic squad that will head to Tokyo will play in the World Series: UCLA’s Rachel Garcia and Bubba Nickles and Arizona catcher Dejah Mulipola all will play this week.

Garcia was the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019. This season, she is hitting .351 with 12 home runs and 32 RBIs. She has a 17-1 pitching record with a 0.95 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 118 1/3 innings.

Mulipola, a first-team All-American, is hitting a career-best .401 and leads the Pac-12 with 21 homers and 63 RBIs.

Nickles has been hampered by a wrist injury and just returned to play in super regionals. She produced hits in 14 of 20 games before being sidelined.

SHUTOUT QUEEN

Alabama pitcher Montana Fouts returns to the site of one of the most impressive World Series performances in recent memory.

In 2019, the freshman pitched complete game shutouts on back-to-back days against Arizona and Oklahoma. She struck out 14 and allowed just seven hits.

This season, she was a first-team All-American. She has a 25-3 record with a 1.49 ERA and 314 strikeouts in 196 2/3 innings.

FORMER CHAMPS

Dani Morgan, Anna Shelnutt and Sydney Sherrill are back from the Florida State squad that won the national title in 2018.

Sherrill, who is from Moore, Oklahoma, leads the team with a .313 batting average and 43 walks. Morgan is hitting .259 and has 27 RBIs. Shelnutt has five home runs and 24 RBIs.

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

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