Women’s College World Series: Players to watch on UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma & the rest

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By Jordan Shusterman
FOX Sports MLB Writer

It’s quite simply one of the best events on the sports calendar. 

The Women’s College World Series begins Thursday, headlined by the 54-2 Oklahoma Sooners looking to defend their crown after they won their fifth national championship in 2021. If you haven’t hopped on the softball hype train already, it’s about time you do so.

Three of the eight teams from last year’s edition of the WCWS — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Arizona — return to Oklahoma City this year, and five others round out the field for what should be a fantastic week of softball. 

Here are the players from each team that you need to know before the games begin: 

UCLA: Delanie Wisz, C/3B 

The Bruins are making their Division I-record 34th appearance at the Women’s College World Series after an undefeated run through the regional and super-regional rounds, and Wisz has been a huge part of that. She is one of several fifth-year seniors on UCLA’s roster coming into OKC with ample postseason experience, though she wasn’t on the team for the championship run in 2019; Wisz played two years at Loyola Marymount before transferring to UCLA for the 2020 season. 

Her defensive versatility is awfully valuable on its own, but she has also had a career year at the plate, hitting .407 with 14 home runs as UCLA’s primary three-hole hitter. Look for her to continue to shine in the middle of the Bruins’ lineup as they go for their 14th national championship. 

Other players to watch: SS Briana Perez (1.188 OPS), CF Maya Brady (13 HRs; Tom Brady’s niece), SP Megan Faraimo (1.70 ERA), SP Holly Azevedo (1.19 ERA) 

Texas: Hailey Dolcini, SP

The Longhorns return to the WCWS for the first time since 2013, and it’s safe to say they couldn’t have done it without Dolcini, who has had quite the journey over her collegiate career and now gets the chance to show off her ability on the game’s biggest stage. A California native, Dolcini played her freshman season at UC-Riverside before transferring to Fresno State, where she became an All-American pitcher and dominated in the Mountain West Conference. 

With the additional year of eligibility granted to all players following the canceled 2020 season, Dolcini decided to take another step up in competition and transfer to Texas. She immediately stepped in as the ace for the Longhorns, posting a 2.19 ERA in 195 innings. Most notably, she threw a complete game against mighty Oklahoma to end the Sooners’ 40-game winning streak and hand OU one of only two losses of the season back on April 16, so you know she won’t be intimidated should Texas face Oklahoma again at some point in OKC.

Other players to watch: 2B Janae Jefferson (1.151 OPS), C Mary Iakopo (10 HRs), SP Sophia Simpson (102 Ks in 83 IP)

Oklahoma: Grace Lyon, SS

As the defending champions and heavy favorites entering this weekend, the Sooners have such an overwhelming amount of talent that it becomes difficult to highlight just one player. The objectively correct player to focus on is still slugger Jocelyn Alo, the all-time home run queen who is looking to cap off her spectacular career with another national title. Or you could look to dazzling freshman Jordy Bahl, who has posted a ridiculous 0.95 ERA with 199 strikeouts in 132.1 IP, though she has dealt in recent weeks with injuries that leave her status for the WCWS somewhat questionable. 

Lyons, though, has stepped up in a huge way this season. Already regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the country, Lyons took a big step forward on offense in 2022, as she launched a career-high 21 HRs and drove in 62 runs, third on the team behind only Alo and sophomore sensation (and double-play partner) Tiare Jennings. Lyons has always been one of the best players in the country, but her excellence has been somewhat obscured by all the star power on the Sooners’ roster. In her senior year, Lyons is finally getting the love she deserves, and she’ll surely be a crucial factor if Oklahoma is to repeat as champion. 

Other players to watch: Alo (29 HRs, 1.797 OPS), Bahl (0.95 ERA in 132.1 IP), SP Hope Trautwein (0.40 ERA in 104.1 IP), CF Jayda Coleman (1.249 OPS), 2B Tiare Jennings (24 HRs)

Northwestern: Danielle Williams, SP

Easily one of the most fun parts of softball is that ace starting pitchers throw a much higher percentage of innings for their teams than any baseball pitchers could ever dream of — or at least, any baseball pitchers in the past 100 years. Williams is this year’s premier example of a starting pitcher who has completely put her team on her back down the stretch, as she has pitched a staggering 91.5% of the Wildcats’ innings this postseason. 

That includes an unbelievable 430 pitches over the three-game super-regional last weekend against Arizona State, and the senior left-hander does it all with an infectious smile on her face. She’s a delight to watch and a tremendous talent for an exciting Northwestern program making its first trip to the WCWS since 2007.

Other players to watch: OF Rachel Lewis (22 HRs), C Jordyn Rudd (.375 BA), SS Maeve Nelson (12 HRs)

Florida: Skylar Wallace, SS

Incredibly, this will be the first WCWS since 2007 without multiple representatives from the SEC, as the Gators were the conference’s only team to make it to OKC after a slew of upsets in the first two rounds, including hosts Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee all losing in regionals and Arkansas and Mississippi State being eliminated in super-regionals. Florida, meanwhile, prevailed despite dropping Game 1 in the best-of-three against No. 3 Virginia Tech. 

The Gators are led on offense by Wallace, who is in her first season with Florida after transferring from conference rival Alabama and sitting out the 2021 season. While the Gators don’t have the same level of power (just 37 HRs in 65 games) as some of the other teams in OKC, they outpace the field in another category: stolen bases. Florida’s 131 steals are tied for fourth in Division I and rank first among WCWS teams by a mile (Texas is next with 92); 51 of those belong to Wallace, tied for second-most in Division I. Wallace also leads the team in extra-bases hits, with 25, so she is not merely a speedster but an all-around star. 

Other players to watch: CF Kendra Falby (.962 OPS, 36 stolen bases), 2B Hannah Adams (.969 OPS), 3B Charla Echols (19 XBH), SP Elizabeth Hightower (2.44 ERA in 163.2 IP)

Oregon State: Mariah Mazon, two-way player

Mazon has racked up some truly eye-popping numbers in the circle over her five-year career with the Beavers: a 2.21 ERA with 861 strikeouts in 866 (!!!) innings pitched. And this year, she also leveled up on offense in a significant way. She didn’t hit much in her first two years in Corvallis, but she started getting regular at-bats in 2020 and is capping off her career in impressive fashion: by hitting .366 with 12 HRs this season when she wasn’t busy being the Beavers’ ace.  

With the team making its first trip to the WCWS since 2006, this is a tremendous opportunity for the Beavers. They were below .500 just last season, and there’s no one better to lead the way than the veteran Mazon.

Other players to watch: 1B Frankie Hammoude (15 HRs), 2B Kiki Escobar (.343 BA), SP Sarah Haendiges (1.97 ERA in 137 IP)

Oklahoma State: Chyenne Factor, CF

The Cowgirls return to OKC for the 14th time, though they also have the unfortunate distinction of being the program with the most trips to the WCWS without winning a title. They should have an excellent chance to change that this season, thanks to an elite pitching staff led by Kelly Maxwell.

But here I’ll highlight Factor, who has been a force on both sides of the ball during her career in Stillwater and has continued to excel in her senior campaign, including a homer earlier this season off National Player of the Year candidate Georgina Corrick.

Another fun Factor fact: Her brother, Cross, who played briefly at Oklahoma State in 2019, led NAIA in batting average this year, with a stunning .525 mark, and he finished second nationally in home runs with 30 for the Oklahoma City University Stars

Other players to watch: OF Katelynn Carwile (.353 BA), two-way player Miranda Elish (2.09 ERA in 104 IP; 1.062 OPS), 3B Sydney Pennington (10 HR), SP Kelly Maxwell (1.16 ERA in 169 IP)

Arizona: Carlie Scupin, 1B

With the retirement of legendary head coach Mike Candrea after the 2021 season, all eyes were on his replacement — former Wildcat player Caitlin Lowe — to see if this historic program could continue to thrive. Sure enough, they’re right back in Oklahoma City for the 29th time, most of any Division I program not called UCLA. 

There are plenty of sluggers worth spotlighting for an Arizona team that hit 95 home runs, which ranked ninth in Division I and trails only Oklahoma among teams in the WCWS field. Scupin (19 HRs) has been one of the biggest power threats for the Wildcats in 2022, and her crouched stance and uppercut swing are especially entertaining. Still just a sophomore, she might be only scratching the surface of her potential.

Other players to watch: C Sharlize Palacios (19 HRs), 2B Allie Skaggs (24 HRs), SP Hanah Bowen (3.67 ERA in 129.2 IP)

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He lives in D.C. but is a huge Seattle Mariners fan and loves watching the KBO, which means he doesn’t get a lot of sleep. You can follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_.





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