Author’s note: I want to apologize for a mistake in how I had read the bracket. I had thought the 8 teams at the WCWS were split into two entirely separate 4-team pods, with the winner of each pod moving to the finals. That’s not correct. The bracket is a more traditional 8-team double elimination bracket. What does this mean? Well, if you go 1-1 in your first two games, as Washington and a few others did, you still play an elimination game, but you play a team from the other half of the bracket that went 1-1 in the opposite order. So the Huskies, who went win-loss on the right side play UCLA, who went loss-win on the left side. Similarly, LSU, who went win-loss on the left side, will play the winner of Baylor-Oregon, who will have gone loss-win on the right. Sorry for the confusion.
Time to move past adversity. A couple of mistakes defensively, a couple of bad calls, and good pitching from OU’s Paige Parker got the Sooners into the national semifinals with a 3-1 victory over UW last night. With the double-elimination format, the Huskies (1-1) play the team from the opposite side of the bracket who went 1-1 in the opposite order, which happens to be Pac-12 rival UCLA. The winner of UW-UCLA advances to play #1 overall seed Florida tomorrow, but first things first:
UCLA and Washington have a lot of similarities. Both teams are extremely battle-tested, having faced the toughest (UW) and 2nd toughest (UCLA) schedules in the country, a combination of both being in a rugged Pac-12 conference and of scheduling aggressively in non-conference play. UCLA took 2 out of 3 from Washington in Seattle fairly early in conference play, the win by the Huskies in the final game snapping a season-long 5-game losing streak that had started in Tucson the week before. Apart from that one stretch, the Huskies have not lost back-to-back games all season long.
Both teams have potent offenses and rely heavily on one young pitcher: Huskies with sophomore Taran Alvelo and UCLA countering with National Freshman of the Year Rachel Garcia. Both Alvelo and Garcia have seemingly endless stamina, so I suspect neither bullpen is going to be used in this game.
The biggest difference between the teams would probably come from how they score their runs. The Huskies are no slouch when it comes to the long ball, with Morganne Flores and Casey Stangel leading the charge. But UCLA is even more reliant on home runs. Four different Bruins have at double-digit homers, including 3 with at least 15 (#99 Delaney Spaulding, #33 Brianna Tautalafua, and #88 Madeleine Jelenicki). Comparatively, the advantage for UW is that UCLA is a team that will strike out more than most other elite teams, and although the on-base percentages for the Bruins are solid, the Dawgs are stronger there as well.
Game is at 4 PM Pacific Daylight Time on ESPN. You can also find it at espn.com/watchespn