The James Madison University softball team has something truly special going right now, and the Dukes find themselves, at most, just three more wins away from the 2021 NCAA Women’s College World Series (WCWS) Finals. On Friday evening, June 4, in Oklahoma City, they’ll look to reduce that number by one more, as the tournament’s winners’ bracket double-feature takes place.
|What||2021 NCAA Women's College World Series|
|When||Thursday, June 3 - Wednesday, June 9, 2021|
|Where||Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|Venue||USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium|
|TV Broadcast||ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU|
Thursday Recaps from the Women’s College World Series
James Madison @ No.1 Oklahoma
In the first game of the Women’s World Series, the Dukes pulled off a thrilling 4-3 victory against top-ranked Oklahoma University in extra innings. The game featured six scoreless innings, with both teams only getting hot in the third inning for three runs apiece. Both starting pitchers tossed complete games, totaling more than 120 pitches each.
At the top of the extra frame in the eighth, Oklahoma pitcher Shannon Saile started things off with her eighth strikeout of the game, getting JMU’s Michelle Sullivan to whiff on a 2-2 count. The Duke’s next batter was lead-off hitter Kate Gordon who, on a full count, chose the perfect time to get her first hit of the game, a home run, to put James Madison up 4-3. Saile retired the next two batters to end the inning. The Sooners made contact in their appearances at the plate in the eighth, but couldn’t get anything to drop. Three of the final four batters put the ball in play, but the Dukes’ defense stayed strong to secure the victory.
Georgia @ No.5 Oklahoma State
Of the two in-state teams playing in the tournament, it was the Cowgirls of Oklahoma State that got the victory in their game, taking down unranked Georgia 3-2. Entering the bottom of the third inning tied 0-0, OSU’s Chyenne Factor took a 1-2 pitch deep for a two-run home run that gave them a lead that would last the rest of the game. The Bulldogs almost put something together late when an error allowed Sydney Kuma to score from second base, cutting into the lead 2-1. Oklahoma responded in the bottom of the inning, going back up 3-1 thanks to some efficient offensive setups.
In the top of the seventh, with one out, Georgia once again got something cooking. A one-out double to left field drove in a run and set the Bulldogs up with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second. Oklahoma State’s pitcher, Carrie Eberle, was able to generate a pop-up and a ground-out to escape the inning with the complete-game victory.
No.11 Arizona @ No.3 Alabama
Of the eight teams that played in the four games on Thursday at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, only the Alabama Crimson Tide scored in the first inning. For the entire game against the Arizona Wildcats, Alabama held the advantage, going up by as many as five runs, entering the seventh inning up 5-0. As hot as Alabama’s bats would be, racking up seven hits on 24 at-bats (.290 average), pitcher Montana Fouts was unstoppable on the mound in the victory.
Going into the fourth inning, Fouts had a perfect game in the works, with nine consecutive strikeouts. On a 3-1 pitch, Arizona’s lead-off batter Janelle Meono singled to left to end Fouts’ streak. Sure it ended her run, but Fouts quickly found her groove again, recording another seven strikeouts throughout the rest of the game for 16 total. Meono’s single was just one of the two hits Fouts allowed, pairing nicely with zero walks. The other hit was a two-out home run in the top of the seventh.
Fouts’ dominance in sustaining the early lead likely translated to the team’s offensive success. Batting all game with the lead, the Crimson Tide hitters were able to remain relaxed at the plate. Only four Alabama batters went down on called strikes, and the team scored in three innings, hitting two home runs in the process.
No.10 Florida State @ No.2 UCLA
The only shutout of the Women’s College World Series so far came from UCLA in their matchup against Florida State, picking up the victory 4-0. It was a really close affair for the majority of the game, with no runs scored in the first four innings. What started as a strong night on the mound for the Seminoles’ Kathryn Sandercock slowly started slipping before completely falling apart in the sixth inning.
Entering the fifth inning with five strikeouts and just one hit allowed, Sandercock got her first batter of the inning on three straight pitches. The second batter for the Bruins, Kinsley Washington, then took a 2-0 pitch up the middle for a single. An error on the throw to first allowed Washington to reach second base. Later in the inning with two outs, Washington advanced to third on a single from Anna Vines, who turned to pursue second. As Florida State tried to get Vines, an unsuccessful attempt, Washington took the opportunity to score for a 1-0 Bruins lead.
In the sixth inning, Sandercock rather quickly found herself with a runner on second and two outs. She surrendered a double to Delanie Wisz which scored that runner and put an end to her night. Still responsible for Wizs, Sandercock’s third run allowed came on a 0-1, two-out pitch from reliever Danielle Watson that UCLA’s Maya Brady belted to center for a two-run home run, setting up the final score of 4-0.
Making the program’s first appearance at the WCWS, James Madison is in the winners’ bracket alongside No. 5 Oklahoma State. They’ll make up the first game on Friday’s slate at 7 PM EST / 4 PM PST, ahead of No. 3 Alabama taking on No.2 UCLA at 9:30 PM EST.
JMU’s victory over Oklahoma sends the Sooners to the losers’ bracket where they’ll need their next two games to keep their title hopes alive. Joining the No.1 team in the losers’ bracket is No.10 Florida State, No. 11 Arizona, and unranked Georgia. The Seminoles are the defending champions from 2019. The four teams will have little time to lick their wounds before hoping to play a double-header on Saturday with survival on the line. The tournament before the final is a double-elimination format, meaning four teams will be sent home on Saturday. After the losing teams from Thursday square off, the winning teams will have to play one of the losing teams from Friday night.
How to Watch Women’s College World Series 2021
The television provider for the Women’s College World Series is ESPN, which will air the games scattered across their various channels. Because the channels change, it may be difficult to find every game, let alone find a good stream. For this reason, I recommend you check out PremiumTV. A no-contract service that doesn’t need a VPN either, PremiumTV offers a la carte access to sports and entertainment events. For the NCAA Softball series Series, you can watch all of the games in one place for just $24.99.