There’s a dandy battle today, as No. 16 Alabama, and its strikout ace, Alexis Osorio, faces the No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers. Ski-U-Mah will bring its ace, Sara Groenewegen, to the circle. Groenenwegen has the second-best ERA in the nation.
On paper, the Gophers look to be the better team, sporting the nation’s No. 1 offense, it’s No. 2 offense, its leading hitter and it second-best pitcher. Alabama, meanwhile, may have the second-most strikeouts in the nation, but has been in a month-long offensive funk.
However, games are not played on paper. Minnesota has only played tourney teams four times, going a meager .500 against squads in the field. Alabama’s 12-9 record is better percentage-wise, but it is hard to underestimate the value of that experience. This is battle-tested team that has faced a third of its schedule against other WCWS opponents. That experience may prove the difference. So too may the post-season experience, as the seniors on this Alabama team have played for a national title and been to Oklahoma City on two other occasions.
Alabama will have an emotional push, with the return of its star, Demi Turner. The Gophers bring their own motivation being forced on the road. Despite having a worse SOS, RPI and record against the field, the Gophers say that eyeballs matter. This is an angry team out to prove that it belongs in an elite class, after being snubbed for ringing up a 54-3 record against a terrible schedule.
This will legitimately be an exciting battle. Chime in.