What to expect: Georgia-Washington

May, 31, 2009
05/31/09
12:12
PM ET
For the first time since 1982 at the Women's College World Series, college softball is guaranteed a first-time champion among its final four teams. That's about where any sense of unfamiliarity in Oklahoma City ends. The four remaining teams have all played each other this season, including multiple games between the two sets of teams squaring off in Sunday's encounters.

Georgia vs. Washington
1 p.m. ET | ESPN

Pitching: Washington ace Danielle Lawrie rated her outing Thursday against Georgia as a B-minus performance. She allowed six hits, two extra-base hits, and walked two in seven innings, which, given Georgia's talents, is a harsh enough grading scale to make even MIT professors blush. That said, whether she's at a B-minus or an A-plus, as she was against Arizona State on Friday, the Huskies have as decisive an edge in the circle against Georgia as a team is going to have at this point of the season.

Coming off a day of rest (and just 85 pitches Thursday), Lawrie will face either Christie Hamilton, who had to throw 13 innings Saturday, or Sarah McCloud. The Bulldogs would have to win two games to advance to the championship series, so it's possible coach Lu Harris-Champer might start McCloud in the first game and hope she can afford Hamilton a few more hours of rest. More likely, they hope Hamilton can get by one more time on guile and cross the bridge of the second game later.

Both Bulldogs pitchers fared well against Washington earlier this season, albeit facing a lineup that didn't include Jenn Salling, and Hamilton held her own Thursday until a home run from Washington freshman Niki Williams. McCloud threw a three-hit shutout to beat the Huskies on March 8 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., but she's been shaky in her past two outings, as the starter here against Arizona State and in the super-regional clincher against Ohio State.

Hitting: Georgia showed Saturday how dangerous it can be at the plate, getting five home runs from four players in two games. Alisa Goler and Taylor Schlopy aren't overmatched against any pitcher in the country, including Lawrie, and their presence buys other hitters good pitches (although for what it's worth, the two combined to go 3-for-16 against Washington's ace in the first three games between the teams). For its part, Washington has gotten key hits from people outside the top four of Ashley Charters, Kimi Pohlman, Salling and Lawrie. When that happens, the Huskies go from merely a good enough offense to support their ace to a good offense in their own right.

Fielding: It's a windy morning in Oklahoma City, and the samba the flags are doing suggests it's not a consistent breeze. That may well die down before the game starts, but if not, fly balls could be an adventure. On the infield, both teams have the potential to be spectacular, but both also rely on the excellence of their infielders. One mistake could upset a delicate balance for either.

Player to watch: Kristin Schnake
She's the emotional heartbeat of the Bulldogs, but perhaps more important from a strategic standpoint, she's the only Georgia player to get at least one hit off Lawrie in all three games between the teams this season. Wedged between Schlopy in the leadoff spot and Goler in the No. 3 hole, Schnake is going to have to see pitches to hit.

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

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