By: Greg Levinsky
If the NCAA Selection Committee had an obvious choice in creating the 2018 Softball Tournament bracket, it was to match one of the nation’s best squads with an underdog – especially one that had defeated that same favorite earlier this season.
Well, they’re in luck.
The Boston University Terriers are looking forward to a rematch with the national powerhouse Oklahoma Sooners as they embark on what they hope to be a fruitful NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Terriers (39-18) open up their NCAA Tournament slate with a rematch against the NCAA’s fourth-seed and Big 12 Champion University of Oklahoma (50-3), who is hosting the regional in Norman, Okla. The game will be televised on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN 2.
“We’re certainly up for any challenge, and we don’t really back down from anyone or anything,” said Boston University head coach Ashley Waters. “We’re just excited for the chance to be in a regional.”
These sides have a bit of a history. Back on February 17, the Terriers faced the then No. 1 Sooners, scoring the game’s first two runs and clawing back from a one-run deficit for a 4-3 win. The victory was recognized as Boston University Athletics’ “Upset of the Year” in the Rhetty’s Award ceremony last month.
“Overall, I think there was some mixed emotions, but the majority of us were excited to get a second shot to take down the Sooners,” said sophomore pitcher Lizzie Annerino, who picked up her first collegiate win by firing 4.2 scoreless innings in the upset over Oklahoma.
“After we won the first time a lot of people in the softball world were treating our win like a fluke, but now we have the chance to show them that it wasn’t an anomaly.”
The 2018 Patriot League Champions rode the bats of seniors Emma Wong and Kaitlin Sahlinger last time out against the Sooners; both collected two RBIs apiece in the win. Junior second baseman Emily Morrow also collected a pair of hits and scored two runs in that contest.
The double-elimination style NCAA regional also includes at-large selection Missouri (28-27) and American Athletic Conference champion Tulsa (33-23).
“We’re scrappy and we’re oftentimes overlooked, or it’s not expected that our kids can play and do as well as we do,” Waters said. “We’re just trying to go down and represent and have a good showing.”
Oklahoma comes in as winners of 39 of 40 contests, and is led by Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Paige Parker. The senior left-hander ranks fourth in the nation with a .85 ERA and led the Big 12 in wins (24) and batting average against (.142). Big 12 Freshman of the Year Jocelyn Alo batted .415 with 24 home runs and 63 RBIs this season; she anchors arguably the nation’s deepest squad.
“Beating OU the first time was a grind, so we know what it’s going to take to beat them again,” Annerino said. “We just have to keep working hard this week at practice and make sure we stay sharp.”
The Sooners batted .331 as a team in the 2018 campaign, seventh in the nation. The pitching staff owns a country-best 1.09 ERA. But, the two-time reigning NCAA Champs meet a Terrier squad that is clicking as well.
Outscoring opponents 20-4 in the Patriot League Tournament, BU comes into the regional as winners of 21 of its last 22 games. Waters said her team is “sharper” from the last time they met Oklahoma.
“We’re just a little bit more mature than we were in February,” she said.
Led by Patriot League Pitcher and Freshman of the Year Ali DuBois (28-7, 1.77 ERA), who did not appear in the first Oklahoma game, and conference Player of the Year in junior catcher Alex Heinen (.366 AVG, 50 RBIs), both BU’s offense and defense are seeing success. Junior third baseman Madi Killebrew slugged 10 RBIs on a pair of doubles, a triple and a home run – going 5-for-10 in the Patriot League tournament.
Annerino said it’s important to stay focused and build off the team’s current success.
“Honestly, we just need to keep doing what we are doing,” Annerino said. “Our bats are hot because we put in so much offense at practice. People put in a lot of extra work on their own time into staying sharp at the plate, and it’s really paying off.
She added of her team’s performance in the conference tournament, “We are in a really good spot both physically and mentally coming off such a successful outing this past weekend.”