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Cindy Bristow - Coaches CornerThe 5 Things It Will Take to Win the WCWS
While everyone might have their own favorite team, can you go out on a limb and objectively say who’ll win? Read on to see if you agree with the 5 things I think will determine the winner of this year’s Women’s College World Series.
Both the Regionals and the Super Regionals brought us upsets, surprises and drama, with lots of comebacks, amazing plays and heroics. This year’s grueling playoff system has resulted in 8 very talented survivors heading to OKC for the 2012 Women’s College World Series:
- University of California, the #1 seed
- University of Alabama, the #2 seed
- Arizona State University, the #3 seed
- University of Oklahoma, the #4 seed
- University of Tennessee, the #7 seed
- University of Oregon, the #11 seed
- Louisiana State University
- University of South Florida
The playoffs served as stumbling blocks to 10 of the top seeded teams in the tournament seeing numbers 5 (Florida), 6 (Texas), 8 (Texas A&M), 9 (Missouri), 10 (Georgia), 12 (UCLA), 13 (Arizona), 14 (Louisiana-Lafayette), 15 (Louisville), and 16 (Washington) all falling along the way, with many of the Super Regionals going the full 3 games to determine the eventual winner.
While heart and guts and grit and determination weren’t in short supply, there were some skills that must be shored up before we crown a National Champion! Whether it ends up being your favorite team or not, to me, the team that wins this year’s Women’s College World Series MUST be the best at executing these 5 Keys:
- Convert Offensive Opportunies – Getting runners into scoring position didn’t seem that difficult throughout the playoffs, but in the WCWS teams MUST convert these RISP (Runners In Scoring Position) into Runs! A great example of this was the Hofstra-USF Super Regional. Hofstra got way more runners into scoring position (36) than USF did (only 18), but USF won the series by converting more baserunners into runs. It’s just like football, getting into the Red Zone is only step 1 while converting that field position into a touchdown the most often determines the winner. The team that wins this year’s World Series will be the team that does the best job of converting their red zone opportunities into scores, or the team that converts more of their RISP’s into runs!To help your team be the best at converting your scoring opportunities into runs, check out the following:
- Limit Freebees – No doubt that this year’s crop of pitchers is amazing! Every one of this year’s 8 teams has a pitcher capable of throwing at or near 70 miles per hour, which is amazing. And yet, so do many of the teams that fell short. Throwing fast and striking people out won’t be what determines this year’s winner, instead, the winning team MUST limit the freebees by way of Walks, Hit Batters, and Illegal Pitches. The closer to the championship game we get the harder the runs will be to come by, so handing your opponents free bases is enough to get you eliminated. The winning team will have a pitcher that may or may not strike out a lot of batters, but there’s no question she’ll severely limit her walks, hit batters and illegal pitches. And, the winning team will have an air-tight defense that will limit their errors and avoid giving up free bases to their opponents.To help your team better limit the freebees they may hand out to other teams, check out the following:
- Find the Zone – Fast – During the Super Regionals I started losing track of the number of batter’s that were called out looking at strike 3! It happened in every Super Regional series, in almost every single game, to almost every single team, and often in critical times with runners in scoring position. In order to win the WCWS batter’s MUST find the strike zone quickly and then expand it when they get 2 strikes. It flashes me back to my Dad’s advice when I was a kid, “Cindy, if it’s close enough for the ump to call it’s close enough for you to swing!” Dad was right, and the team that wins the WCWS will do the best job of finding the strike zone and then quickly adjusting to it.You can improve how well your hitters find the strike zone and hit in games by checking out the following product:
- Change It Up – Going back to our discussion about the quality of the pitchers in this year’s WCWS, it’s impressive that they all throw so fast, but eventually speed dulls, which means that hitters can get their timing down. As Dallas Escobedo learned in Game 1 of her Super Regionals game against Louisiana Lafayette, simply throwing fast isn’t enough to disrupt the quality of hitters playing in the World Series. The winning pitcher MUST disrupt hitters by mixing in off-speeds or changeups – either that or the quality of hitters will dominate the day. Pitching 70 miles an hour is even more impressive when she can contrast that with a 54 mph changeup forcing hitters to lunge out onto their front foot, totally disrupting their timing. To help your pitcher’s develop and improve their changeups check out the following:
- Move It – The final key to winning this year’s Women’s College World Series will be the ability to either move runners into scoring position or move runners from 2nd to 3rd. Bases become VERY hard to come by at this final stage of championship play so the ability to manufacturing runs becomes vital. Power hitting teams throughout the season suddenly become base-by-base teams during the WCWS. Whether it’s successfully pulling off a sacrifice bunt or hitting behind the runner, the winning team will out perform their opponents in this part of the game on their way to winning the 2012 Women’s College World Series!Check this out to help your players become better, more reliable bunters:
While we all want to see just who wins the Women’s College World Series, hopefully you won’t miss all the lessons we can learn from these amazing teams and players. Enjoy their amazing hustle, and focus, and desire and skill while cheering on your favorite team! And while I have no clear cut favorite I do hope that all 8 teams play their very best on softball’s biggest stage!