Key players in the match between Texas softball and Oklahoma

It’s time for Texas softball to once again compete for its first national title. Oklahoma once again stands in the way of the Longhorns, the team that has battled the Longhorns for the No. 1 ranking all season.

The Longhorns have won this season thanks to a deep roster with plenty of strong bats and hard-throwing arms. Oklahoma has an equally deep lineup, and both teams have standouts who could swing the series in their favor depending on how they perform.

More: Texas, Oklahoma split four previous softball games this year. What that means in the WCWS

Here is a list of key players to keep an eye on during Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series Finals.

Texas catcher Reece Atwood

For the Longhorns, it all starts with Reese Atwood. She was one of the best hitters in college softball this season, with a .429 batting average, .502 on-base percentage and .880 slugging percentage. She won Big 12 Player of the Year honors and was one of three finalists for USA Softball’s Collegiate Player of the Year award.

That said, she wasn’t that good in the WCWS. She hasn’t hit a home run or driven in a single run yet. So far, that hasn’t mattered (thanks to a few others on this list), but with the Longhorns’ toughest test of the season looming, now is the ideal time for their best player to start mashing.

Oklahoma outfielder Jayda Coleman

Coleman, the hero of the WCWS semifinal, was already stomping long before she hit her walk-off homer against the Gators.

With a .385/.546/.708 triple slash, the senior hitter exemplifies the Moneyball philosophy of “getting on base” while also producing with power. Texas, one of eight Sooners selected to the All-Big 12 first team, will have to be wary of how Coleman will ride high heading into the finals.

Texas pitcher Teagan Kavan

Kavan isn’t just any freshman pitcher.

She defeated Stanford’s All-American and national player of the year NiJaree Canady on Monday, allowing just one goal and eliminating the Cardinal for a 1-0 win. And she has earned the blessing of Texas softball’s GOAT pitcher, Cat Osterman. She will likely be the first pitcher Oklahoma faces in the series and Kavan picked up the win the last time she faced the Sooners.

However, Kavan only threw 3⅔ innings in her last outing vs. OU, allowing three hits and one homer. Texas coach Mike White hopes to squeeze a longer performance out of his freshman phenom this time around.

Oklahoma pitcher Kelly Maxwell

Kelly Maxwell’s arm is the glue that holds the OU pitching staff together. But she threw 148 pitches on Tuesday as the Sooners trailed a strong Florida team thanks to Coleman’s walk-off home run. Maxwell has allowed six earned runs in 18⅔ innings – the rest of Oklahoma’s staff has allowed nine runs in six innings.

Maxwell will likely be productive in the series. The question is whether the rest of the Sooners’ pitchers can survive against a tough Texas offense.

Oklahoma infielder Tiare Jennings

Jennings is one of the most influential players in college softball and has had major success several times this year.

“When she steps up, you know something good is going to happen, especially on these big stages,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said.

One team captain, the veteran Sooners, goes as Jennings goes. She is their power hitter and boasts a .375/.470/.828 triple slash, although this was far from her best season. Regardless, the Longhorns should be wary of her power, as Jennings has hit 24 home runs through 2024, with a career high of 29.

Texas infielder Alyssa Washington

Short on runs on Monday, it was Washington who ultimately moved in for the winning run, deftly dodging the base tap on a squeeze play.

While her legs may have been the story of the game, the senior is having a career year, hitting .344/.422/.634. The Longhorns captain isn’t the best hitter on a team full of top talent, but as seen in the WCWS semifinals, Washington will do whatever it takes to win the game.

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