Florida Gators→Seed: No. 1 →Record: 60-3 →Coach: Tim Walton (Fourth season)
→WCWS appearance: Second →Best finish: Semifinalist (2008) →Player to watch: Pitcher Stacey Nelson leads the nation in earned run average (0.41), having allowed 15 earned runs in 255 1/3 innings. →Reason to believe: The Gators are the most balanced team in the field, coming in with the best pitching staff, one of the best offenses and a defense that committed just 37 errors in 63 games. →Cause for concern: Coach Tim Walton says his team strikes out too much, an average of 4.2 per game. But when you’ve lost once since Feb. 21, it’s hard to pinpoint weaknesses.
Washington Huskies→Seed: No. 3 →Record: 46-11 →Coach: Heather Tarr (Fifth season) →WCWS appearance: Ninth →Best finish: Runner-up (1996, 1999) →Player to watch: Pitcher Danielle Lawrie threw a no-hitter in the 2007 WCWS, and she was named National Player of the Year this season after striking out 472 batters in 308 innings. →Reason to believe: A hot pitcher and an opportunistic offense can carry a team to the title. Lawrie has proven she can handle a heavy workload, throwing 395 pitches in one day during regionals. →Cause for concern: The Huskies’ offense isn’t bad, unless you compare it to the other lineups at the WCWS. They rank last in the field in scoring (5.2 runs per game), home runs (45) and slugging percentage (.434), and seventh in batting average (.294).
Alabama Crimson Tide→Seed: No. 4 →Record: 52-9 →Coach: Patrick Murphy (11th season) →WCWS appearance: Sixth →Best finish: Semifinalist (2008) →Player to watch: Pitcher Kelsi Dunne pitched consecutive no-hitters in last week’s super-regional against Jacksonville State, an NCAA record. She’s 27-3 with a 1.37 ERA in 32 starts. →Reason to believe: Like their SEC rival Florida, the Crimson Tide is strong in every facet of the game. The speed factor could be big this week. The Tide stole more bases (172) than anybody in the country. →Cause for concern: As good as the ’Bama pitching staff has been, it also has been susceptible to giving up big numbers against strong competition like WCWS opponents Florida and Washington.
Michigan Wolverines→Seed: No. 5 →Record: 46-10 →Coach: Carol Hutchins (25th season) →WCWS appearance: Ninth →Best finish: Champion (2005) →Player to watch: Pitcher Nikki Nemitz enters the WCWS with a 27-5 record and 0.89 ERA in 203 2/3 innings, throwing a complete game in more than half of her starts this season. →Reason to believe: The Big Ten Conference was as strong as ever this year, so they’re battle-tested.