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. On top of that, they have one of the best pitching staffs in the tournament, led by Nemitz. →Cause for concern: In a field stacked with offensive firepower, there could come a time when pitching isn’t enough to win. And Michigan hasn’t faced a lot of offenses like it will see this week.
Georgia Bulldogs→Seed: No. 6 →Record: 44-10 →Coach: Lu Harris-Champer (Ninth season) →WCWS appearance: First →Best finish: N/A →Player to watch: Third baseman Alisa Goler leads the nation in slugging percentage and is second with 23 home runs in the middle of a lineup that ranks among the best in the country in virtually every major category. →Reason to believe: Georgia’s lineup is stacked with hitters, who will put pressure on even the best pitchers in the WCWS field. And Georgia sports the best fielding percentage (.980) in the country. →Cause for concern: First-timers generally struggle, and pitching, though not terrible, isn’t the team’s strong suit.
Arizona Wildcats→Seed: No. 9 →Record: 46-15 →Coach: Mike Candrea (24th season) →WCWS appearance: 21st →Best finish: Champion (1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2006, 2007) →Player to watch: Stacie Chambers is in the midst of one of the best power displays in college softball history, with 31 home runs. She anchors a Wildcat lineup that set the NCAA record for home runs in a season, currently with 134. →Reason to believe: The block ‘A’ on the helmet should be enough — just ask Tim Walton, the coach of top-seeded Florida, which faces Arizona in tonight’s first round: "I think we’re the underdog. (Arizona) has won more national championships here than we ever have won (games) at this stage.” →Cause for concern: Nearly every title Arizona has won, it has done it with a dominant pitcher, but the ’Cats come into this year’s tournament with a 2.78 ERA, seventh-worst in the field.
Arizona State Sun Devils→Seed: No. 10 →Record: 46-17 →Coach: Clint Myers (Fourth season) →WCWS appearance: Eighth →Best finish: Champion (2008) →Player to watch: Junior outfielder Kaitlin Cochran is as dangerous as ever, with a .422 batting average, 20 home runs and 59 RBIs, numbers that were held down by her 63 walks in 63 games. →Reason to believe: They won it all last year, and virtually the entire lineup remains intact. Though they didn’t keep pace with in-state rival Arizona, the Sun Devils were second nationally with 86 home runs. →Cause for concern: ASU came into the year looking to replace last year’s Most Outstanding Player in pitcher Katie Burkhart, eventually settling on true freshman Hillary Bach. This tournament will test her physical and mental makeup.
Missouri Tigers→Seed: Unseeded →Record: 50-10 →Coach: Ehren Earleywine (Third season) →WCWS appearance: Fourth →Best finish: Fifth (1991) →Player to watch: Pitchers Chelsea Thomas and Stacey Delaney have each made 22 starts, have more than 100 strikeouts and own an ERA below 1.40. →Reason to believe: Mizzou got here by beating No. 2 national seed UCLA twice in three games on the Bruins’ home field. So the Tigers have proven they can play with anyone, and they won the Big 12 Tournament title on this field in early May. →Cause for concern: As the only unseeded team to make it to the WCWS, Missouri is the obvious underdog. The Tigers are well-balanced but lack star power. BY SCOTT WRIGHT