The 2019 Women’s College World Series Championship Finals begins on Monday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET and features Oklahoma and UCLA.
Here’s the series schedule:
Championship Finals (Best-of-3)
Game 1: UCLA vs. Oklahoma | 7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 3 | ESPN
Game 2: UCLA vs. Oklahoma | 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4 | ESPN
Game 3: UCLA vs. Oklahoma | 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5 | ESPN
Here are three things to watch for that will determine who takes home the title.
Can Rachel Garcia keep up her two-way dominance?
Garcia did it all in UCLA’s dramatic extra-innings win over Washington, pitching 10 shutout innings, striking out 16 and launching a 3-run homer to win it, driving in all three Bruins runs. Garcia has started every game in the Women’s College Series thus far, and you’re going to see plenty of her against Oklahoma.
She’s been outstanding — the biggest reason why UCLA is here. And while her work in the circle is most important to UCLA, she’s been on fire at the plate for the better part of two months.
Garcia was hitting .298 after a March 9 win against BYU. She shot up to .349 by March 25, and hasn’t really looked back since. Garcia is hitting .345 now and has gone deep in two of her last five games.
GARCIA’S HEROICS: More on the UCLA hurler’s epic performance against Washington
She’s an incredible two-way talent, but UCLA has a lot riding on her shoulders. If she performs like she has recently, the Bruins have a great shot to win this thing.
Giselle Juarez’s workload
Juarez is ridiculously good, but you have to wonder if — or when — her workload will catch up to her. We may have seen signs of it in Oklahoma’s second game on Sunday against Alabama.
Juarez pitched well in Game 1, going 7.2 innings and only allowing one run. Oklahoma lost that game, though, so it had to play again, and Juarez started again. She only lasted 1.2 innings and got a quick hook.
Mariah Lopez and the offense came through for the Sooners, but it will be fascinating to see if we get the Game 1 or Game 2 version of Juarez against UCLA. Perhaps it will be somewhere in between, but in order for OU to win, she’ll need to be on point. Earlier this season, UCLA solved Lopez, scoring six runs (three earned off Lopez) on six hits in 3.2 innings. The Bruins won big, 7-1 — but Juarez didn’t pitch.
That was also her third time facing the Alabama lineup in four days, and perhaps the Crimson Tide simply got familiar with her by Game 2 of Sunday. It’s tough to know. But assuming Juarez gets the ball against UCLA on Monday night, keep an eye on her command early.
Oklahoma’s power needs to be on display
The Sooners went yard three times against the Crimson Tide in Sunday’s second game and scored seven runs. But they only had five hits. Alabama made a few errors that helped the cause, but the long ball was crucial in Oklahoma’s path here.
That’s not exactly breaking news; hit a lot of home runs, and you’ll do well. Riveting! But you’re probably not going to string a bunch of base hits together against Garcia. Oklahoma will need some big swings with runners on base to do any real offensive damage.
— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) June 3, 2019
And for as dominant as Garcia has been, she’s given up some homers lately. She’s surrendered 12 all season, but nine of them have come after May 8. There will be opportunities for an Oklahoma offense featuring the likes of Sydney Romero, Caleigh Clifton, Jocelyn Alo and Grace Green. The Sooners slugged .643 as a team this season. That’s absurd.
We’ll see if Oklahoma can keep up the offensive momentum it started to build later on Sunday.
Both of these teams are excellent, but it’s so hard to pick against UCLA at this point. The Bruins are riding a six-game winning streak, haven’t allowed more than two runs in a game since May 19, and don’t really have a weak link. Oklahoma has some serious firepower in its lineup and an elite starter in Juarez, but Garcia just feels like the more reliable pitcher at this point in the season. And in college softball, that’s the best thing you can have going for you.
Pick: UCLA in 3