WCWS: A look at Arizona State

For the first time in more than two decades, Texas A&M is in a national championship. All that stands between them and the wooden trophy is Arizona State. Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp takes a look at the Sun Devils and gives his prediction for the three-game series which starts tonight in Oklahoma City.

SUN DEVILS AT THE PLATE

Kaitlin Cochran is No. 2 in the nation in walks, averaging 1.0 per game, and that's been the strategy so far this week in Oklahoma City, where Cochran was walked six times in the Sun Devils' first two games. But that strategy may not be working so well for most Sun Devils' opponents this year, since she is also No. 2 in the nation in runs scored, averaging 1.2 runs per game—scoring four runs in ASU's first three games of the WCWS as well.

It will be interesting to see what strategy A&M head coach Jo Evans uses against the speedy outfielder who leads the team in doubles (19), total bases (140) stolen bases (10/13), slugging percentage (.838) and runs (83), while striking out just 15 times in 167 at bats.

Other players of note:
Krista Donnenwirth - .346, 14 HR, 70 RBI*
Mindy Cowles - .341, 17 HR*, 57 RBI
Kristen Miller - .316, 16 HR, 56 RBI
Jackie Vasquez - .421, 6-of-6 SB
* Team leader

SUN DEVILS IN THE CIRCLE

The Aggies have already faced two of the top-eight strikeout pitchers in the nation this week in Oklahoma City (ULL's Ashley Brignac, No. 8; Va Tech's Angela Tincher, No. 1) and this week's national championship series is no different. Arizona State hurler Katherine Burkhart (39-5, 0.79 ERA) is No. 2 in the nation in strikeouts per 7.0 innings (11.5) behind Tincher, the "National Player of the Year" (yes, it's in quotes for a reason). In 1,030 at bats this season, she has struck out 489, which is also second only to Tincher.

Entering the College World Series, Burkhart was also No. 5 in the nation in ERA (0.80) and she hasn't allowed more than one run in any game so far this postseason—which she's only done in three of the Sun Devils' eight postseason appearances.

BIG D'S PREDICTION

The Sun Devils have won 18 of their last 20 games and have run-ruled their opponents 19 times this season while boasting the nation's No. 5 pitcher in terms of ERA, which will put a lot of pressure on Big 12 Pitcher/Player of the Year Megan Gibson. If the Aggies could scrape across a run or two early, it would go a long way for Gibson's comfort level, but that's easier said than done against Burkhart.

Like the rest of the Women's College World Series so far, this series may come down to execution, and if it does, you've got to like the Aggies' chances. A&M is No. 1 in the nation in fielding percentage (.984) while Arizona State is No. 47 (.968).

The Aggies will have to keep each game a low-scoring affair to have a chance, but they've shown time and time again that they can hang with the best of them this week in Oklahoma City. It's critical that they find a way to win game one, and I think they'll find a way to pull it out again this week.

Aggies win the national championship series in three games.




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