Previewing Duke softball's bid to the 2024 Women's College World Series

<p>Senior Francesca Frelick bats against South Carolina.</p>

Senior Francesca Frelick bats against South Carolina.

Following a dramatic extra-innings victory against No. 7 Missouri, the Blue Devils punched their ticket to a program-first Women’s College World Series. With the tournament’s climax fast approaching, the Blue Zone previews Duke’s path to the chip: 

The Blue Devils’ road to Oklahoma City began in Durham, where they hosted both the ACC tournament and their own NCAA regional. Although games were tenuous at times, Duke managed to go undefeated in both stints at home and work its way to Colombia, Mo., to play in the NCAA Super Regional against the Missouri Tigers. The first two matches of the best-of-three series were split, and the rubber game was a nail biter that required extra innings for a decision. It was a pitchers’ duel for the first eight innings, blown wide open in both halves of the ninth. In the end, the Blue Devils managed to snatch a 4-3 victory against the Tigers, clinching a World Series bid for the first time in their seven-year history. 

The Women’s College World Series is split into two blocks, each with four teams. The blocks play in a bracket-style double elimination tournament, with the winners of each block advancing to the ultimate best-of-three series to determine a national champion. Duke will open up championship play against perennial victor Oklahoma, a team that aims to win its fourth straight title after another season of dominance. Seeded second in the nation, the Sooners boast a 54-6 record on the year, headlined by an undefeated postseason. Friday’s matchup won’t be the first time these two squads go toe-to-toe, with Oklahoma earning a 3-0 win against Duke in a February matchup. The Sooners are proven powerhouses, and they’ve already triumphed against the Blue Devils once this season. It will undeniably be Duke’s most challenging test to date. 

Should the team get the better of Oklahoma in Friday’s matchup, Duke will face the winner of fourteenth-seeded Alabama and sixth-seeded UCLA. If the Blue Devils are defeated, they will fall into the elimination bracket and face that game’s loser. In either case, Duke will be pitted against another formidable opponent. 

The Crimson Tide are riding high after their Super Regional victory against No. 3 Tennessee, one of the favorites to take it all this year. Although their 38-18 record doesn’t scream dominance like single-digit losses would, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with in this bracket. Alabama features a strong pitching staff that managed to stifle the Volunteers’ powerful bats through three games. Should it meet Duke, a low-scoring affair would not be unexpected. 

The Bruins, unlike the Crimson Tide, are chock full of big hitters. They boast a team OPS of just under 1.000, a testament to their power and scoring potential. It will be difficult to hold UCLA to under five runs, as evidenced by its 8-0 and 6-1 wins in Super Regional play. Like the Sooners, the Bruins are undefeated in postseason play, and as such they demand careful preparation from any would-be opponents. 

Each team in the Blue Devils’ bracket has a well-honed arsenal with which to win, so grinding out at least three victories will be no easy task for Duke. Even so, the team has shown time and time again that they have what it takes to compete with the best. Now is the time to beat them. 


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