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When the NCAA Women’s College World Series opens Thursday at the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, the eight teams represented will have each traveled a thrilling road to the championships.

If you’re a softball fan, you’ve probably followed the season of your favorite team, or at least tuned in to the Super Regionals. But if you’re not a regular fan, this is the time of year when you can witness the game at it’s best – with talented players who have fearlessly been progressing their games since they were little girls on the tee ball field.

There are a lot of exciting match-ups and teams that have battled immense odds to be able to play. Alabama had four home games canceled at the end of April, starting with an April 27 contest against UAB the day Tuscaloosa was devastated by a tornado, only to come back and win their conference.

Of the eight teams competing in Oklahoma City, five team’s starting pitchers have been invited to try out for the USA National Team. In fact 17 invitees to the 2011 USA Softball Women’s National Team Selection Camp will be among the student athletes and coaching staffs at the NCAA championships. That’s an indication of the level of play you’ll see.

Here’s an overview of the teams who have made their way to OKC.

School: Alabama
Nickname: Crimson Tide
City: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Conference: Southeastern
Record (NCAA selection): 51-9 (at-large, SEC regular-season champions)
Coach (record): Patrick Murphy (713-188 in 14 years overall, 682-208 in 13 years at UA)
NCAA appearances: 13
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011

School: Arizona State
Nickname: Sun Devils
City: Tempe, Ariz.
Conference: Pac-10
Record (NCAA selection): 53-6 (automatic qualifier, Pac-10 champion)
Coach (record): Clint Meyers (798-122 in 25 years, 317-79 in six years at ASU)
NCAA appearances: 23
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 1982, 1987, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011

School: Baylor
Nickname: Bears
City: Waco, Texas
Conference: Big 12
Record (NCAA selection): 45-13 (at-large)
Coach (record): Glenn Moore (578-262 in 14 years, 439-220 in 11 years at Baylor)
NCAA appearances: 7
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 2007, 2011

School: California
Nickname: Golden Bears
City: Berkley, Calif.
Conference: Pac-10
Record (NCAA selection): 44-11 (at-large)
Coach (record): Diane Ninemire (1,058-509 in 24 years at Cal)
NCAA appearances: 27
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 1986, 1992, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2011

School: Florida
Nickname: Gators
City: Gainesville, Fla.
Conference: Southeastern
Record (NCAA selection): 52-10 (at-large)
Coach (record): Tim Walton (450-141 in nine years, 327-77 in six years at UF)
NCAA appearances: 12
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011

School: Missouri
Nickname: Tigers
City: Columbia, Mo.
Conference: Big 12
Record (NCAA selection): 52-8 (automatic qualifier, Big 12 champion)
Coach (record): ): Ehren Earleywine (386-129 in eighth year, 240-74 in fifth year at MU)
NCAA appearances: 15
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 1983, 1991, 1994, 2009, 2010, 2011

School: Oklahoma
Nickname: Sooners
City: Norman, Okla.
Conference: Big 12
Record (NCAA selection): 43-17 (at-large)
Coach (record): Patty Gasso (979-326 in 21 years, 817-267 in 17 years at OU)
NCAA appearances: 18
WCWS appearances (titles in bold): 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2011

School: Oklahoma State
City: Stillwater, Okla.
Mascot: Cowgirls
Conference: Big 12
Record (NCAA selection): 42-18 (at-large)
Coach (record): Rich Wieligman (173-114 in five years at OSU)
NCAA appearances: 18
WCWS appearances (titles listed by year): 1982, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2011

The 2011 Women’s College World Series throws its first pitch at 1 p.m. EDT on Thursday and concludes when the 2011 champion is crowned following the best-of-3 series finale June 6-8. All of the games can be seen on one of the ESPN platforms and you can keep up with a lot of the action via Twitter.  A number of the teams tweet and you can follow NCAA Softball @ncaasoftball.

The NCAA website has the full 2011 DI bracket as well as a printable version you can save to your computer or print out for reference.

Whether you’re rooting for the Cowgirls or the Sun Devils, the Gators or the Crimson Tide, or whether you’re just tuning in for the first time, you’re bound to see some great ball.

If you want to know which games will be broadcast and where, click here.

Batter up.

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