OKLAHOMA CITY — A glance at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America team might explain why tonight's Tennessee-Alabama game was selected for the 7 p.m., prime-time slot on ESPN2.
The seventh-seeded Lady Vols (52-12) and second-seeded Crimson Tide (55-7) have more All-Americans (four apiece) than any of the other teams at this year's Women's College World Series.
"I've said it before, you can't win the Kentucky Derby with a plow horse,'' UT co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "Having four All-Americans for a second consecutive season reflects the caliber of kids we're recruiting.
"I've also said before Alabama is very talented, and I think seeing each of our teams have four All-Americans reflects the strength of our conference.''
The Lady Vols' NFCA All-Americans are junior second baseman Lauren Gibson (first team), sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe (first team), sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman (second team) and junior third baseman Raven Chavanne (second team).
Weekly wasn't surprised any of his players were named All-Americans, but he was caught off guard to see Raven Chavanne, now a three-time All-American, named to the second team.
"Raven should have been first team; she led our conference in hitting,'' Weekly said. "She's the best lead-off hitter I've ever coached, and she comes up with big hits in key situations, most recently in the rubber game of the Super Regional against Georgia.''
It's the second time Gibson and Renfroe have been named All-Americans, while Shipman is a first-time honoree.
"Ellen has been amazing for us with 27 wins, but I believe Ivy (Renfroe) is also deserving,'' Weekly said. "I just told our team, we have a lot of All-Americans on our roster.''
Mendoza Flips: Jessica Mendoza, a four-time All-American at Stanford and gold medal winner with the U.S. Olympic team, said Tennessee-Alabama is too close to call.
"They're familiar with each other, and they both have that postseason 'it' factor,'' said Mendoza, who will announce the game. "It's really a coin flip who comes out on top.
"I'm sad so many SEC teams have had to face each other. The fact Tennessee had to come through Georgia, and now the first game here they face Alabama. ... You really want to see Pac-12 playing the SEC, or SEC playing the Big 12.''
Trivia: Which coach at this year's WCWS has coached two of the teams in Oklahoma City since the conclusion of last year's WCWS?
Alabama coach Patrick Murphy, who accepted the head coaching job at LSU on June 9, 2011, before changing his mind and returning to Alabama on June 12.
"It was a whirlwind, upside-down, topsy-turvy week,'' Murphy said at Tuesday's press conference. "In four days, a lot of stuff happened. It was unfortunate for everybody, and a huge mistake on my part.''
LSU, led by coach Beth Torina, isn't seeded among the top 16 teams in the NCAA tournament nor ranked in either of the top-25 polls. The Tigers made it to the WCWS by winning the Texas A&M regional in College Station before beating Missouri in Columbia in the Super Regionals.
The Tigers open the WCWS at 3:30 today against California (TV: ESPN2), a team that run-ruled them 14-3 in five innings on Feb. 19.