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Sunday, May 20, 2018

2018 NCAA Regionals -- Sunday Update

The 16 nationally seeded teams are doing well in the regionals, but a couple are not out of the woods yet. Most of the games in the Southeast and Midwest are over now, but a full slate in the West remains. The NCAA has a nice website for following the brackets. I'm also maintaining a summary below with links to game articles and Twitter tweets. Regional winners highlighted in bold.

LATE-NIGHT UPDATE: All 16 nationally seeded teams have advanced to the super-regionals.

1. Oregon, whose regional began a day earlier than the others, wrapped things up yesterday with no runs allowed in regional play.

2. Florida is just getting underway vs. Ohio State after a rain delay, as the Gators seek to close things out. UF leads 1-0. Aleshia Ocasio allows no hits and Florida adds three more runs to advance to the super-regionals with a 4-0 win.

3. UCLA will need to beat Cal State Fullerton twice today, after the Titans shocked the Bruins yesterday. In Sunday's first game between the teams, the Bruins lead 2-0 on a two-run double. Titans with a runner on first and one out in the bottom of the fourth, but don't score... UCLA completes the first part of its task, beating Fullerton 3-0... Winner-take-all in the rematch, starting at 7:00 pm Pacfic... Titans with runner on second, one out, top second... Walk gives Fullerton two on... Nice grab of liner by UCLA SS Briana Perez, possibly saving a run, records second out, and strike-out ends threat... Bubba Nickles solo shot gives Bruins 1-0 lead, bottom second... Titans again threatening, as first two batters get on base (first and second) in top of third... Chopper to third bobbled, giving Fullerton bases loaded with none out... Called strike-three on full-count for first out... Pop to 2B for second out... Deshea Hill long single to wall in right-center drives home two for Fullerton... Long fly-out to similar spot ends half-inning with Titans up 2-1... Bottom fourth: UCLA gets lead-off hitter to second on infield single and throw past first-base into dugout... One out later, passed-ball allows Bruin runner to third... Nickles just misses another homer, with long single off left-field wall. Tied 2-2... Titan SS bobbles grounder, Bruin runners safe at first and second, one out... Runners advance to second and third, as catcher bobbles pitch... Strike-out swinging on 3-2 pitch for second out... SS bobbles another grounder, seemingly giving UCLA the lead, but Bruin runner going from second to third called for interference. Inning ends still tied... After quick top of fifth, UCLA's Kinsley Washington leads off bottom-half with double... Bunted to third... Briana Perez with sharp ground single to left, giving Bruins the lead, 3-2, with one out... Aaliyah Jordan also singles on flare to left... Pitcher Rachel Garcia follows with prodigious blast well over left-field wall. Suddenly, it's 6-2 UCLA... Fullerton comes up with two runs in the top of the seventh, but it's not enough, and UCLA advances with a 6-4 victory.

4. Oklahoma is on the verge of advancing, leading Missouri 7-0 with the Sooners batting in the top of the seventh. No more scoring by either side as OU advances.

5. Washington will try to close out Minnesota later today. Score tied at 1-1 in the bottom (Minnesota) half of the fourth... Huskies win 5-2 to advance.

6. Florida State advances by beating Jacksonville State.

7. Georgia advances by taking out Northwestern.

8. Arizona State will look to close out Ole Miss later today... 5-0 Sun Devils, as Rebels bat in the top of the third.... ASU lead up to 8-0... Sun Devils advance with 9-0 victory.

9. South Carolina, the only other national seed (so far) besides UCLA needing two Sunday wins, defeated Liberty 2-0 earlier today and is just underway in the decisive rematch. Gamecocks lead 1-0 with Liberty batting in bottom of the sixth. South Carolina pulls away to win 5-0 and advance.

10. Tennessee advances with a win over Ohio U.

11. LSU advances with win over Louisiana-Lafayette..

12. Alabama is on the verge of advancing, leading Oregon State 4-0, with the Tide batting in the top of the sixth. Final score is 6-0 as Bama moves on.

13. Arkansas has qualified for its first-ever super-regional.

14. Arizona is looking to seal the deal vs. Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs have put up a deuce in the bottom of the first on back-to-back solo shots. Wildcats now up 4-3 as they bat in the top of the fifth... No further scoring by either team, so U of A goes to the supers.

15. Texas A&M has also been in a rain-delay as it seeks to put away Baylor. The Bears (the home team in Sunday's first game) had been clinging to a 3-2 lead, but the Aggies have a rally going in the top of the fifth. A&M has tied the game 3-3 and has the bases loaded with no out... Grounder to pitcher (who throws home for force) records first out and pop-up to 2B makes it two out... Baylor can't escape jam, however, walking in a run on four pitches to make it 4-3 Aggies... Looks like A&M batter Erica Russell hit by pitch to make it 5-3, but ump rules Russell leaned into pitch... Russell responds with opposite-field double to wall in right, clearing the bases. Now, 7-3 Aggies... A&M advances with 10-4 win.

16. Kentucky advances with a win over Notre Dame.

Monday, May 14, 2018

2018 NCAA Softball Tournament Geospatial Map

As is traditional here at the College Softball Blog, the assignments for the 16 NCAA softball regionals are depicted in the three maps below (created with BatchGeo). The first map shows six regionals in color-coded fashion, listed alphabetically by host school: Alabama (No. 12 national seed), Arizona (14), Arizona State (8), Arkansas (13), Florida (2), and Florida State (6). Simply hover your cursor over any of the balloon shapes to see the name of the team.

View 2018 softball regionals 1 in a full screen map

The second map depicts five regionals: Georgia (7), Kentucky (16), LSU (11), Oregon (1), and Oklahoma (4).

View 2018 softball regionals 2 in a full screen map

The third map shows the remaining five regionals: South Carolina (9), Texas A&M (15), Tennessee (10), UCLA (3), and Washington (5).

View 2018 softball regionals 3 in a full screen map

The dominant theme of Selection Sunday would have to be the strength of the SEC. For the second straight year, all 13 SEC softball schools (Vanderbilt doesn't field a team) have made the NCAA tourney. The SEC still managed to outdo itself compared to last year, however, as eight teams from the conference were national seeds in 2017 and nine teams are this year.

A second theme, which seems to emerge most years, is the discrepancy among the NCAA national seeds, the final weekly polls, and the RPI (which attempts to account for teams' strength of schedule). The following table illustrates.

*The two major polls ( Softball and USA Today/NFCA) were in agreement as to the top four.

The tournament committee has been said to place great emphasis on the RPI, which explains Oregon's No. 1 seed. But why would UCLA, with a No. 1 standing in the polls and a No. 2 RPI, be seeded third? (Full disclosure: I received my undergraduate degree from UCLA.)

Regardless of seeding, however, I would say the Women's College World Series is two-time defending champion Oklahoma's to lose. The Sooners always somehow find a way to win the WCWS. Oklahoma currently has won 41 of its last 42 games, the one loss occurring at Oregon on April 19.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Huskies' Slide Stretches to Six Games; Gators Gain

Washington continues to struggle against top-notch Pac-12 opponents. This past weekend, the Huskies were swept by Oregon, extending U-Dub's conference losing streak to six games.

Florida, with a win last week over Top-Ten opponent Florida State, and a series win (two games to one) over LSU, has edged up to No. 4 in both national polls.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sweep Over Washington Vaults UCLA to No. 1 in Both National Polls

The big news of the weekend was UCLA's three-game sweep over Washington in Los Angeles, which vaulted the Bruins from No. 3 to No. 1 in both national polls and dropped the Huskies from No. 1 in both polls to No. 4. Oregon is second and Oklahoma third in both polls.

Within the UCLA-Washington series, a very controversial moment occurred in Saturday's middle game of the series. With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the sixth, two outs and runners on first and second, U-Dub's Taylor Van Zee hit a high drive down the right-field foul-line that appeared to land on the line or just inside it in fair territory. The two runners easily made it home. However, the ball was called foul, Van Zee was ultimately retired, and the half-inning ended with the score 2-2. UCLA ended up winning 3-2 on a walk-off home-run by Madeline Jelenicki. A fierce denunciation of the umpiring is available here on this In the Circle podcast.

Scores of the other two UCLA-Washington games were 3-0 on Friday, and 1-0 on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Washington Retains No. 1 Slot in Pac-12/SEC Dominated National Polls

The Washington Huskies remained No. 1 in both major national polls, coming off a three-game sweep of Utah. U-Dub has now won its last 10 games. The Huskies' toughest part of the season will arrive in 10 days, with series at No. 4/4 UCLA (April 20-22) and at home vs. No. 3/3 Oregon (April 27-29).

The Ducks were impressive this past weekend in sweeping Arizona.

No. 2/2 Oklahoma extended its winning streak to 24 games with a sweep of Iowa State.

OU (from the Big 12) and No. 13/8 Florida State (from the ACC) are the only teams in the Top 15 not from either the Pac-12 or SEC.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Huskies Bounce Back with Sweep of Arizona

The No. 1 University of Washington bounced back from its series loss a week ago at Arizona State with a sweep of the University of Arizona. The first two games of the series were eight-inning affairs.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Weekend Roundup -- March 16-19, 2018

Washington and UCLA were both undefeated and ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the Softball poll before last Friday. However, once the first weekend of Pac-12 play was over, each had two losses. The Huskies lost two out of three to Arizona State, whereas the Bruins did likewise at Oregon. The University of Arizona swept three games from Utah, with the closest margin in any of the games being three runs.

The standings were also shaken up in the SEC. Florida, which was No. 2 in the USA Today/NFCA poll and 3-0 in conference after sweeping Kentucky March 9-11, lost two of three games to Georgia, including one via run-rule.

Tennessee, which swept Missouri the weekend of March 9-11 and then breezed through mediocre opposition in a Hawai'i tournament this past weekend, has now jumped to No. 2 in both national polls. The Vols (30-1) have some good wins this season (Arizona State, Oregon), but their real proving ground will come against top SEC competition. Tennessee's only loss so far came against Florida Atlantic in mid-February.