Friday, May 29, 2015

2015 WCWS Day 2

FLORIDA-LSU: Tigers load the bases in the bottom of the first with no out, but can't get ball out of infield on next two at-bats, resulting in force play at home, and double-play (runner from second-to-third tagged out, batter thrown out at first)... Gator pitcher Lauren Haeger hits a two-run, milestone homer in the top of the fifth to break a scoreless tie... UF now leading 4-0 as LSU comes up in bottom of seventh... 4-0 is your final.

UCLA-MICHIGAN: I'm always excited to see my undergraduate (UCLA) and graduate (Michigan) alma maters play each other! It's also a rematch of the epic 2005 final series, in which Michigan became the first school east of the Mississippi River to win the NCAA softball title...

UCLA loads the bases with none out in the bottom of the first... 1-0 Bruins on a sharp single to left with one out... 2-0, as a two-out walk brings in a run... HBP makes it 3-0 Bruins, still bottom of the first... Haylie Wagner coming in to pitch for Megan Betsa... Wagner gets strike-out to end inning...

Wolverines get first two on in top of second... Runners bunted to second and third, one out... Moderately deep fly-out to right, UM runner on third doesn't try to score... Another fly-out to right, Wolverines come up empty... Bruins go quietly in bottom of second...

Michigan again gets first two batters on base (first and second) in top of third. Slugger Sierra Romero surprisingly (to me, at least) bunts. Second and third with one out... Single to right brings in Wolverines' first run; other runner stops at third... Runner on first advances to second on pitch in dirt. Kelsey Susalla deep shot to right-center, nearly a great catch by UCLA's Kylee Perez, drives in two... Susalla to third on errant throw home... Tied 3-3... Walk puts UM runners on corners... Fly-out nearly to warning-track in center brings home go-ahead run for Michigan, 4-3... UCLA wild-pitch advances UM runner to second... Wagner flies out to right-field warning track, ending rally...

UCLA gets first two batters on (first and second) in bottom of third, on HBP and sharp single to left. Runners bunted over to second and third, one out (I feel like I'm writing this scenario a lot!)... Weird play ties score, 4-4, but ends Bruin threat -- ground out to first (for second out), run-down with runner on third trying to score, throw back to third gets away allowing runner to score; other UCLA runner caught between second and third, retired in run-down... Got that?

Tera Blanco leads off top of fourth with single up middle for Michigan... UCLA replaces Ally Carda in circle with Selina Ta'amilo... Michigan bunts runner to second (without waiting to get a second runner on), one out... Sierra Lawrence grounds out, runner held on second... Romero coming up, ESPN announcers expect intentional walk... Looking like an "unannounced" IBB, as no signal from catcher, but pitches nowhere close to strike-zone... Indeed, Romero to first; Kelly Christner up with two outs, Wolverines on first and second... Bloop pop-out to second, a little behind infield dirt... Still 4-4 going to bottom of fourth...

Solid line single to center by Perez with one out in Bruin half of the fourth... Delaney Spaulding fly-out to shallow left... Allexis Bennett grounds out, ending inning... Still 4-4...

Susalla, leading off, now 3-for-3 with line single to right on 3-2 pitch... Lauren Sweet singles. Ball sort of dies upon landing in shallow right, delaying right-fielder in getting to it and allowing Susalla to make it to third... Carda back in to pitch, greeted with sac-fly by Lindsay Montemarano (her third sacrifice fly or bunt of game), now 5-4 Michigan... Wagner ground single to left, UM with first and second, with one out... Blanco grounds into rare 4-6-3 double-play (rare because bases are only 60 feet apart, vs. 90 feet in baseball), ending threat..

Carda leads off bottom of fifth with bloop single to left for Bruins... Bunted to second, one out... Strikeout and grounder to pitcher close down UCLA...

Abby Ramirez leads off sixth with bloop single to left for Wolverines... Lawrence pops out to shortstop... Romero coming up, strikes out (Carda's first of game)... Christner pulls line-shot double to wall in right, scoring Ramirez. Michigan leads 6-4... Susalla makes it 4-for-4 with an RBI single to left, advances to second on throw home. Now 7-4 Wolverines... Sweet walks, first and second, two out for UM... Pop-up ends half-inning...

Maddy Jelenicki leads off bottom of sixth with line single to left for Bruins... Gracie Goulder strikes out... Perez's foul fly to left should have been caught, but dropped; she's retired anyway on grounder to pitcher, runner to second...Michigan CF Sierra Lawrence charges in to make nice catch of Delaney Spaulding fly. Bruins retired...

Blanco and Ramirez get a pair of one-out singles for Michigan in top of seventh... Lawrence makes it three straight; sloppy fielding by UCLA allows run to score easily and runners to end up on second and third. Now 8-4 UM... Romero, with a quiet night thus far, up again... Gets a sac-fly to right, 9-4 Michigan... Christner line single makes it 10-4... Susalla, 4-for-4 so far, looks to stay perfect... Bruins bring in Johanna Grauer to pitch... Susalla walks... Sweet fouls out to left, ending rally...

Bruins down to final three outs... UCLA gets one on via HBP, but liner to left ends it. Michigan wins.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

2015 WCWS Day 1

TENNESSEE-FLORIDA: Gator pitcher Lauren Haeger homers in bottom of the first, her 17th blast of the season, to make it 1-0... Vols avoid further damage, as UF leaves bases loaded... Gators again leave bases loaded in second... UF coming up in the bottom of the sixth, leading 5-2. As the score indicates, Haeger's long shutout-innings streak is over... Final: Florida 7, Tennessee 2.

LSU-AUBURN: The purple-and-gold is off to an early 1-0 lead on a Bianka Bell homer... LSU leads 6-1 as Auburn bats in the bottom of the seventh... Auburn gets its first two batters on base; does it have another comeback a la the super-regional opener vs. Louisiana-Lafayette in store? No. A double-play on a grounder to third and then a strikeout give LSU the easy win.

ALABAMA-MICHIGAN: Kelly Christner homers in the bottom of the first to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead... The Crimson Tide gets a single with one out in the top of the fourth, its first hit of the game... Lauren Sweet belts grand slam to make it 5-0 Wolverines, bottom four...(Many bloggers and tweeters are using the "How Sweet It Is," line, as I initially had. ESPN's Beth Mowins is a little more clever, declaring that the UM catcher had found the "sweet spot" with her bat.)... 5-0 is the final score.

UCLA-OREGON: No score after one complete. The Ducks had a runner thrown out trying to advance to third in the home half. While sitting in the dugout during her team's at-bats, UO pitcher Cheridan Hawkins was hit in the back of the head by a foul ball that ricocheted off the back wall of the dugout, but she comes out to pitch the top of the second.... UCLA gets solo shots by Stephany LaRosa (here and here) and Gabrielle Maurice (here) to go up 2-0, heading to the Duck half of the second...  After a rain/lightning delay, the Bruins win 7-1 to close out a day of all blowouts.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Growing SEC Presence in WCWS

When the 2015 NCAA Women's College World Series begins tomorrow, an inescapable fact will be the presence of five teams from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) within the eight-team field. In the following graph, I've depicted the number of teams the SEC and other major conferences have placed in the WCWS over the past 10 years, based on data from the Wikipedia.


The expanding share of yellow represents SEC teams. And the trend is likely to get even more pronounced. The dashed-yellow slashes across some of the red (Big 12) blocks signify teams that were in the Big 12 at the time of their WCWS appearances, but have since moved to the SEC (Texas A&M and Missouri).

The SEC's rise in softball started slow, but once begun, has been continuous. College softball came under the aegis of the NCAA in 1982, but it wasn't until 1997 that the SEC got a team (South Carolina) into the World Series. It's not that the SEC had a bunch of weak teams in the 1980s and '90s. Many of its top softball schools of today simply did not field a team during this era. To take some examples, Florida's first year competing in softball was 1997, the same year as Alabama. Tennessee first took the field in 1996. LSU had a softball team from 1979-1981, but then dropped the sport until resuming in '97.

Between 1997-2004, the SEC  placed either a single team or no team into each year's World Series. It wasn't until 2005 that the SEC sent multiple teams to Oklahoma City (in this case, Tennessee and Alabama). Tennessee became the conference's first World Series finalist in 2007, and now the SEC has won two of the last three titles (2012 Alabama; 2014 Florida).

Part of the SEC's current dominance appears to have come at the expense of the Pac 12 (formerly Pac 10), although we're dealing with small samples. National championship-caliber programs such as UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, and Washington appear to have lost a step in recent years (although the Bruins are in this year's WCWS), with Oregon becoming the most reliable program in the conference. Counting this year, the Ducks will have appeared in three of the last four World Series.

The Big 12 is now down from its high-water mark of getting four teams (Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Missouri) into the 2011 World Series to none this year. OU, which narrowly lost in last weekend's super-regionals to Alabama, appears to be the most reliable Big 12 contender, having won the 2013 national championship and finished as runner-up in 2012. Baylor may well now be the second-best program in the conference.

As Yogi Berra once supposedly said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." Still, it seems hard to imagine the SEC's current run of success slowing down any time soon.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

2015 Super-Regional Tracker (Sunday)

Florida, leading one game to none in its series vs. Kentucky, also leads by a score of 1-0, as the Wildcats come up in the bottom of the seventh for their last chance to prolong the series... Florida advances on the strength of pitcher Lauren Haeger's 29 straight scoreless innings in the tournament (as pointed out in an ESPN graphic)...

Missouri began the bottom of the first with four straight singles, but only scored one run. UCLA has now taken over the game, leading 6-1 as the Tigers bat in the bottom of the third... Bruins come up in top of seventh, leading 10-5 after Mizzou leaves bases loaded... UCLA 10, Missouri 6 is your final from Los Angeles; Bruins on to 25th WCWS appearance...

I'm sure I speak for everyone in the college-softball community in wishing Missouri pitcher Tori Finucane the best, after she was hit by a line-drive in what looked like the mouth area. Here is a posting from Mizzou's Twitter page... Update from Mizzou Twitter is cautiously positive... Finucane has now been released from UCLA Medical Center.

LSU leads Arizona 4-2 after a pair of innings... Tigers up lead to 6-2 in top of third, but LSU center- and left-fielders get tangled up on deep fly in bottom half of inning, leading to triple; runner later scores, cutting LSU lead to 6-3 after three... LSU adds two in the top of the fourth, making it 8-3... Back-to-back strikeouts by LSU reliever Carley Hoover quells Arizona rally in bottom of fifth, but Wildcats get two, cutting Tiger lead to 8-5... LSU adds two insurance runs in the top of the seventh, making it 10-5. U of A down to its final at-bats... Relatively uneventful bottom of the seventh (one Arizona hit) and LSU is heading to the WCWS.

All of the top eight seeds have made it to OKC! That includes five teams from the SEC.

TeamsGame 1Game 2Game 3
Kentucky at Florida (1)***FloridaFlorida---
 NC State at Oregon (2)**OregonOregon---
Georgia (14) at Michigan (3)*MichiganMichigan---
LA-Lafayette (13) at Auburn (4)**AuburnAuburn---
Arizona (12) at LSU (5)***LSULSU---
Oklahoma (11) at Alabama (6)**OklahomaAlabamaAlabama
Missouri (10) at UCLA (7)***UCLAUCLA---
Florida State (9) at Tennessee (8)*TennesseeFlorida StateTennessee
*Game 1 Thursday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Friday.
**Game 1 Friday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Saturday. 
***Game 1 Saturday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Sunday.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

2015 Super-Regional Tracker (Saturday)

The three remaining series get underway today: Florida-Kentucky, LSU-Arizona, and UCLA-Missouri. As always, we have the tracker board below to indicate the status of each series...

Florida has gone up 4-0 on Kentucky, with the Gators batting in the bottom of the second... Final: Florida 7-0.

LSU has quickly taken its opener from Arizona, 8-0 in a five-inning run-rule contest.

UCLA wins opener over Missouri, 7-4.

Auburn and Louisiana-Lafayette are tied 2-2 in Game 2 of their series, with the Tigers batting in the top of the fifth... ULL's erratic performance in the circle continues; illegal pitches and a wild pitch help Auburn take 3-2 lead in top of the sixth... Tigers pulling away, 6-2... ULL has bases loaded with two outs in bottom of sixth... One run walked in, score now 6-3... Fly-out to center ends Cajun threat... No further scoring, as Auburn clinches school's first-ever appearance in WCWS.

Alabama shuts out Oklahoma 2-0 to force a third game, which the Crimson Tide also take, 5-3.

Oregon finishes off NC State, 9-3.

TeamsGame 1Game 2Game 3
Kentucky at Florida (1)***Florida

 NC State at Oregon (2)**OregonOregon---
Georgia (14) at Michigan (3)*MichiganMichigan---
LA-Lafayette (13) at Auburn (4)**AuburnAuburn---
Arizona (12) at LSU (5)***LSU

Oklahoma (11) at Alabama (6)**OklahomaAlabamaAlabama
Missouri (10) at UCLA (7)***UCLA

Florida State (9) at Tennessee (8)*TennesseeFlorida StateTennessee
*Game 1 Thursday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Friday.
**Game 1 Friday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Saturday. 
***Game 1 Saturday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Sunday.

Friday, May 22, 2015

2015 Super-Regionals Tracker (Friday)

Below is today's version of the tracker chart that I introduced yesterday.

A wild one featuring Louisiana-Lafayette at Auburn is going to extra innings. The Ragin' Cajuns seemingly had this super-regional opener wrapped up, leading 10-5 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, with Auburn having two runners on. However, four walks, a Tiger runner being awarded first base because a ULL relief pitcher exceeded the legal limit of warm-up pitches, and then another walk have tied the game 10-10. Cajun pitchers weren't just walking batters; they weren't even coming close to home plate on most pitches. An Auburn hitter popped out to end the inning and I'm kind of shocked she swung at all... ULL regains the lead, 11-10, in the top of the eighth on a wild pitch, with runners now at first and second with two outs... The Cajuns are retired with no further scoring... Auburn threatening in the bottom of the eighth with runners on first and second with no out. After a walk, the ULL shortstop makes a nice play to get a glove on an Auburn grounder up the middle, but can't get the runner going to second or the batter going to first... A Tiger double ties the game 11-11, with runners at second and third and no outs... A strikeout for the first out... Runner from third beats the throw home on a grounder to second. Auburn wins 12-11. The throw was high and it appears from the replay that the catcher may have taken her foot off the plate.

Florida State, looking to tie its series with Tennessee at 1-1, leads 5-1 in the bottom (Seminole) half of the fifth... The Seminoles close it out, 6-1, setting up a deciding Game 3.

FSU-Tennessee Game 3: Tennessee shot to the wall drives home baserunner for game's first run... Vols string together another run, in bottom of fourth, increasing their lead to 2-0... Seminoles cut deficit to 2-1 in top of fifth... Same score as FSU up in top of sixth... And that's how it ends, 2-1 Tennessee to send the Vols to the WCWS.

Softballs are flying out of Michigan's Alumni Field. Georgia homered twice in the bottom of the first (the initial one coming after a hit-by-pitch) and the Wolverines have recorded a round-tripper of their own in the top of the second. Bulldogs lead 3-1... Wolverines rally for two runs on three singles and a sac-fly to tie game 3-3 in the top of the third... UM goes up 4-3 in the top of the fourth on (you guessed it) a homer... The Wolverines open up some daylight (without benefit of any home runs), leading 6-3 as the Bulldogs come to bat in the bottom of the fifth... Fast-forwarding to the bottom of the sixth, Georgia gets runners on second and third with no outs, but scores only one run (another runner, trying to score from third on a grounder to the pitcher, is thrown out). Michigan comes up in top of seventh, leading 6-4... Wolverines three outs away from trip to WCWS, leading 7-4... The homer parade isn't over, as Georgia belts a two-out, two-run dinger to center to close within 7-6... Line-drive single to center puts tying run on base... Pitching change for Michigan? You "Betsa," to replace Haylie Wagner... Pop-up to second-baseperson, Michigan to the World Series for the 11th time overall, but only the third time since winning it all in 2005.

Alabama has taken a 1-0 lead over Oklahoma, putting together a pair of doubles in the bottom of the first... A solo homer in the top of the third ups the Tide's lead to 2-0... Top 6: Callie Parsons, leading off, gets Sooners' first hit (a single), then Lauren Chamberlain does what she does best, homering to tie score at 2-2... Walk and beat-out bunt give Sooners two on and still no out... Another bunt advances runners to second and third, batter retired... Deep sac-fly gives OU 3-2 lead, other runner to third... Kady Self whacks one high off the left-field foul-pole (or if you prefer, "fair pole") making it 5-2 Sooners... OU survives a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the seventh to win 5-2.

North Carolina State is making a lead-off homer in the first by Renada Davis hold up, leading Oregon 1-0 in the top of the fourth... NC State nearly escapes bases-loaded, no-out situation in bottom of fourth, getting two harmless outs, but then floodgates open and now it's 4-1 Ducks... Oregon cruises from there to 6-1 victory.

TeamsGame 1Game 2Game 3
Kentucky at Florida (1)***


 NC State at Oregon (2)**Oregon

Georgia (14) at Michigan (3)*MichiganMichigan---
LA-Lafayette (13) at Auburn (4)**Auburn

Arizona (12) at LSU (5)***


Oklahoma (11) at Alabama (6)**Oklahoma

Missouri (10) at UCLA (7)***


Florida State (9) at Tennessee (8)*TennesseeFlorida StateTennessee
*Game 1 Thursday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Friday.
**Game 1 Friday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Saturday. 
***Game 1 Saturday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Sunday.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 Super-Regionals Tracker (Thursday)

The following chart will allow you to track the eight super-regional series, the two-out-of-three match-ups that will determine the participants in next week's Women's College World Series. Which super-regional series begin tonight, as opposed to Friday or Saturday? Which teams have captured one win on the road to the WCWS or have clinched a spot with two wins? It's all in the chart (or will be with my frequent updates)!

TeamsGame 1Game 2Game 3
Kentucky at Florida (1)***


 NC State at Oregon (2)**


Georgia (14) at Michigan (3)*Michigan

LA-Lafayette (13) at Auburn (4)**


Arizona (12) at LSU (5)***


Oklahoma (11) at Alabama (6)**


Missouri (10) at UCLA (7)***


Florida State (9) at Tennessee (8)*Tennessee
*Game 1 Thursday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Friday.
**Game 1 Friday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Saturday. 
***Game 1 Saturday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Sunday.