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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Few minutes after 6:00 pm Central: We now have our eighth team for the Women's College World Series, Oregon State (in the postings below, all WCWS qualifiers are depicted in bold). The Beavers defeated Cal 3-0 and then 1-0 today, to take the teams' super-regional series 2-1.

4:40 pm Central: We have the identities of two more teams going to the WCWS (bringing the total to seven), but Oregon State has stayed alive against Cal, forcing a third and deciding game to determine the one remaining team for the World Series. Leave it to the Beavers!

Here are the two teams (in bold) that have earned bids to Oklahoma City thus far today:

Tennessee, which edged Michigan 1-0 in what must have been a very dramatic finish to those who saw it live. The reason I say must have been is that ESPN cut away to show a live Barry Bonds at-bat in his quest for 715 home runs, a number that would surpass Babe Ruth for second on the all-time list. Sure enough, Bonds blasted one deep into the center-field seats (although since the pitcher was Byun-Hyung Kim -- remember him in the 2001 Arizona-NY Yankees World Series? -- the outcome couldn't have been that surprising).

When ESPN cut away from softball, I believe, Tennessee was coming up in the top of the seventh, leading 1-0 in the decisive Game 3 (Michigan apparently won the coin flip to be the home team). Had ESPN gone right back to softball after Bonds's homer, we probably could have seen the Wolverines' bottom half of the seventh (Tennessee, it turns out, didn't score in the top half). Instead, however, we were treated to a discussion among studio show participants Harold Reynolds and John Kruk on whether Bonds's home run totals were tainted by his alleged steroid use (gee, that's an original topic), followed by a Tim Kurkjian essay/video montage about Bonds's HR prowess over his career, probably the same montage that's aired heavily in recent weeks!

Meantime, as I gleaned from an internet game-tracker, Michigan had the bases loaded with two outs, literally putting the game -- and a berth in the WCWS -- on a tipping point. A Michigan single probably sends the Wolverines to Oklahoma City (especially with the baserunners able to run on contact with two outs, without fear of being doubled off). An out, and Tennessee goes. It was the latter that happened, via strike-out.

The Vols' Monica Abbott obviously recovered from her shaky outing in Game 2 earlier today, shutting out UM. The Wolverines' Jennie Ritter was a trooper, too, ending her Michigan career having pitched every inning of the super-regionals, the regionals, and the Big 10 tourney, as I've just gone and verified.

By the time ESPN got back to Knoxville, the announcers described how a "jubilant" Tennessee crowd was soaking in the victory, then they replayed the entire bottom of the seventh.

Also going to the World Series is top national seed UCLA, which completed a sweep over South Florida. The Bruins scored a 3-1 victory in Game 2, holding off a rally the Bulls got going in the bottom of the seventh.

Going back to the Oregon State-Cal series, I know that the Golden Bears' star pitcher Kristina Thorson has had tendonitis, so that might affect Game 3 (it appears she was removed around the five-inning mark in Game 2). I have been trying, unsuccessfully thus far, to find a game-tracker; someone on the Cal discussion site says that OSU has taken an early 1-0 lead, however.

While visiting the Cal discussion board, I saw where someone had posted a link to this article about Thorson and her quirky personality.

2:10 pm Central: Michigan has just finished off Tennessee 5-1, to even up their super-regional series. They will play a decisive third game in about 20 minutes. Game 3 will be televised on ESPN, as was Game 2.

In a nice gesture to those of us with ESPN, but without ESPN-U, the network is showing the UCLA-South Florida Game 2 on ESPN during the break between the Michigan-Tennessee games. UCLA received a homer from Andrea Duran in the top of the first to lead 1-0 (the Bruins are the visitors for this game, even though it's on their home field).

12:30 pm Central: Before discussing today's action, I just wanted to mention one late-night result from Saturday. I'm sure that all hardcore college softball fans already know this, but for the sake of completeness, Arizona became the fifth team to qualify for the Women's College World Series, with a 14-5 rout of LSU in Game 3 of their super-regional series (the other four teams that have made the WCWS thus far are listed below, also in bold). Kristie Fox hit two homers for U of A in the deciding game.

Getting back to today's play, Michigan has already knocked Tennessee ace Monica Abbott out of the game in the first inning, with Becky Marx homering to give the Wolverines a 2-0 lead (UM is the home team for Game 2, although it's being played in Knoxville).

Tiffany Worthy, who also homered yesterday, has gone yard again today, now making it 3-0 in the second inning off of Vol reliever Megan Rhodes. It's now 4-0, with the Wolverines squeezing in a run, after a Tennessee error gave UM a runner on third. Michigan has left the bases loaded at the end of the second inning; if Tennessee rallies, the Wolverines' missed opportunity for even more runs could come back to haunt them.

Given the difficulty some pitchers (specifically Brandice Balschmiter of UMass and Emily Turner of LSU) had yesterday coming back for a Game 3 after going in Games 1 and 2, I can see where the Tennessee coaches might have been thinking about preserving Abbott for a potential Game 3 (with the 2-0 score at the time of Abbott's removal, it certainly would have been premature to write off Game 2, but the possibility of a Game 3 would probably be on people's minds to some degree).

In the remaining super-regionals, two University of California schools -- Berkeley and L.A. -- will be going for sweeps of, respectively, Oregon State and South Florida, later today.