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Monday, June 19, 2006

USA Softball today announced the country's national (press release, roster) and university-level (press release, roster) teams for upcoming international competitions. On the roster pages, you can click on each player's name to get a profile of her (this feature does not appear to be available for the university team yet).

The USA national team will participate in both the World Cup of softball, a six-team gathering July 13-17 in Oklahoma City and the World Championships, a 16-team competition August 27-September 5 in Beijing, China.

Although the above-linked release for the university team says the squad will play in the 2006 World University Games, I'm pretty sure that's in error. The World University Games are played in odd-numbered years, plus this timetable says (correctly, I believe) the team will be playing in the July 15-23 World University Softball Championships in Taiwan.

The national team's roster consists of 17 players. Eleven of them were on the 2004 US Olympic team, Texas's Cat Osterman being the only Athens, Greece participant who played during the just-completed 2006 college season. Of the additional six players, five played on last year's US national team, including 2006 collegians Alicia Hollowell and Caitlin Lowe of Arizona, and Monica Abbott of Tennessee. The only player named to this year's national team who has not been on it previously is Andrea Duran, who recently completed her collegiate career for UCLA. Mike Candrea, coach of this year's NCAA champion Arizona, will be the skipper for the national team.

The university-level team will have a maize and blue Michigan tint, as Carol (Hutch) Hutchins, who directed the Wolverines to the 2005 NCAA title, will preside. Further, two major contributors to UM's title -- pitcher Jennie Ritter and first-baseperson Samantha Findlay, who belted a crucial home run in the '05 World Series decider -- will be on the squad.

Other top players include pitchers Katie Burkhart (Arizona State) and Brianne McGowan (Oregon State), and national collegiate batting-average leader Sarah Fekete of Tennessee.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Welcome to my end-of-season round-up of where things stand for 14 top college softball programs (the eight WCWS participants, plus six other teams that I would consider “high-level”). Below, I list each team's outgoing seniors (noting in bold which ones finished in the top 10 in any major NCAA statistical categories) and provide any news developments I'm aware of, related to a given team.

A link to the NCAA statistical leaders is available here. Of all the statistics, I’m most skeptical of pitcher wins, because offensive support is obviously also a major factor there.

Here we go!

Seniors: Autumn Champion, Leslie Wolfe, Kelly Nelson, Alicia Hollowell (ERA 8th, K/7 INN 5th , Wins 5th)

Here's a report on the Wildcats’ victory celebration back at U of A.

Taryne Mowatt, who just finished her sophomore season with a strong offensive performance in the WCWS, ranked 9th in strikeouts per 7 innings in her pitching stints.

Seniors: Courtnay Foster, Sheila McCorkle, Jamie Dotson, Ashley Crane, Kristen Amegin

Seniors: Sarah Fekete (Batting Avg 1st), Katherine Card, Kristi Durant

The Lady Vols have a new softball stadium in the works.

Seniors: Andrea Duran (Runs scored/game 6th), Alissa Eno, Caitlin Benyi, Emily Zaplatosch

Seniors: Chez Sievers, Cat Osterman (ERA 1st, K/7 INN 1st, Wins 2nd), Jaclyn Daniels, Amber Hall, Tina Boutelle

Here’s what is apparently the final installment of Cat’s Korner, Osterman’s blog.

Seniors: Dominique Accetturo, Stacy Ramsey, Stephanie VanBrakle

The school’s athletic webpage has a review of the 2006 season.

Arizona St.
Seniors: Bridgette Caron, Jenn McCard, Samantha Zadel, Kim Zadrozny, Ashley Werschky, Desiree Serrano

Oregon St.
Seniors: Maggie DeWall, Ingrid Lochelt, Vanessa Iapala, Lisa Allen, Adrienne Alo, Amy Klever

Seniors: Stephanie Bercaw, Grace Leutele, Jennie Ritter (ERA 3rd, K/7 INN 6th, Wins 7th), Tiffany Haas, Becky Marx

Here's a Michigan Daily article on the five seniors.

Also, the Wolverines' home field will be expanded and renovated.

Seniors: Kristina Thorson (ERA 7th, K/7 INN 10th, Wins 3rd, Saves Tie 5th), Lindsay James, Haley Woods, Emily Friedman

Seniors: Stephanie Hill, Lauren Delahoussaye, Camille Harris, Lauren Castle

Seniors: Megan Bordelon, Catalina Morris, Laura Severson, Lauren Lappin, Shoney Hixson

Seniors: Aimee Minor, Sarah Hyatt

Seniors: Ashley Godfrey, Courtney Knight

Other Topics:

Recruiting. In the collegiate athletics "life cycle," the recruiting of players to become next season's freshmen is the counterpart to the loss of the seniors who've finished their four years on the field. I've found the Ultimate College Softball discussion boards (see links section in right-hand column) to be very helpful in clarifying what is generally known and not known about college softball recruiting.

It seems that there may be some individual recruiting “gurus” who are generally knowledgeable about their own regions. Plus, the UCS boards will periodically feature discussion of a particular recruit or a particular university's incoming class.

However, no intensive, nationally comprehensive softball recruit ranking service, such as for men’s college football and basketball, appears to exist yet. I don’t know how many years it will take, but I’m sure one will at some point.

Professional leagues. I was familiar with National Pro Fastpitch after seeing some of its games on ESPN last summer. NPF's draft was held back in February and players could sign when their collegiate careers ended. As can be seen in this listing, the first round was comprised heavily of players whose teams would go on to make the WCWS, with the later rounds mixing eventual WCWS and non-WCWS players.

Another pro operation that I only recently learned about from the UCS boards is Pro Fastpitch (E)Xtreme. As shown on its website, PFX has signed a number of top college seniors from this past season. PFX uses a tour format, like golf or tennis, where it comes into a given host city for three or four days, then moves on to somewhere else, usually a week later. The tour stops include not only games, but also instructional sessions.

International competition. As noted in my entry (below) just prior to this one, another World Cup of softball will be held in Oklahoma City this July.

Another opportunity for college players (not just seniors) is the World University Games. Many familiar names were among the players invited to try out for the U.S. team. Based on this USA Softball timetable, the World University Games try-outs appear to have been completed, so the final roster seemingly should be announced soon. The actual World University Games are not until 2007 (they're held only in odd-numbered years), but as shown in the previously cited timetable, this year there's a World Univerity Softball Championship in July in Taiwan.

A final, congratulatory note: "Robocoach," operator of the aforementioned Ultimate College Softball website and discussion boards, announced not too long ago that his site had received nearly a million hits in the month of May. Congratulations to him! This is just another sign of the increasing popularity of college softball.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Just a brief posting, as I continue to work on my big end-of-season round-up of where the top college softball programs stand, with the loss of their seniors from this past go-round.

An announcement has been made that the "II World Cup" of softball (that's how it's listed, with the Roman numeral first) will take place July 13-17 in Oklahoma City. Six countries will participate: Australia, China, Canada, Great Britain, Japan (last year's inaugural winner) and the USA.

This USA Softball timetable says that the "National Team Selection Camp" will start tomorrow, running June 12-16.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Well, another college softball season is on the books. I first want to thank everyone who has visited my blog during its inaugural season, and sent me e-mails. A blog is of no use if nobody goes to it!

Second, I want to invite everyone to keep visiting the site over the summer. I've done write-ups nearly every day for the past few weeks -- and often multiple entries per day -- so I am going to relax for a while and slow down a bit in my postings. However, there are several topics I'd like to write about over the summer, so the entries will not come to a complete stop. Plus, even when I'm not doing much writing, I believe this site will always serve as an excellent portal to other softball sites, via the links section in the right-hand portion of the page.

The next thing I plan to write -- probably within the next two weeks or so -- is a status round-up of the top softball programs (key seniors from this past season whose shoes will have to be filled, stadium upgrades, etc.). I'll also write about former college players as they appear in international and professional competition.

Thanks again for visiting, and please continue to come back...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

2006 WCWS Game 2

9:20 pm Central: It's now over! Alicia Hollowell strikes out the last Northwestern batter looking on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded, and Arizona wins the national championship, 5-0. In three games against Hollowell (two in the championship round and an early-season nonconference game), Northwestern never got a run off of her.

Northwestern did get 9 hits tonight -- enough to threaten to score a few times while the game was still close -- but never got it done.

Congratulations to the Wildcats -- the Arizona Wildcats for winning the national championship and the Northwestern Wildcats, runner-up in their first trip to the World Series in 20 years.

9:15 pm Central: Northwestern isn't going down without a fight. Trailing 5-0 with two out in the top of the seventh, NU has put together two singles -- make that three. It's still a huge long shot for Northwestern, of course, but U of A hasn't yet closed the deal...

9:05 pm Central: Arizona continues to stretch out its lead, now 5-0 going into Northwestern's last chance in the top of the seventh...

Throughout the WCWS and especially tonight, the ESPN2 announcers have continually alluded to Arizona's floundering at midseason and Coach Mike Candrea reigniting the team through some combination of new-age philosophy and old-fashioned toughness. If you look over the team's game-by-game log for this season, I don't see much floundering. UCLA had U of A's number, sweeping three, but Arizona's other losses were few and far between. Plus, U of A had some good wins in both nonconference and conference play. Remember how good the Pac 10 was -- it got seven of its eight teams into the NCAA tournament, and four into the World Series... Oh well, the "Arizona in crisis" storyline makes for good drama.

8:40 pm Central: What happens when you mix a couple of U of A hits with Northwestern reverting to some shoddy defensive play? 2-0 'Zona, still batting in the bottom of the fifth... Another hit, not fielded cleanly in right field allowing Arizona runner to score from first, and it's 3-0...(inning ends with no more runs).

7:50 pm Central: Northwestern keeps up the pressure in the top of the third, loading the bases with no outs, and top hitter Garland Cooper coming up... Hollowell strikes out Cooper, then a foul-out quickly makes it two outs... and a fly-out ends the inning with no score for NU.

7:35 pm Central: Northwestern finally shows some signs of offensive life, getting a couple of hits to put runners on first and second, in the second. Arizona pitcher Alicia Hollowell gets out of it, however. Still 1-0 for the Tucson crew.

7:25 pm Central: Arizona hasn't wasted any time taking the lead in Game 2 of the WCWS, going up 1-0 in the bottom of the first, on a couple of singles, a bunt, and an infield grounder (fielder's choice, throwing the batter out at first).

This is classic U of A "small ball," a topic explored in this article from earlier today.

Monday, June 05, 2006

2006 WCWS Game 1

9:35 pm Central: Nothing happened since my last entry to change the dynamics of WCWS championship series Game 1. In fact, things even deteriorated a bit more for Northwestern, as it lost 8-0 (the same score by which U of A spanked NU earlier in the season, as the ESPN2 announcers pointed out).

Arizona's Alicia Hollowell threw a no-hitter in that earlier game, and almost did so again tonight.

Northwestern did get a hit this time, but only one. A single by Jamie Dotson leading off the bottom of the fifth broke up Hollowell's bid for a repeat no-hitter over NU. Combining the earlier no-hitter with tonight's game, Hollowell ended up pitching 10 straight hitless innings against the Purple* (not 11, as I had written earlier, as the previous game ended after six innings due to the "run rule" or "mercy rule").

*Since Arizona and Northwestern are both the Wildcats, I'm having to come up with alternative designations for the teams!

8:15 pm Central: Northwestern "air-mails" the throw to first on an infield grounder -- Arizona now has second and third with no out in the fourth... Sac fly, 6-0... Northwestern gets out with no further damage.

7:45 pm Central: Arizona has gotten off to a 2-0 start in the top of the third and there are still no outs. Northwestern pitcher Eileen Canney got off to an "un-Canney" start, leading Coach Kate Drohan to pull her in the top of the third, after U of A put its first two runners on second and third. Courtnay Foster is now pitching for NU.

Northwestern tried to throw out the lead runner on an infield grounder, but she was safe, making it 1-0. An infield pop-up on which Northwestern re-enacted the Keystone Kops made it 2-0.

It's now 3-0, as an Arizona fly ball drops in front of the Northwestern left-fielder. Northwestern has just gotten the next two U of A batters out, but there are runners on second and third...

Taryne Mowatt belts one to the wall in left, 5-0.

Northwestern finally gets out of its nightmare inning.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

8:00 pm Central: In what for the last few innings was just a formality, Arizona has defeated Tennessee to claim the second spot in the championship series.

It all now comes down to the Wildcats (Northwestern) vs. Wildcats (Arizona), two-out-of-three starting Monday night, for the national championship. See you tomorrow...

7:40 pm Central: 6-0 Arizona, midway through the sixth.

6:55 pm Central: Another inning, another run, 5-0 Arizona. I wonder if the "run rule" (an eight-run lead after at least five innings) applies in the WCWS?

6:35 pm Central: It's now 4-0 Arizona in the second. This game could be getting out of hand soon, if it's not already!

6:25 pm Central: Arizona has taken a 2-0 lead over Tennessee in the top of the first inning of their winner-take-all game to qualify for the championship series. The Wildcats were helped in good part by shoddy Vol infield play (an apparent carryover from the ending of the two teams' first contest earlier today).

4:45 pm Central: One out for UCLA... (Keep hitting your "refresh" button, as I'm doing real-time updates.)... Two outs...

Northwestern pitcher Eileen Canney zaps Zaplatosch (strike-out swinging), and we have our first team into the championship series! Starting Monday night, Northwestern will either face Arizona (in a battle of the two Wildcat squads) or Tennessee.

Canney holds the top four batters in the Bruin batting order -- including seniors Andrea Duran, Caitlin Benyi, and Emily Zaplatosch -- hitless.

On to Tennessee vs. Arizona...

4:35 pm Central: Tammy Williams homers in the top of the eighth to put Northwestern back on top, 2-1. Garland Cooper immediately follows with another homer, 3-1.

UCLA (again) coming up for its last shot.

4:20 pm Central: Jodie Legaspi leads off the bottom of the seventh for UCLA with a double. Sacrificed to third, one out. Ground out, runner can't score. Two outs...

Dedmon does it again! Kristen Dedmon, who got a clutch pinch hit in the 2004 World Series, does it again. Tie game!

Tara Henry beats out a bunt, as the Northwestern player covering first lifts her foot off the bag.

Up comes Andrea Duran, the hitting hero of yesterday, with runners on first and second. Duran pops out. Going to extras...

2:40 pm Central: Jamie Dotson drives one over the right-field fence to give Northwestern a 1-0 lead over UCLA.

2:00 pm Central: Tennessee has just finished off Arizona, 1-0. It now becomes a one-game showdown between the Vols and Wildcats later today at 6:00 pm Central, for a spot in the championship series.

Tennessee shortstop Lindsay Schutzler helped keep the game more exciting than it needed to be, committing two errors in the seventh and leaving U of A with first and third with two outs (I can only imagine the angst among Vol fans). Schutzler redeemed herself, however, throwing out the Wildcats' Caitlin Lowe on a bang-bang play at first base.

Upon being called out, Lowe slammed down her helmet and (even though I have no training at reading lips), appeared to yell, "That's [BS]." It was definitely an extremely close play. I would need to see it over and over again from different angles, in slow-motion and freeze-frame. In the umpire's defense, of course, it's a split-second call. Also, it was not the kind of call that would lead me immediately to say it was clearly wrong, the way Lowe seemed to think.

Next up, Northwestern and UCLA. A win sends Northwestern directly to the championship series, whereas UCLA needs to win twice.

1:25 pm Central: Just as I was about to say that there was not much to report at this point in a scoreless Tennessee-Arizona game, the Vols' Katherine Card has hit one out to give her team a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth. Wildcat outfielder Caitlin Lowe herself went over the fence, in pursuit of the ball!

I was just looking over the UCLA discussion board, and one of the participants made an interesting observation about the Bruins' situation in the tournament, particularly the circumstances under which they got to face star Texas pitcher Cat Osterman:

In a curious way, UCLA's first-round loss may have been a blessing in disguise. The way it's played out, UCLA has had to beat Texas only once instead of twice, as would have been the case had the teams met in the final. other single player scares me so much [as Osterman]. When she's on, she's absolutely dominating.

Back to the Vols and Wildcats, Arizona had a threat going in the top of the sixth with runners on first and second and one out, but didn't score.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

11:15 pm Central: A few final thoughts for the evening...

As has been the case in past years' WCWS tournaments, Texas's downfall was lack of offense this year, too. Despite dramatic improvement offensively during the regular-season by the Longhorns, in the two losses that eliminated them from the World Series this year (against Arizona and UCLA), Texas scored no runs.

After the last Texas batter was retired, pitcher Cat Osterman showed the sadness of having her collegiate career end without a national championship. As UCLA sports fans will probably never forget, after the Bruin men's basketball team pulled off a stunning comeback against Gonzaga this past March in the NCAA regionals, the Zags' Adam Morrison exhibited probably as much visible despondency as anyone in recent memory. As summarized in this article, UCLA's Arron Afflalo then made what I thought were some very gracious remarks regarding Morrison:

"I felt for him," Afflalo said. "He's a great player. There's really no reason for him -- outside of the fact that he's a competitor and wanted to win -- he has no reason to cry.

"He should definitely keep his head up. That's hard to say when you won the game and your opponent lost. But I really just wanted to see him in a good mood."

Those words convey my sentiments toward Osterman (just change each "he," "him," and "his," to "she" and "her").

UCLA now gets paired up with Northwestern for the right to go to the championship series (against the team that emerges from Arizona and Tennessee). Northwestern needs only a single win against UCLA, whereas the Bruins would have to beat the undefeated Wildcats twice.

Northwestern has already beaten UCLA once this season, in Los Angeles no less. Another consideration is that, whereas UCLA's Anjelica Selden pitched two complete games today (against Alabama and Texas), Northwestern had the day off. Even aside from the respite, pitcher fatigue is not a problem for the Wildcats, as they have two excellent throwers, Eileen Canney and Courtnay Foster. Canney's the primary starter, who I assume would go in Game 1 against UCLA, but Foster's also seen some action in the WCWS. Hypothetically, if UCLA got off to an early lead in Game 1, Northwestern might very well take Canney out to preserve her for Game 2.

10:55 pm Central: The last few innings had been relatively uneventful, but UCLA just missed a good chance to add a run to its lead in the top of the seventh. Zaplatosch doubled to lead off the inning and was sacrificed to third, but the Bruins couldn't bring her in.

Texas is down to its last three outs... The first two outs come easily for UCLA, but the Longhorns bunt for a base hit to bring the tying run to the plate... Game over, on a comebacker to the pitcher's circle. As Bruin fans are painfully aware, pitcher Anjelica (Jelly) Selden has, in the past, had a mental block about throwing the ball to first, but she was OK this time.

9:55 pm Central: The Bruins' Emily (Zap) Zaplatosch hits a "conventional" home run in the top of the fourth, making it 2-0. Before UCLA fans get too giddy, however, you'll recall how a 2-0 lead didn't stand up against Tennessee in the opener.

9:45 pm Central: UCLA scores first in the epic battle with Texas. Andrea Duran, who as described in my earlier postings below had a triple and homer against Alabama, has just scored on perhaps the most exciting type of play in softball and baseball, an inside-the-park homer.

On a flare out to right field, the Longhorn outfielder tried to make a shoestring catch, but the ball got by her. As the right-fielder and second-baseperson chased the ball toward the fence, Duran circled the bases. She almost certainly would have been out at the plate, but the Texas catcher dropped the ball while tagging Duran (it may even have been the case that the catcher never really had good control of the ball). The ESPN announcers said something that I too was thinking: that with two outs for UCLA, it probably made sense to take the risky step of sending Duran home, because the prospects of getting another hit off of Cat Osterman to drive in Duran weren't good.

Just after 9:00 pm Central: Texas and UCLA are just getting underway. As Longhorn pitcher Cat Osterman was warming up, the ESPN announcers noted that Osterman had twice been pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. SI has a webpage that allows you to search its archive of covers. I typed in "Cat Osterman" and received only one match (click here to see that cover).

One inning complete, with no score. UCLA is threatening in the top of the second, with runners on first and second, with no out. Texas gets out of it, thanks in good part to a double play on a liner to third (caught in the air) and throw-down to second that beats the runner back.

ESPN's Holly Rowe just did a piece on Osterman's blog, Cat's Korner (as in "K" for strikeout). It's interesting to see that Cat is blogging during the tournament. For those of you who want to visit Cat's Korner, here's a direct link.

8:10 pm Central: Tennessee and Arizona State have gone extras, tied 1-1 after seven innings. Each team scored in the fifth. For the Vols, it was "small ball," based on two singles, a sacrifice, a walk, and a hard shot back at the pitcher that featured a throwing error, but also the put-out of a second Tennessee runner attempting to score (got that?). For the Sun Devils, it was "big ball," as Heidi Knabe (pronounced "Ka-nob-bee") answered with a towering homer to left (she also homered earlier in the day against Oregon State).

Tennessee is currently threatening in the top of the eighth, but ASU has put out the fire. Nothing for the Sun Devils in the eighth, either.

Two-run shot by the Vols' Jennifer Griffin in the top of the ninth; it's now 3-1. Nothing for ASU in its half. Game over. Sun Devils go home.

Tennessee now gets to take on Arizona tomorrow. U of A needs just one win to advance to the championship series, whereas Tennessee must defeat the Wildcats twice to accomplish the same.

4:00 pm Central: UCLA has closed out Alabama, 4-1. Other than a fifth-inning situation where the Crimson Tide had the bases loaded with one out (but didn't score), the latter part of this game went pretty uneventfully. The Bruins thus avoid their program's potential first-ever two-and-out elimination from the Women's College World Series. And it's Sweet Home for Alabama.

We have a couple of hours until the next game, which is between Arizona State and Tennessee. UCLA then takes on Texas afterwards. A UCLA-Texas match-up was probably contemplated by many observers -- just not in the losers' bracket!

2:20 pm Central: Arizona State eliminated Oregon State, 3-1, in today's first game. The Sun Devils will thus take on Tennessee later in the day, via the format I discussed at length in a posting yesterday (below).

UCLA and Alabama are currently playing. After the Bruins' Andrea Duran tripled on the first pitch of the game and was driven in on a single, the Crimson Tide staged a two-out rally in the second. Bama's Dominique Accetturo homered to tie the game, 1-1. The Tide had its next three batters load the bases, but couldn't score any more runs.

Duran has just homered in the third to make it 2-1. She's now halfway to the cycle, with the two toughest components (a triple and homer) out of the way! [Update: Duran did not get any more hits in the game.] Krista Colburn, who drove in Duran for UCLA's first run, has followed Duran's homer with a single, leading Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy to remove Stephanie VanBrakle in favor of Chrissy Owens. An "air-mailed" infield throw has given the Bruins another run, and the top of the third ends with UCLA ahead 3-1.

Friday, June 02, 2006

10:55 pm Central: Northwestern got by Tennessee, 2-0, a little while ago. What this means is that Northwestern and Arizona are each one victory away from making it to the championship series, a 2-out-of-3 affair that would start Monday night. If Northwestern and Arizona indeed were to meet in the championship round -- and it's still very premature to say so -- it would be the Wildcats vs. the Wildcats!

Let's take a look at the brackets, now that losers' bracket play will begin tomorrow...

First, let's look at the top half of the draw (the part that started out with Arizona, Oregon State, Arizona State, and Texas). In the losers' bracket of this section, Oregon State and Arizona State meet tomorrow at 11:00 am Central, the loser going home.

In determining the next opponent for the winner of this game, a little "switcheroo" comes along. Of the two teams that suffered their first losses tonight -- Texas and Tennessee -- Texas would seem to be the logical opponent for the OSU-ASU winner, as the Longhorns started out the tournament in the same part of the bracket as the Beavers and Sun Devils. However, as can be seen in the bracket, Tenneseee and Texas get switched to the opposite brackets from where they came. Thus, it's the Vols that will await the ASU-OSU winner.

Saturday's second game pits Alabama against UCLA, with -- again, due to the aforementioned shift -- Texas awaiting the winner. Alabama is not exactly in an enviable position; if it is to have any chance of making the championship round, it will have to begin that journey by knocking off UCLA and then Texas, the latter two each having been ranked No. 1 in the nation during stretches of the regular season!

On to Saturday!

9:00 pm Central: About an hour ago, No. 2 seed Arizona defeated No. 3 Texas, 2-0. It's technically not an upset, in terms of the seeding, but many people will still consider it so, because of the seeming invincibility of Longhorn pitcher Cat Osterman.

Invincible, indeed, Osterman seemed, not giving up a hit until two outs in the bottom of the sixth (and not giving up any more hits after that). The Wildcats' hit drove in their first run, after a hit-by-pitch, steal, and walk put a runner in scoring position. Then, with U of A having runners on first and third, the former took off toward second, attempting to draw a throw from the Texas catcher to second. The throw indeed was made, allowing the runner on third to score.

Arizona senior Alicia Hollowell give up four hits, but spaced them out sufficiently to minimize the threats the Longhorns could get going. Texas now goes down to the losers' bracket, where it potentially will have to play No. 1 seed UCLA tomorrow (more on that later).

2:01 am Central: Tennessee has just defeated UCLA, 4-3, to end the first round of the WCWS [link to game story added later on Friday]. The Bruins' Anjelica Selden looked to have things under control, allowing only one hit over the first five innings, as UCLA led 2-0. The Vols then went on a "hit parade," going ahead 3-2 in the top of the sixth, and adding a run in the top of the seventh to increase the lead to 4-2. UCLA rallied for a run in the bottom of the seventh and had the potential tying run on second base, but Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott closed the door on the Bruins, the game ending on a grounder to third base that resulted in a force out. In similar fashion to last weekend's super-regional final against Michigan, Abbott "bent but didn't break," at the end.

Later today, we have two games, both in the winners' bracket. Texas faces Arizona at 6:00 pm Central, followed by Northwestern and Tennessee.

Losers' bracket play will begin Saturday.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

11:21 pm Central: The first pitch of the UCLA-Tennessee game is delivered. The Bruins' Anjelica (Jelly) Selden throws a strike to the Vols' Sarah Fekete.

10:55 pm Central: It's over! Northwestern wins 6-5 in the bottom of the 10th.

10:35 pm Central: It's a long day of softball! Alabama is batting against Northwestern in the top of the 10th inning, with the score tied 5-5. And there's still another game to go (UCLA-Tennessee)!

One minute it looks like Northwestern is going to win, then like Alabama is going to win, then Northwestern,... The Crimson Tide was one strike away from winning in the bottom of the seventh, and its pitcher, Chrissy Owens (who had earlier replaced Stephanie VanBrakle) had not given up a home run all year. The Wildcats seemed to be in dire straits, but really they were in Dyer straits, Erin Dyer, that is. Sure enough, Dyer hit one over the center-field fence to tie the game.

6:45 pm Central: Texas has just finished off Arizona State, 2-0. The Sun Devils barely got a scratch on Cat Osterman, who struck out 18 ASU batters and allowed only one hit. Next up: Alabama vs. Northwestern.

5:45 pm Central: It seems to be raining on-and-off in OKC. Arizona and Oregon State were able to finish their game, with the Wildcats winning 3-2 in nine innings (which for you newcomers to the game, is extra innings, because regulation is seven innings). ASU and Texas are now underway. Links to newspaper articles previewing today's games are shown below, in my first entry of the day today.

2:45 pm Central: Play seems to have resumed after the rain delay, with Oregon State scoring a run to close to within 2-1 of Arizona, bottom 5.

1:45 pm Central: Play in the opening game of the Women's College World Series between Oregon State and Arizona appears to be stalled in the bottom of the third inning (with the Wildcats up 2-0), due to rain. I'm not by a TV at the moment, but I noticed that the online gametrackers I was checking (at the NCAA and CSTV pages, see links section on the right) were not changing for a long time. To verify my hunch about rain, I checked out the current Oklahoma City weather, on the Weather Channel website, and it says "Heavy T-Storm." The word "Heavy" doesn't sound promising, but rain delays are nothing new.

9:30 am Central: With the opening game of the Women's College World Series just 2.5 hours away, let's go around the horn to see what newspapers in the participating teams' towns are saying (I should note that, whereas most of the newspapers below provide unimpeded access to their pages, a couple require you to jump through some "hoops," such as providing demographic and/or consumer-preference information).

The Daily Bruin emphasizes the enormous experience of Sue Enquist's squad, pointing out that:

If you tally the total number of games played at the World Series by each player on the UCLA roster, you get an amazing, unheard-of 122. The Bruins, who have seemingly made ASA Hall of Fame Stadium their second home, return every player who played in the championship series against Michigan a year ago. On top of the players from last year, 10 current Bruins played on the 2004 national championship team, four of them also playing on the 2003 team that won it all.

As the Corvallis (Oregon) Gazette-Times tells it, however, UCLA's storied past in the WCWS may benefit not just the Bruins, as Oregon State's "coach Kirk Walker has made 10 appearances as an assistant with UCLA and helped the Bruins win six championships."

The Knoxville News-Sentinel, sticking with this experience theme, examines how Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott may have learned some valuable lessons from pitching against UCLA at last year's WCWS.

This Tuscaloosa News/Tide Sports article develops the theme that last year's national champion Michigan may serve as an inspiration to this year's Alabama squad, based not just on geography, but also the -- you guessed it -- experience of multiple trips to the WCWS.

The Austin American-Statesman tries to dispel the notion that Texas will be hindered by the pressure of trying to win a national championship for senior Longhorn pitcher Cat Osterman:

Will they be feeling the heat in Oklahoma City, realizing that this is their last chance to let Osterman's almost unhittable pitching spur them to a national title?

Probably not. Odds are this fun-loving group will enjoy the journey to the Women's College World Series no matter what the outcome.

The Arizona Republic runs the headlines "ASU doesn't fear Osterman" and (drawing from the Tucson Citizen) "Wildcats to face Beavers' ace."

Finally, the Chicago Sun-Times discusses, shall we say, an unusual "tradition" the Northwestern players have regarding their gloves.

Now that I've finished this write-up, it's actually more like 1.5 hours until play begins!