Saturday, September 29, 2007

My thanks to Louisiana-Lafayette fan RM who just e-mailed me to let me know that there's a new official Ragin' Cajuns softball page. I have updated the links section on the right-hand side, accordingly. Concludes RM, "Should be a good year!"

Friday, August 31, 2007

It had to have been a major disappointment for University of Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott to end her collegiate career this past spring, with her Volunteer squad falling just short of an NCAA Women's College World Series title.

This past weekend, though, Abbott got some measure of championship success, pitching the Washington Glory to the National Pro Fastpitch league championship.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The US has won this year's KFC World Cup of Softball. As many of you may have seen on ESPN2 earlier this evening, Cat Osterman pitched Team USA to a 3-0 win over Japan in the championship game.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Team USA is taking on Canada in a Sunday afternoon match-up. Currently, it's 4-0 US, with the Americans batting in the top of the fifth. The University of Washington's Danielle Lawrie, whom many of you will remember from this past spring's Women's College World Series, has just come in to pitch for Canada.

Update: The US coasted to a 7-0 victory over Canada. The Americans have now clinched a spot in Monday night's KFC World Cup championship game, probably against Japan. Only if Japan loses both of its Sunday night games -- to Venezuela and China -- will it not make the final.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The US team is now playing its evening game of the Saturday schedule, in which it leads Japan, 1-0, after an inning played. Monica Abbott is pitching for the Americans. I would say Team USA has a fairly deep pitching staff, you think?

Update: Japan kept things relatively competitive, but the USA ultimately prevailed by a 4-1 score.

Earlier today, the US routed the Dominican Republic, 9-0.

Friday, July 13, 2007

As most readers of this blog would probably be aware, there's some major softball going on, with the KFC World Cup taking place in Oklahoma City. Games involving the USA squad are being shown on ESPN and ESPN2. This article shows the schedule.

Team USA opened up last night with a run-rule-shortened 9-1 win over Venezuela.

As I write, the USA is playing its second game, leading 8-0 over China after three complete innings; another run-rule game thus seems likely.

All three American pitchers that have gone so far are ones who ended their collegiate careers in 2006. Jennie Ritter (Michigan) and Alicia Hollowell (Arizona) threw last night, and Cat Osterman (Texas) is currently in the circle.

Other players on the US roster include former Arizona outfielder Caitlin Lowe and former Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott, who faced each other in this spring's Women's College World Series; Natasha Watley, one of the heroes of UCLA's 2003 NCAA championship; and Jennie Finch, the star pitcher of Arizona's 2001 NCAA championship team.

Update: The USA finished off China, 8-0, in a five-inning game shortened by run-rule.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

I was just looking over the official website for the National Pro Fastpitch women's softball league. Given that softball has one of the latest-ending seasons within collegiate athletics and is inherently a spring/summer sport, this means that college seniors good enough to play at the pro level hardly get any break between NCAA and NPF action.

Two players that we saw just about a month ago in the Women's College World Series, Northwestern's Eileen Canney (pitcher) and Garland Cooper (1B), are in fact teammates again, with NPF's New England Riptide. And, today, the twosome led the Riptide to victory in a game against Philadelphia.

I plan to do some additional, periodic entries on the NPF over the summer, with a focus on prominent collegiate players of the last few years.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth of July to everyone!

In recent softball news, the USA team took first place at the Junior World Championships (19 and under) in Enschede, The Netherlands.

In line with this age limit, the American players appear to have been a mix largely of those who just completed their frosh year of college and those entering college this coming fall. Both through this USA Softball collection of player journals and the official USA roster at the tournament website, you can see who played for the Red, White, and Blue (the two lists are not identical).

Some of the familiar names from this past college season would include K'Lee Arredondo (Arizona), Tiffany Huff (Tennessee), Maggie Viefhaus (Michigan), and Megan Langenfeld (UCLA). As noted in the article linked to Langenfeld's name, an additional four players from the USA team will be joining the Bruins for this upcoming season.

Another member of the team was Brittany Lastrapes, an incoming player for the University of Arizona and the younger sister of Dominique Lastrapes, who recently finished her career at the University of Washington.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

At Texas Tech University, where I'm on the faculty, the softball team is starting to show some signs of emerging from the doldrums. As many of you will recall, the Red Raiders got hot toward the end of the season and made the championship game of the Big 12 tournament, upsetting eventual College World Series participants Baylor and Texas A&M along the way. Whether Tech can break through next year and contend for an NCAA tournament berth based on its regular-season record, remains to be seen.

The last time Texas Tech made the NCAA tournament field was in 2001. The Red Raiders were powered that year by a pitcher named Amanda Renfro, whose career accomplishments included two perfect games and a no-hitter, plus top 10 status in the NCAA record book in a couple of categories.

The official Texas Tech athletics website has been tracking down alumni athletes in a variety of sports to do stories on them, and one of the featured athletes is Renfro, now known as Amanda Renfro Simmons (article link).

Married and with three young children, Amanda appears to be out of organized softball. She and her husband live in Houston and both work for an oil/gas company. Much of the article is devoted to her reflections on pitching for Texas Tech. One passage, perhaps as a result of a runaway spellchecker, reads as follows:

Simmons said that despite all of her achievements and accolades, what she will remember the most is the commodore and closeness she shared with her teammates while playing at Tech.

The intended word was probably "camaraderie."

As for the future of the Texas Tech program, the 2007 roster included only four seniors. Both pitchers used by the Red Raiders in the conference tournament -- Sarah Losleben and Ashly Jacobs -- return, as does catcher Robyn Wike.

Coach Teresa Wilson, who just completed her third season at Texas Tech, appeared on a local sports talk radio show shortly after the Red Raiders' season ended. Remarking on the team's success in the Big 12 tourney, she noted that her intense style was perhaps finally starting to take hold.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It's now time to look toward next season. To let you know at a glance which key players from the top teams were seniors this past season and thus not returning, and who are some key players who are returning, I present a list below of the top teams' senior losses and top returnees.

Further information on who the top players from this past season were can be found by looking at the first-, second-, and third-team NFCA/Louisville Slugger All-America honorees. And don't forget the team-specific home pages in the links section to the right.

Note also that with 2008 being a Summer Olympics year, some of the players listed below as returning may redshirt to concentrate on the Olympics (there's a discussion thread at Ultimate College Softball entitled, "Looking at Next Year," which lists some players who may fall into this category). With these cautions in mind, here we go...

WORLD SERIES TEAMS

Arizona
Seniors: Kristie Fox (SS), Caitlin Lowe (CF), Chelsie Mesa (2B)

Key returnees: Callista Balko (C, Jr.), Sam Banister (1B, So.), Jenae Leles (3B, So.), Taryne Mowatt (P, Jr.), Laine Roth (1B, So.) (year of school shown is from past season)

Tennessee
Seniors: Monica Abbott (P), India Chiles (OF), Lindsay Schutzler (OF)

Key returnees: Tonya Callahan (1B, Jr.), Shannon Doepking (C, Jr.), Kenora Posey (2B, Jr.)

Northwestern
Seniors: Eileen Canney (P), Garland Cooper (1B)

Key returnees: Lauren Delaney (P, Fr.), Erin Dyer (C, So.), Kelly Dyer (OF, Fr.), Tammy Williams (SS, So.)

Washington
Seniors: Dominique Lastrapes (2B), Dena Tyson (1B)

Key returnees: Ashley Charters (SS, Jr.), Danielle Lawrie (P, So.; from Canada, so may be of particular interest to her country's Olympic program)

DePaul
Seniors: Tracie Adix (P), Kate Sheaks (LF)

Key returnees: Becca Heteniak (P-UT, Fr.), Jackie Tarulli-Fisher (C, So.), Sandy Vojik (UT, Jr.)

Arizona State
Seniors:

Key returnees: Katie Burkhart (P, Jr.), Kaitlin Cochran (OF, So.)

Baylor
Seniors: Lisa Ferguson (P), Chelsi Lake (C), Ashley Monceaux (1B), Miriam Romero (OF)

Key returnees: Courtney Oberg (DP, Fr.), Brette Reagan (3B, So.), Kirsten Shortridge (P, Fr.), Nicole Wesley (OF, Fr.), Tiffany Wesley (OF, Fr.)

Texas A&M
Seniors:

Key returnees: Amanda Scarborough (P-1B, Jr.), Megan Gibson (1B-P, Jr.)

SUPER-REGIONAL TEAMS

Cal State Fullerton
Seniors: Candice Baker (P)

Key returnees:

Michigan
Seniors: Rebekah Milian (OF), Lorilyn Wilson (P), Tiffany Worthy (C)

Key returnees: Samantha Findlay (1B, Jr.), Angela Findlay (OF, Fr.), Nikki Nemitz (P, Fr.)

Hawaii
Seniors: Tyleen Tausaga (1B)

Key returnees: Kate Robinson (P, Jr.), Clare Warwick (3B, So.)

Florida
Seniors:

Key returnees: Stacey Nelson (P, So.), Kim Waleszonia (2B, So.)

Oklahoma
Seniors: Norrelle Dickson (3B)

Key returnees: Lauren Eckermann (P, Jr.), Amber Flores (LF, Fr.), Savannah Long (SS, Jr.), Susan Ogden (C-DP, Jr.), Samantha Ricketts (1B, So.)

Alabama
Seniors:

Key returnees: Chrissy Owens (P, Jr.), Lauren Parker (2B, So.), Brittany Rogers (OF, So.)

LSU
Seniors: Leslie Klein (OF), Emily Turner (P)

Key returnees: Jazz Jackson (OF, Fr.), Killian Roessner (C, Jr.)

South Carolina
Seniors: McKenna Hughes (UT)

Key returnees: Melissa Hendon (P, Jr.), Jessica Josker (OF, Jr.)

SELECTED OTHER NCAA TOURNEY TEAMS

Missouri
Seniors: Leanne Bowers (OF)

Key returnees: Micaela Minner (OF, Jr.), Amanda Renth (IF, Jr.)

Ohio State
Seniors: Jamee Juarez (P)

Key returnees:

Oregon State
Seniors: Brianne McGowan (P), Ta'Tyana McElroy (P)

Key returnees:

Texas
Seniors:

Key returnees: Meagan Denny (P, Jr.), Desiree Williams (SS, Jr.)

U. Mass.
Seniors:

Key returnees: Brandice Balschmiter (P, So.)

UCLA
Seniors: Kristen Dedmon (PH extraordinaire), Lisa Dodd (IF), Tara Henry (OF), Whitney Holum (OF), Jodie Legaspi (SS)

Key returnees: Krista Colburn (OF, Jr.), Ashley Herrera (IF-OF, Sr., pending approval of medical redshirt), Megan Langenfeld (P, Fr.), Anjelica Selden (P, Jr.)

Virginia Tech
Seniors:

Key returnees: Angela Tincher (P, Jr.)

Update: I started a discussion thread at Ultimate College Softball to let softball fans know about this list of senior losses and key returnees. In response, people have been posting player names on the UCS thread, of ones I had omitted.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Well, that was certainly an intense final series between Arizona and Tennessee! I'm taking a few days off from blogging. Check back next week, though, for my end-of-season synopsis of the top schools' senior losses from this year's teams and what to expect next year...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

2007 WCWS Game 3

ORANGE CRUSHED -- Arizona Wins National Title

Congratulations to the Wildcats!

Last chance for Tennessee... Schutzler strikes out... Callahan likewise... Huff walks... Doepking grounds out to third...

Dare I say it, the Vols have runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth... After a fly out to left, a wild pitch (or passed ball) puts both runners in scoring position for Posey... An infield hit to third loads the bases for Tennessee's most clutch hitter, Chiles... A liner down the left-filed stripe just goes foul by about 2 feet! Chiles bloops one up behind third base (probably going foul), nice catch by Fox for the second out... Danielle Pieroni to pinch hit (what a spot for a newcomer)... hanging in there with a 3-2 count... strikes out swinging, ending the inning and extending Mowatt's scoreless-inning streak to 16 (during the at-bat, the announcers had quoted the figure at 15 2/3)...

Tennessee now has six offensive outs to score at least five runs... Doesn't seem too likely, does it?

U of A's Lowe gets her third infield hit, a dribbler to the circle. By the time Abbott picks up the ball and turns around to throw, it's futile... Arredondo belts a double to left... Second and third, no outs... Fox gets another intentional walk, loading the bases... Leles singles hard up the middle, driving in two runs... 2-0 Arizona...... Three-run homer for Chelsie Mesa, 5-0 Arizona...

Chiles leads off with an infield hit... During one of the breaks, Vol co-coach Ralph Weekly was interviewed about his team's Left On Base problem (14 yesterday, 6 tonight at the time of the interview). The coaches had the players study videotape of their previous at-bats against Taryne Mowatt, but, as Weekly contended, the Tennessee batters still weren't executing... Kajitani then pops a bunt up, illustrating Weekly's point... Schutzler gets a sharp groundball single to left, runners on first and second, one out... Callahan up, but the count quickly becomes 0-2... leading to a strikeout on three pitchers... It's up to Huff, with two outs... Abbott, who was pretty calm in the dugout in similar situations last night, is now seated alone in the position of the famous statue, The Thinker... Huff strikes out. Another donut, bagel, [fill in circular object of your choice] for Tennessee. Still scoreless, going to the bottom of the fifth...

A rare quick half-inning (for either team) as Abbott seems to regain her groove. Up come the Vols to start off the fifth...

A couple of between-inning observations, both initially pointed out by the televisions announcers: (1) Whether it's the same or a different home-plate ump tonight relative to last night, the pitchers seem to be getting a smaller strike zone; and (2) given Tennessee's difficulties in advancing runners by swinging away, the team may start bunting more (as was done last half-inning).

Tennessee's Shannon Doepking leads off the fourth with a walk... Clay in a marathon at-bat, fouling off pitches with a 3-2 count... she strikes out, swinging at a pitch that was in the next county (that's how far outside it was)... Horiuchi bunts the runner to second, two outs... Anita Manuma pinch-hitting for Posey... ground-out to first, still scoreless...

Lowe leads off the bottom of the third with another infield single, bunted to second by Arredondo, one out... Intentionally walked, Kristie Fox trots to first... Leles up, takes the count to 3-1, the Vol catcher goes to the circle to calm down Abbott, but she walks Leles on the next pitch, anyway... Bases loaded, one out for Chelsie Mesa... On a 2-2 pitch, it's a close call, and the ump says "ball," 3-2... Now here's a bizarre play -- Mesa hits a short, bouncing blooper between first and second and Leles, heading to second, collides with the second-baseperson Posey. Leles is called out for interference... Bases still loaded, no runs, two outs... Abbott K's the next batter, ending the threat... The ledger's a little more balanced now in terms of squandered opportunities...

Kenora Posey leads off with a bloop hit to shallow left... Posey steals second, India Chiles facing a 3-2 count at the plate... I know I've said it a bunch of times, but Chiles continues to amaze, beating out an inning grounder even with her recent (mid-May) ACL tear... First and second (Posey was being held), no outs (like Tennessee hasn't had situations like this before -- smirk)... Nicole Kajitani, inserted as part of the Vols' line-up transformation, K's for the first out... Lindsay Schutzler pops out... Those Tennessee fans must be thinking, "We've seen this movie before..." Tonya Callahan at the plate, 2-0 count... she walks, loading the bases with two out, up comes Tiffany Huff... She strikes out... Call it cynicism on my part, or call it realism, but Tennessee again fails to capitalize on a promising opportunity...

The Wildcats' Callista Balko gets her first hit of the 2007 World Series, a sharp double to the wall in left... A ground-out to Abbott ends the inning... Still scoreless, going to the third...

Tonya Callahan leads off the second with a solid single to right... After a strikeout by the next batter, Shannon Doepking bunts for a base hit down the third-base line. U of A lets the ball keep rolling, thinking (or hoping) it will go foul, but it never does. There've been a couple of other bunts like that this World Series... Lowe makes an excellent catch on a drive to left-center by Alexia Clay... A strike-out ends the inning... Going to the bottom of the second, 0-0...

After a scoreless top of the first, Caitlin Lowe, who's been quiet in this series, leads off for Arizona with an infield single... K'Lee Arredondo follows with a walk... The next batter (probably Kristie Fox) is out on a pop/blooper to the shortstop, who is standing on second as she makes the catch. A freeze-frame on the replay shows that Lowe should have been called out trying to get back to the bag, but she isn't... Jenae Leles strikes out, two down... Chelsie Mesa fouls out to end the inning...

Here we go! Arizona's the home team, so Tennessee is batting first. Vol co-coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly have scrambled the line-up a little bit...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

2007 WCWS Game 2

Wednesday night, for all the marbles!

Tennessee's last chance, as the Vols come up in the bottom of the tenth... Doepking strikes out... Alexia Clay comes up... and U of A throws away an apparently easy throw to first base on a routine grounder... One out, runner on first, pinch-hitter Anita Manuma steps to the plate... and strikes out... The Vols are down to their last out! Horiuchi up... grounds into a force at second. Game over! 1-0.

U of A's Sam Banister slides a line single to left... Bunted to second, one out... Callista Balko up (0-19 in the World Series) also bunts, and the first-baseperson drops the throw to her... Hard to tell, but she probably would have been out, in my view... First and third, one out, for Adrienne Acton... Danielle Rodriguez, inserted as a pinch-runner for Banister, scores from third on an infield grounder -- a very close play at the plate. The key is whether Rodriguez got her hand on the back of the plate, and the ump said "yes." Inning over, 1-0 Arizona, Abbott's scoreless inning streak in this World Series ends at 37 and 1/3, which I'm sure means nothing to Abbott at this point...

Posey leads off with a ground single to right for Tennessee. In previous innings, the team has had difficulty bunting. India Chiles comes up. There's probably no one better at placing the ball strategically... Chiles swings at a ball out of the strike zone (making the count 2-2), but the distraction perhaps is what allows Posey to steal second... Vol co-coach Ralph Weekly can't watch... Chiles strikes out... Schutzler coming up, Wildcats holding a committee meeting to decide whether to walk her, and it looks like they are... First and second, one out... How many times has Tennessee had this situation? Pat Summitt looks on intently.. Again, does Huff have the right stuff? Abbott, on the bench, looks very composed, laughing... Fly-out to left-center, well-hit, but no problem for Caitlin Lowe... Callahan comes up... Punched out looking on a high strike on a 3-2 pitch... We've finished nine innings and the 'Cats have shown nine lives!

Kristie Fox gets a one-out infield single to deep shortstop for the Wildcats... Jenae Leles stays alive with two strikes, fouling off a bunch of pitches, before grounding into a force-out of the runner going to second... A pop-up ends the inning...

Shannon Doepking with a lead-off single to right... The next batter (whose name I missed) pops up a bunt... The aforementioned Griffin comes up... and strikes out looking... Horiuchi, who's had a good game in the field, is now up... and is thrown out by the catcher on a very short grounder... To the ninth...

Abbott again nonchalantly retires the side in the eighth. Vol third-baseperson Jennifer Griffin makes a nice quick throw to first on a grounder to get the second out...

We're going to extra innings. Oh the drama, oh the humanity! The only thing that could be more exciting is if this were Game 3 instead of Game 2...

Bottom of the seventh coming up... Just one run stands between Tennessee and the NCAA national championship... The Vols' Kenora Posey is thrown out at firt attempting to bunt for a base-hit... India Chiles is up; can she do it again? No, she strikes out! Up comes Lindsay Schutzler... A solid single to right-center... Does Tiffany Huff have the right stuff? Whether she does or not, she's gotten a walk. First and second with two outs... Wildcat meeting on the mound, Tonya Callahan coming up. A well-placed hit to the outfield will do it, especially with the runners able to take off with two outs... Callahan flies to left...

U of A not going quietly in the top of the seventh , with a two-out walk... Abbott strikes out the next batter... She's not allowed a run in 35 innings pitched at this World Series!

Abbott sets a new record for strikeouts in a World Series, with 65, to end the top of the sixth. You may have noticed that I haven't been writing much about Arizona's at-bats. Well, as the ESPN announcers have pointed out, the Wildcats have not had a runner in scoring position since the second inning. Vols coming up... A walk to a Tennessee batter, but nothing else doing. We go to the seventh, 0-0...

I know this sounds like a recording, but Tennessee once again has runners on first and second with no outs, this time in the bottom of the fifth... And India Chiles has yet another hit, an infield hit loading the bases, still no outs... The hit brings Chiles's 2007 World Series average to .500... Force out at home on a grounder to the pitcher, one out, bases loaded... Pop-up for two outs... The pressure's really on Tonya Callahan to do something... A bloop out to shortstop, still no score.

It's the bottom of the fourth, and the Vols have runners on first and second with no outs. A walk and then a "safe" call at second when Mowatt tried to get the lead runner on a bunt have brought us to this point... However, a sharp grounder to U of A third-baseperson Jenae Leles results in a 5-3 double-play (stepping on the bag and then throwing to first)... The next batter grounds out... Still no score...

Tennessee shortstop Liane Horiuchi, whose name hasn't been called very often, has been having a nice game in the field. In the just-concluded top of the fourth, she made a nice grab of a hot line-drive off the bat of Kristie Fox. In the previous inning, she vacuumed up two grounders and threw out the runners...

The Vols' India Chiles, running with her torn ACL, beats out a bunt for an infield single with one out in the bottom of the third. The next batter is retired on a fly-out, so there are now two outs... and make it three, with Mowatt striking out Tiffany Huff after falling behind 3-0 in the count... Still no score...

Now it's Tennessee threatening in the bottom of the second, with runners at first and second and one out. The runners have come from a walk and bloop hit to center. There's a lot of talk about how Wildcat pitcher Taryne Mowatt has a blister at the end of one of her fingers on her pitching hand... In a mirror image of the top of the inning, Mowatt gets two straight K's to end the inning...

Arizona has a bit of a threat going in the top of the second, with runners on first and second and one out. Tennessee -- behind pitcher Monica Abbott -- has not allowed a run during the entire World Series...

Lady Vol basketball coach Pat Summitt was just shown in the stands. Did I call it or did I call it? (See my Pregame Thoughts from yesterday, below.)

Getting back to the Arizona threat, Abbott strikes out two in a row (for five overall), putting an end to the Wildcat rally.

Monday, June 04, 2007

2007 WCWS Game 1

Arizona's down to its last strike, but forestalls defeat with a bloop single... It's 0-2 on the next hitter, so again, the Wildcats are down to their final strike; this time it's an easy fly-out to center. Vols win 3-0. Monica Abbott puts up "only" eight strikeouts. Tennessee will try to close it out tomorrow night.

Tennessee's staging a late rally to get some insurance runs. In the top of the seventh, with two outs and the bases loaded... (cue the Hollywood suspense music)... India Chiles comes up as a pinch-hitter and, sure enough, hits a bloop single up the middle. It's now 3-0 Vols...

Shannon Doepking just pulverizes a drive to left, 2-0 Tennessee with one out, top of the fourth...

Surprise, surprise. Tennessee frosh Alexia Clay, quiet for much of the World Series, homers with two out in the top of the second to make it 1-0 Vols (the first inning was quite uneventful)...

One important development at gametime is that Tennessee's India Chiles, whom I've discussed extensively in previous postings including today's "Pregame Thoughts," is being held out of the starting line-up. Whether she'll come in later tonight and/or play in the remaining games of the World Series remains to be seen.

Some pregame thoughts...

I think the key to the final series will be Tennessee's offensive production. Monica Abbott is going to allow few -- if any -- runs. She'll dominate most of the time -- with her World Series average of 2.33 strikeouts per inning.

But Arizona will undoubtedly threaten a couple of times, as it did in the teams' first match-up in OKC. With Caitlin Lowe and Kristie Fox as the pillars of the offense, and others such as Sam Banister and Jenae Leles coming up with clutch hits, the U of A is always dangerous.

The Wildcats' Taryne Mowatt is obviously not a power-pitcher like Abbott, and the Arizona hurler can be wild at times. Still, Mowatt finds a way to avoid giving up runs. One thing I've noticed -- and without proper statistical analysis, it remains purely a conjecture -- is that Mowatt seems to spread around the instances in which runners get on base. This obviously minimizes the other team's scoring potential. The brief stretch last night against Washington, when the Huskies put together three straight singles, really seemed to be an exception.

The Vols' India Chiles has been nothing short of spectacular, not merely playing with a torn ACL from a couple weeks ago, but playing extremely well. She may be Tennessee's most consistent hitter at this point. Other players, such as Lindsay Schutzler, Tonya Callahan, Shannon Doepking, Kenora Posey, and Tiffany Huff, are going to have to string together combinations of walks and hits to score some runs for Abbott.

Shifting from keys to the game to what a championship would mean for each school, Tennessee is in position to capture two key jewels -- if not the key jewels -- of women's collegiate sport in the same year. Earlier, of course, the Lady Vol basketball team won Coach Pat Summitt's seventh NCAA title.

No school has won the NCAA women's basketball and softball titles in the same year, thus far. On one of the telecasts, the announcers mentioned that Abbott met with Summitt during the former's recruiting visit. To my knowledge, Summitt has not been at any of this year's softball World Series games. Might she come in for the championship series? If she does, will she lead the Tenneseee fans in their traditional song, Rocky Top?

Over at the Arizona athletics site, there's a display of the seven previous NCAA softball trophies the school has won, with the heading: "Arizona Two Wins from Eighth NCAA Title."

If you want to read even more about the Arizona-Tennessee match-up, ESPN.com's Graham Hays has written a dissertation on it.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Washington vs. Arizona (Game 2)

Arizona comes out blazing in the top of the first, with Jenae Leles doubling in Caitlin Lowe and Chelsie Mesa. U-Dub comes up trailing 2-0...

U of A adds a run in the top of the third, making it 3-0...

With two out in the bottom of the fourth, and no hits to its credit, Washington comes to life with singles by Dominique Lastrapes, Dena Tyson, and Lauren Greer. It's now 3-1...

Arizona gets the run back; 4-1 going into the bottom of the fifth...

It's getting out of hand: 8-1 'Zona, still batting in the top of the sixth...

It's official: Arizona vs. Tennessee, two-out-of-three for the NCAA championship, starting Monday night.

Northwestern vs. Tennessee (Game 1)

Tennessee's bionic India Chiles, playing with a recent ACL tear as well as a shoulder injury, has gotten yet another hit, in the bottom of the first, and has stolen second!

The Vols, with the bases loaded and no outs, avert a disastrous double play and score the game's first run on an unusual play. On a grounder to Northwestern shortstop Tammy Williams, she tags the Tennessee runner going between second and third, and then throws home, seemingly in time to get the runner there. A subtle aspect of the play -- one that I didn't notice at first -- is that the tag-out of the runner going to third removes the force at home.

Wildcat catcher Erin Dyer, with her foot on the plate, catches Williams's throw well ahead of Chiles's arrival and, not thinking she needed to make a tag herself, doesn't. Chiles, meanwhile, continues her slide to the plate and ultimately is ruled to have scored. As the ESPN announcers suggested, Dyer may well have had time to make the tag, had she tried to, but she didn't. A later Northwestern error in the infield brings in another run, leaving it 2-0 Vols after one...

Monica Abbott has now struck out all six Northwestern batters she's faced [later amended by the ESPN announcer, who mentioned an infield hit the Wildcats had gotten], taking us to the bottom of the second...

Abbott now has eight strikeouts after two-and-a-half innings; still 2-0 Vols...

Abbott continues to roll along, with 15 strikeouts after five-and-a-half. After Tennessee, still leading 2-0, bats in the bottom of the sixth, Northwestern will be down to its final three outs...

The Vols add a run in the bottom of the sixth to make it 3-0. Northwestern is up for its (potentially) final at-bats...

Garland Cooper, the first Wildcat batter of the inning, strikes out, Abbott's 16th K (the same number she's achieved in each of her two previous outings)... Nicole Pauly pops up to the catcher...

Up comes Erin Dyer, who in the past has been able to rescue Northwestern from "Dyer straits." Abbott strikes her out, her 17th of the game and 49th of this year's World Series...

Tennessee, which has fallen just short of making the World Series championship round each of the last two years, has finally broken through. The Vols are off until Monday night.

Washington vs. Arizona (Game 1)

Not much to report here. It's 0-0 after four complete. Each team has had some threats, but nothing's materialized...

Arizona breaks through in the bottom of the sixth, with a two-run double by Sam Banister...

Game over... On to a rematch tonight.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Preview of Sunday's Play

Arizona (one loss) vs. Washington (no losses) -- These two Pac 10 foes will battle it out on Sunday for one of the spots in the championship round (which begins Monday night). U of A and U-Dub start off Sunday's action at noon Central. Given the double-elimination format, a Huskies' win in either a Game 1 or (potential) Game 2 against Arizona will put Washington in the championship round. Defending NCAA champion Arizona must sweep two, to return to the final round.

Northwestern (one loss) vs. Tennessee (no losses) -- Tennessee is in an analogous situation to Washington, with just one win over Northwestern needed for the Vols to advance to the final round. For Northwestern to return to the championship round, it must sweep two from Tennessee.

Once the championship round begins, all records are swept clean and the two finalists begin a new two-out-of-three series.

Saturday Summaries

Baylor vs. Northwestern

Northwestern scores two in the top of the first...

After giving up the two runs in the first and struggling early in the second, Baylor's Kirsten Shortridge is replaced in the circle by Lisa Ferguson. Things don't get any better for the Bears, as Ferguson gives up a three-run homer to Tammy Williams and a solo shot to Garland Cooper.

With Northwestern leading 6-0, there seems to be a decent chance that the Wildcats could end up on the favorable side of a run-rule decision, the oppposite of what happened Friday night. The key is that one team leads by a margin of eight runs or more and the trailing team has completed at least five innings of at-bats...

The Wildcats' Nicole Pauly has gone yard in the top of the fourth, making it 7-0 Northwestern...

...and that's how it ends, 7-0. Northwestern continues on, Baylor goes home.

Arizona vs. DePaul

Arizona has broken through with two runs in the top of the fifth, the only scores of the game. The Wildcat runs came on a "Lowe blow," an opposite-field double to the left-field wall by Caitlin Lowe, that is...

Bottom six, still 2-0 'Zona. With two outs, Sandy Vojik, who had a big game earlier today, gets DePaul's first hit of the game, a sharp single to left. The Blue Demons had been four outs away from the dubious distinction of having two World Series losses in the same year both be by no-hitter...

Arizona wins 3-0, DePaul goes back to Chicago.

Final Afternoon Update (Evening session still to come)

The second team to be eliminated is Texas A&M, a 7-4 loser to Big 12 conference foe Baylor. Not a good day for teams wearing maroon, as they've both been eliminated and are thus "marooned" while the other six teams move on.

Whenever Texas A&M's primary starting pitcher goes, I ask myself, "How will Amanda Scarborough fare?" (you can set this to music, if you'd like). Today's answer was, not so well, as she was replaced in the circle with Baylor leading 6-1. The key blow was a three-run homer by the Bears' Courtney Oberg (not just over the fence, but beyond the bleachers, as well). Oberg happens to be from, of all places, College Station, the location of Texas A&M.

Baylor faces Northwestern in tonight's late game, with the loser going home.

The first team going home from the Women's College World Series is Arizona State, a 3-1 loser to DePaul. Sandy Vojik drove in all three Blue Demon runs, two of them on a home run. DePaul will play Arizona tonight in another elimination game.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Arizona vs. Tennessee

This game is still scheduled to take place tonight, in spite of the late hour (11:00 Central)...

The idea of the Vols' Monica Abbott getting a repeat no-hitter was quickly put to rest, as the Wildcats' Caitlin Lowe led off the game by beating out a grounder back to Abbott. However, Lowe was called out for leaving first base early on a steal attempt. A freeze-frame on the instant replay clearly showed Lowe to have left the bag while the ball was still in Abbott's hand. Two strikeouts follow to end the top of the first. Tennessee's now coming up to bat...

Update 1: Abbott gets two key strikeouts in the top of the third to put out a fire and keep the score at 0-0. Arizona got a one-out single with a runner on second, but she had to stop at third. After a strikeout, the Vols intentionally walked Kristie Fox, U of A's hero of yesterday, to load the bases. Abbott then struck out the next batter...

Update 2: Tennessee got its first hit of the game, a lead-off single by India Chiles in the fourth inning. However, the next batter bunted into the air, allowing Wildcat pitcher Taryne Mowatt to catch the ball for an out and then double Chiles off first. The next batter was retired, so it's still 0-0...

Update 3: Abbott pulls off another Houdini feat in the top of the sixth. With Arizona having the bases loaded and one out, she induces an infield pop-up and then gets a strikeout to end the threat. One of the Wildcat runners left on base was the aforementioned Fox who singled and, as the ESPN 2 announcers pointed out, has a 1.000 on-base percentages in the World Series thus far...

Update 4: The bottom of the sixth has been the most active offensive inning for Tennessee. After two walks, the miracle player, India Chiles, she of the torn ACL, gets her second hit of the game, a sharp grounder up the middle. Even though Wildcat center-fielder Caitlin Lowe is able to field the ball probably only several yards behind the infield dirt, a Tennessee runner tries to score from second and is thrown out at home, leaving the Vols with runners on second and third with two outs... U of A then has difficulty with an infield grounder by Tiffany Huff, allowing Huff to beat the throw at first and the first run of the game to score... Tennessee is retired, sending the game to the top of the seventh with a 1-0 Volunteer lead...

Final update of the evening/morning: Abbott ends the game with her 16th strikeout. Arizona gets a runner to second with two out, setting the table for the Wildcats' Chelsie Mesa to possibly tie the game with a well-placed hit, but it's not to be for U of A.

Thus, at the end of Day 2, Tennessee and Washington are the only remaining undefeated teams. Under the double-elimination format, all other teams are now subject to elimination each time they play (unless they make the championship round, where the slate is cleaned and the two finalists play a two-out-of-three series). On to "Survival Saturday"...

Washington vs. Northwestern

After a nearly three-hour rain delay, today's opening game, between Washington and Northwestern, is finally underway. In honor of purple being the main color for each school, all of my writing for this game will be in purple. Both of these teams won yesterday, so under the tournament's double-elimination format, neither team is in danger of elimination tonight...

Update 1: U-Dub strikes first, with two runs in the top of the third, taking advantage of two walks and a single given up by Northwestern's Eileen Canney.

Update 2: It's now 3-0 Washington, as the Huskies add a run in the fourth via an unusual set of events: a walk, an advancement to second on an apparent illegal pitch, a sacrifice fly, and a wild pitch.

Update 3: It's been a very "un-Canney" night for Northwestern's starting pitcher Eileen. She's been knocked out of the game by a Husky attack that has, thus far, collected three hits in the top of the fifth and added a run, to make it 4-0. The bases are still loaded with no outs, and Lauren Delaney comes in for the Wildcats...

Update 4: Still top of the fifth, still bases loaded for U-Dub, still no outs. But the score is now 8-0. Delaney allowed three runs, then Canney was put back in. We'll see how many more runs Washington can score, but even if it doesn't add any more, an eight-run margin at this stage puts the game into potential run-rule territory. Specifically, Northwestern will have to bring the margin to something less than eight runs in its half of the fifth, or the game will reach a premature end.

Update 5: The top of the fifth finally ends with the Huskies leading 9-0.

Update 6: Game over. Northwestern falls in a five-inning run-rule, 9-0 Washington wipe-out.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Nightcap

Arizona has just put across a run in the bottom of the fourth against Baylor, for the game's only score thus far. Each team has at least one hit, so we won't have another no-hitter today.

Update 1: Baylor has tied it in the top of the fifth, with a runner who was on second advancing one base each time on back-to-back Arizona passed balls (Wildcat pitcher Taryne Mowatt has indeed been wild, even though the miscues have been charged to the catcher). On the second passed ball, it looked like the Bear batter might actually have tipped the ball foul, but replays seemed to suggest (to me at least) that the bat never contacted the ball. A great catch by U of A shortstop Kristie Fox prevented Baylor from taking the lead.

Update 2: We've had a lot of noteworthy developments today and now we're getting another one: Extra innings.

Update 3: Kristie Fox, who earlier made a big defensive play, ends the game in the bottom of the ninth with a home run. Final score: Arizona 2, Baylor 1.

Early Evening

It's 0-0 through three complete, between Tennessee and Texas A&M. Monica Abbott, of course, is pitching for the Vols, whereas Amanda Scarborough is for the Aggies. Each team has threatened, with A&M loading the bases with one out in the first and Tennessee having runners on second and third with no outs in the third...

Update 1: As we head to the seventh inning, it's one of those good news/bad news situations for Abbott. She's thrown six no-hit innings, but her Tennessee team hasn't scored for her. Still 0-0...

Update 2: The Vols' India Chiles, playing with a torn ACL, has gotten a key hit to drive in the game's first run. Tennessee's still batting...

Update 3: It's now 2-0 Tennessee, based on four straight hits.

Update 4: Monica Abbott finishes off Texas A&M without a hit, for a 2-0 Volunteers' win. In today's three games played so far, we've now had a pair of no-hitters and a one-hitter!

Late Afternoon

Another potential no-hitter is brewing... Northwestern leads Arizona State 1-0 after five complete, and the Wildcats' Eileen Canney has not allowed the Sun Devils a hit. ASU slugger Kaitlin Cochran has walked in her two at-bats, thus far...

Update 1: So much for another no-hitter. The Sun Devils' Michelle Smith has led off the top of the sixth with a bunt single. Cochran is up with one out...

Update 2: Cochran walks, yet again...

Update 3: Nothing comes of ASU rally. Still 1-0 Northwestern.

Update 4: Northwestern wins, 2-0. There will now be a break until 6:00 Central, when the evening session starts.

Mid-Afternoon

What a way to start things off! Washington's Danielle Lawrie has pitched a no-hitter in the Huskies' 3-1 win over DePaul. The Blue Demon offense, which ran roughshod over Oklahoma in the super-regionals, has been silenced, for now at least.

Finally, we have an article on Lawrie's no-hitter.

Noon Central

Play begins today in the NCAA Women's College World Series! The official NCAA softball scoreboard page for today can be accessed here.

As I write this, DePaul and Washington are scoreless in the second inning of the opening game.

Also, the NCAA has its own onsite blogger in Oklahoma City, for those interested in behind-the-scenes coverage of the event (link).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In anticipation of tomorrow's opening of the Women's College World Series (see link to timetable in yesterday's posting, below), I thought it would be interesting to see how the eight participating teams did head-to-head against each other during the year. To this end, I have created the following network diagram.


Three findings jump out at me:

*Nearly all the teams have some experience playing against other teams that ultimately made the WCWS. To some extent, this is a result of teams' being in the same conferences. However, a good number of these games were nonconference affairs, usually in tournaments.

*Baylor is the only team to have a winning record against every fellow World Series team it faced.

*Tennessee is the only team not to have faced any other World Series teams. Perhaps the Volunteers' philosophy was that they'd get enough tough competition in SEC play, but no other SEC teams have made it to Oklahoma City.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The bracket/timetable diagram for the NCAA Women's College World Series is now available at the official NCAA softball site.

Action gets underway Thursday at noon Central time, with Washington taking on DePaul. Using the original national seedings, the first-round pairings follow the format of 1 (Arizona) vs. 8 (Baylor), 2 (Northwestern) vs. 7 (Arizona State), etc. Washington is the No. 6 seed and DePaul, coming out of the No. 14 position to upset No. 3 Oklahoma, essentially takes over Oklahoma's seed. The one remaining match-up is No. 4 Texas A&M vs. No. 5 Tennessee.

The team homepages for the eight participating squads are bolded in the links section in the right-hand column.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Conclusion from Tucson, Arizona

Defending NCAA champion Arizona is going back to the World Series, having dispatched Cal State Fullerton 2-1 in a game that just ended.

As the ESPN commentators have readily pointed out, this year's World Series will be the first in the 26 years of NCAA sponsorship of the event that no California school will be present. Plenty of California-based players will be participating, but not any universities from the Golden State.

Conclusion from Norman, Oklahoma

DePaul has closed out Oklahoma, 7-2, to become the seventh team to qualify for the Women's College World Series. That gives the Chicago area two teams in the World Series: DePaul and Northwestern.

Mid-Afternoon

DePaul looks to be in strong position to get to the Women's College World Series, leading Oklahoma 5-2 in the top of the fifth (with OU as visitors) in today's game, and having taken yesterday's opener. Should the 14th-seeded Blue Demons indeed oust the third-seeded Sooners, DePaul will be the only team outside of the top eight national seeds to crash the party at the World Series, with one super-regional still pending.

National No. 1 seed Arizona leads Cal State Fullerton 2-0 in Game 2 of their series. With the Wildcats winning last night, they too look to be in good shape to advance to the World Series.

Early Afternoon

The second game of the DePaul-Oklahoma super-regional is in a rain delay. What is being shown on ESPN is a replay of yesterday's contest, won by DePaul.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Here's a direct link to the official NCAA Saturday scoreboard.

Final posting of the evening!

And then there were six... Arizona State defeated LSU, 7-4, to sweep the teams' super-regional series and advance to the Women's College World Series. I guess Purple Power has its limitations!

Down the road, Arizona pulled away from Cal State Fullerton to defeat the Titans 11-6 in the opener of the teams' series.

8:55 pm Central

Another three-run homer, this time by Laine Roth, has put Arizona in the lead, 6-5, over Cal State Fullerton. The Titan third-baseperson's inability to field cleanly a two-out grounder left the door open for the Wildcats, and they certainly took advantage.

8:20 pm Central

Callista Balko has just hit a three-run homer to bring Arizona within 5-3 of Cal State Fullerton.

We have two more teams that have qualified for the Women's College World Series:

Tennessee bounced back from its Game 2 loss to Hawaii earlier today to knock off the Rainbow Wahine, 7-1.

In a similar situation, Texas A&M rebounded to shut out Florida, 2-0, and thus take the series.

A little after 8:00 pm Central

Arizona experienced a "Half-Inning from Hell" right away in the top of the first, as visiting Cal State Fullerton put 5 runs on the board. Not only that -- the Wildcats lost senior All-America outfielder Caitlin Lowe (for how long, has not been announced), who had to be carted off the field after appearing to run face-first into the fence pursuing a long Fullerton fly. U of A starting pitcher Taryne Mowatt looked like she may have gotten injured herself, as her back leg gave out a little when she was fielding a bunt, but after a few practice tosses, she was back pitching. As Arizona comes up in the bottom of the fourth, the score remains 5-0.

5:45 pm Central

Michigan is coming up in the bottom of the seventh, trailing Baylor, 4-0. Going to the last commercial break, the CSTV announcer said, "We're on the cusp of history...," referring of course to the possibility of Baylor making its first Women's College World Series.

We have one out... Two outs... As Howard Cosell would say, "It's all over!"

Baylor becomes the third qualifier for the WCWS.

5:15 pm Central

Florida's Lauren Roussell has just hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh against Texas A&M, winning the game 3-2 and forcing a decisive Game 3, in 30 minutes.

We'll have another Game 3 in Knoxville. Tennessee closed its deficit against Hawaii to 9-6, but that was it.

A little after 5:00 pm Central

We now have a second team going to the World Series and, like Northwestern, it also wears purple and also eliminated an SEC team. The latest super-regional winner is... Washington, which a short time ago beat Alabama.

Also, in perhaps the most startling development so far, Hawaii leads Tennessee 9-2, top seven. Looks like there'll be a Game 3...

Almost 5:00 pm Central

Florida has tied up its game with Texas A&M, 2-2, bottom six.

Michigan's lower part of the batting order is staging a bit of a rally, putting runners on first and second with one out, but nothing comes of it.

4:35 pm Central

Another Baylor home run, by Alex Colyer, makes it 3-0 Bears, top two. Lorilyn Wilson is on to replace Nemitz. A walk and two hits have made it 4-0...

4:15 pm Central

The decisive Game 3 between Michigan and Baylor has just started. The Wolverines are the home team, so it must be decided by coin flip. Nikki Nemitz is starting for UM.

The Bears' Ashley Monceaux has just doubled off the wall in the opening at-bat, followed by a homer by Kirsten Shortridge, making it 2-0 Baylor. UM shortstop Teddy Ewing has just made an error, her third of the day (counting Game 2). Ewing comes back to make a nice catch on a line drive, and doubles off the runner at first. Baylor then gets a solid single to center, and the Wolverine pitching coach is out to talk to Nemitz. Nemitz stays in and gets a strikeout to end the inning.

Baylor's going with Lisa Ferguson in the circle, so one of my two predictions was correct!

Texas A&M continues to lead Florida, 2-1, top of the fifth.

3:40 pm Central

Michigan closes out Baylor, 3-0, a two-hitter for Wolverine frosh Nikki Nemitz. The decisive Game 3 will be in a half-hour. Each team faces a tough decision regarding whom to start in the pitching circle.

For Michigan, Nemitz has just finished a superb performance, but she also pitched part of the game Friday. She could thus tire as Game 3 moves along. Lorilyn Wilson has had her bright spots this season, but was knocked out of the game after starting yesterday. Perhaps you start Wilson, but with Nemitz at the ready.

For Baylor, Lisa Ferguson, Friday's pitcher, has looked more impressive than Kirsten Shortridge, today's Game 2 starter. It would seem to be an easy decision to go with Ferguson, but she wasn't exactly scintillating in her Game 2 relief role.

About 3:15 pm Central

The other rain-delayed game, in College Station, Texas, has also gotten underway. Texas A&M (in the visitors' role) has put up 2 runs right away against Florida in the top of the first. This game is on ESPN.

Michigan, leading Baylor 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth, is threatening again and has knocked out Bear starter Kirsten Shortridge; Lisa Ferguson now has to deal with Wolverines on second and third with one out. A sac fly makes it 2-0... and a line single up the middle makes it 3-0...

About 2:30 pm Central

Northwestern is the first team to punch its ticket to the Women's College World Series, with a 3-0 victory this afternoon over South Carolina.

Michigan's off to a much better start today, taking a 1-0 lead over Baylor in the second inning.

2:00 pm Central

Game 2 of the Michigan-Baylor series (on CSTV) is now underway, after a rain delay. The starting pitchers are Nikki Nemitz for the Wolverines and Kirsten Shortridge for the Bears. The game is only a few minutes old, and already the Wolverines have committed an error, after four yesterday! Michigan is the home team for this game. Even though each super-regional series is played in only one location, the teams apparently rotate home-team status to balance out the advantages of getting final at-bats. If a series goes to a Game 3, I'm not sure if a coin-flip is used to determine the home-team status or if the higher-seeded team gets the honors.

About 1:15 pm Central

Here's an update on the rain situation in east and central Texas affecting the Florida-Texas A&M and Michigan-Baylor super-regional series. I've copied and pasted this screenshot from the U.S. government's National Weather Service, depicting the current forecasts.


Noon Central

Before discussing today's play, I just wanted to mention the results of Friday's late game, which also ran really long. Arizona State defeated LSU 1-0 in 10 innings, as summarized in this article.

OK, on to Saturday's slate of games. One is going on already, with DePaul and Oklahoma playing their series opener on ESPN. The Blue Demons have just broken through with the game's first run in the top of the sixth. [Update: DePaul has taken Game 1 by a 3-0 score. As the ESPN announcers have pointed out, the Blue Demons have now gone four NCAA games -- three in last week's regional and then again today -- without allowing a run. Here's DePaul's game-by-game log, if you want to examine the team's results for yourself.]

The other series that begins today is Cal State Fullerton vs. Arizona, at 7:00 Central on ESPN.

All the remaining series will have their second (and third, if necessary) games today. As a Michigan alumnus, I'll be interested to see how the Wolverines respond to yesterday's shellacking by Baylor (Game 2 begins shortly, at 1:00 Central on CSTV).

In past years, UM has shown resilience in similar situations. As many of you will recall, in the 2005 championship round of the Women's College World Series, the Wolverines dropped the opener to UCLA, 5-0, but came back to win the series. Then, in a 2006 super-regional series against Tennessee, Michigan also lost Game 1, but came back to win Game 2 and take things to the wire in a 1-0 loss to the Vols in Game 3.

Come back often for updates throughout the day!

[Update 2: ESPN is reporting a rain delay in College Station, Texas for the Florida-Texas A&M series. With Waco, Texas only about 100 miles away, my first thought was that Michigan-Baylor might also be delayed, and that indeed seems to be the case.]

Friday, May 25, 2007

Evening

As I write, five of the six Friday games in the super-regionals have ended, with only the LSU at Arizona State contest still going (click here for the NCAA softball page's Friday scoreboard).

Thus far, all of the home/higher-seeded teams have won, in three cases in blowout fashion. Tennessee's rout of Hawaii and Baylor's of Michigan were each 9-0 five-inning run-rule jobs. Also, Northwestern stopped South Carolina, 6-1.

Two other games were much more competitive, with Washington edging Alabama 4-3 and Texas A&M outlasting Florida, 2-0. In the Aggie-Gator battle, televised on ESPN, Florida loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth, but a ground-ball force-out at home and a strikeout put the kaibosh on Florida's rally.

Late Afternoon

In anticipation of the start of the super-regionals tonight, I have bolded the team-page links for the 16 participating schools in the links section on the right. The remaining, non-bolded teams are ones that have tended to be ranked highly and/or ones that I like to follow.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Some news and notes heading into the super-regionals, which begin tomorrow. Eight series, each using a two-out-of-three format, will be played, with the eight winners advancing to the NCAA Women's College World Series. Television coverage of the "supers" will be as follows:

Michigan at Baylor will be on College Sports Television (CSTV), according to this schedule.

Four other series (Florida vs. Texas A&M; Hawaii vs. Tennessee; DePaul vs. Oklahoma; and Cal State Fullerton vs. Arizona) will be shown on the "ESPN Family of Networks" (ESPN and ESPN-U, in this instance). Broadcast times for these series can be found in this discussion thread from Ultimate College Softball (the sequence of messages contains updates as they were becoming available; the most informative message to look at is one by Matt Simon, with the timestamp "5/22/07 at 10:21 AM").

That leaves three series (Arizona State vs. LSU; Northwestern vs. South Carolina; and Washington vs. Alabama) that will not appear on conventional television, but should be capable of being followed either on internet video, audio, or gametrackers.

***

The Blog also wants to congratulate Oklahoma Coach Patty Gasso on achieving the 800th win of her coaching career, which occurred during regional play last weekend.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Here are the photos I took at the Columbus, Ohio regional, as I alluded to in a recent posting (you can click on the photos to enlarge them). Above, Cal State Fullerton's players (who ultimately won the regional) and Virginia Tech's engage in the traditional team handshakes, upon the Hokies' elimination in the Saturday late game.

The first of Saturday's three games pitted the host Ohio State Buckeyes against Virginia Tech.


Here, the Buckeyes' Lauren Daykin bats, while Liz Caputo awaits her turn.


With Ohio State seemingly cruising along with a 2-0 lead over the Hokies, things got a little tighter in the top of the sixth. Buckeye ace Jamee Juarez came on in relief and, despite some threats by Va Tech, OSU won 2-1, with Juarez getting the save.


A key play occurred, in fact, with the first batter Juarez faced, Hokie catcher Kelsey Hoffman. With runners on first and second, Hoffman hit a fly to right that was tailing off toward the foul line. Whether the ball landed in fair or foul territory was a matter of dispute (see the Hokie Sports article on the game), but the umpire called it foul.

The Va Tech first-base coach, shown arguing with the ump in the above picture, was ejected (the coach, in a dark top and white shorts, can be seen in the lower-left part of the picture, standing by the first-base umpire, while the home-plate ump stands nearby). Hoffman eventually walked and the Hokies scored a run in the inning. Had Hoffman's fly ball been judged to have landed fair, however, it almost certainly would have been an extra-base hit with perhaps both runners scoring.

As an aside, you'll notice in the above picture how the high dugouts at Buckeye Field (they don't even appear to actually have been "dug") detract from the viewing of the game from the stands. As can be seen from the section of empty seats, the dugout completely obstructs the view in some cases. Even in the adjacent seats that people do occupy, however, substantial sectors of the field cannot be seen. Perhaps OSU can invest in a wrecking ball to destroy the current dugouts and build new ones that are actually lowered to permit fans in all areas of the stands to see the game!


As I discussed in my earlier posting, Saturday evening's Virginia Tech-Cal State Fullerton game came down to Fullerton's Candice Baker hitting a long -- dare I say, Titanic -- homer in the sixth inning (the Titans' first hit of the game) to give her team what proved to be the decisive run in a 1-0 victory. Shown above is the greeting party Baker received at home plate.

Lastly, I took a bunch of pictures of Ohio State's athletic complex while walking to and from the softball games, which is shown below in the form of a montage I made in PowerPoint. Like the movie, OSU's campus can be characterized by the phrase, "A River Runs Through It," the Olentangy River. On the east side of the river is the main academic campus, along with the legendary "Horseshoe" football venue, Ohio Stadium. On the west side are a number of splashy new facilities including Value City Arena/Schottenstein Center, Bill Davis Stadium for baseball, and the Jack Nicklaus Golf Museum. Softball's Buckeye Field is also on the west side, but as I alluded to above, it's neither as fan-friendly nor as attractive as the other stadia. Perhaps with the team doing better, the softball stadium can be renovated.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The NCAA regionals are now over and the match-ups for next weekend's super-regionals known. Each "super" consists of two teams that will play a two-out-of-three series, the winners of which will comprise the eight-team field for the Women's College World Series. This Sunday scoreboard page from the NCAA has links to articles (recaps) of today's decisive games.

ESPN.com has a nice chart of the super-regionals, from which I've adapted the following list of pairings. As can be seen, the nationally seeded teams assigned to each of the four-team regionals (one per region) had a high success rate. To my knowledge, the higher seed in each super-regional pair will host the series. Below the super-regional match-ups, I comment on several of this past weekend's regionals.

Arizona (national No. 1 seed) vs. Cal State Fullerton (winner of Columbus, Ohio region, at which No. 16 Virginia Tech was the nationally seeded team)

Baylor (8) vs. Michigan (9)

Tennessee (5) vs. Hawaii (winner of Los Angeles region, which included No. 12 UCLA)

Texas A&M (4) vs. Florida (13)

Oklahoma (3) vs. DePaul (14)

Washington (6) vs. Alabama (11)

Arizona State (7) vs. LSU (10)

Northwestern (2) vs. South Carolina (host of region that included No. 15 NC State)

Comments on selected regionals from this past weekend

Los Angeles regional: There are certain things in life that we can count on not to change. The Yankees wearing pinstripes, heavy snow in Buffalo, and a Kennedy or two in government, come to mind.

Collegiate softball's closest analogue would have to be UCLA making the Women's College World Series, which before the current season, the Bruins had done 22 times in the 25 years the Series has been under the jurisdiction of the NCAA.

(Two of the exceptions derived from mid-'90s shenanigans in which UCLA put some softball players on soccer scholarships and brought in an Australian player who never even completed a full year of schoolwork; for this, the Bruins had to vacate their 1995 NCAA championship and were banned from postseason play in '98.)

Well, in a game televised late Saturday night on ESPN2, UCLA was eliminated from this year's tourney by Loyola Marymount, the Bruins' first loss of the regional having come to Hawaii. Against LMU, UCLA trailed 4-0 after five innings, scored two in the sixth to halve the deficit, and threatened in the seventh, before falling short.

Columbus, Ohio regional: I was in Columbus attending another of my academic conferences, so I was able to attend a couple of games of this regional on Saturday. I took some photos, which I should have up on the blog in the next day or so. The first game I saw on Saturday was host Ohio State's victory over nationally seeded (16) Virginia Tech, early in the afternoon.

Then, I came back in the evening for the Hokies' game against Cal State Fullerton, which had defeated Canisius in the middle game of the day, a losers' bracket contest. Fullerton captured this elimination game over Va Tech, 1-0, as the Titans got a homer -- a gargantuan blast, actually -- from Candice Baker in the sixth inning, which was their first hit of the game against the Hokies' Angela Tincher.

I flew back to Lubbock this morning, so I couldn't attend any of today's games. I can only imagine the disappointment of Ohio State fans as the Buckeyes, undefeated all year at home and needing only one win to move on, dropped a pair to Fullerton. It was a great year for Scarlet and Grey softball, with Ohio State winning both the Big 10 regular-season and conference-tourney titles, the latter with a championship-game win over Northwestern, but that's as far as it went...

Other regionals: Two teams that looked, shall we say, precarious early on -- Alabama, after Friday's 4-2 to Tennessee Tech, and Texas A&M, after Saturday's 8-1 loss to Houston -- each came back to win their respective regions. Tennessee Tech got a rare opportunity to appear on national television with its ESPN2 appearance Saturday afternoon against Cal.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Some of the results from Friday's play that got my attention are as follows (Friday NCAA scoreboard)...

Tennessee Tech's 4-2 stunner over Alabama.

Louisville's 8-0, five-inning run-rule shellacking of Oregon State, who was a participant in last year's Women's College World Series.

Texas A&M's 9-5 victory over Sam Houston State. The Aggies fell behind 5-0 after the first half-inning, but outscored Sam Houston State 9-0 the rest of the way.

Homestanding South Carolina recording what may (or may not) be considered an upset of national 15th seed North Carolina State, 5-2.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

With the NCAA tournament starting Thursday with regionals hosted by BYU and Stanford, and the remaining regionals starting on Friday, I thought I'd provide links to the 16 regional sites. Each four-team regional features one nationally seeded team, listed in parentheses.

Arizona regional (Arizona, 1)

Northwestern regional (Northwestern, 2)

UMass regional (Oklahoma, 3)

Texas A&M regional (Texas A&M, 4)

Tennessee regional (Tennessee, 5)

Nebraska regional (Washington, 6)

BYU regional (Arizona State, 7)

Hofstra regional (Baylor, 8)

Michigan regional (Michigan, 9)

Stanford regional (LSU, 10)

Alabama regional (Alabama, 11)

UCLA regional (UCLA, 12)

Florida regional (Florida, 13)

Southern Illinois regional (DePaul, 14)

South Carolina regional (NC State, 15)

Ohio State regional (Virginia Tech, 16)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The 64-team NCAA championship softball field has just been announced on ESPNews. The top 16 teams nationally, in the selection committee's view, were seeded 1-16. Then, the teams were divided into 16 four-team regional sites, each site containing one of the nationally seeded teams. Usually, the nationally seeded team was assigned hosting duties, but not always. All but two of the regionals will play their games Friday-Sunday, the others going Thursday-Saturday.

The winners from the 16 regions will then be paired off the next week for eight two-out-of-three super-regional series. For the supers, the winner of the national No. 1 seed's region (probably the No. 1 team, itself, but nothing is guaranteed) plays the winner of the No. 16's region, the regions with the 2 and 15 teams are matched, and so forth (3 and 14, 4 and 13, ...).

Here are my initial reactions to the seedings, cross-posted on one of the Ultimate College Softball discussion boards while the teams were being revealed:

How does Tennessee, the No. 1-ranked team for most of the year, drop to the No. 5 seed nationally? Two teams revealed thus far to be ahead of the Vols are No. 1 Arizona and No. 4 Texas A&M. A&M is pretty shocking; the Aggies were great in the early weeks of the season, but not so much lately.

...Oklahoma has been revealed as No. 3.

...Alabama has been revealed as No. 11. That one doesn't surprise me as much, given the Tide's we[a]k nonconference schedule. It does show that the SEC has not been held in very high regard.


To resume my comments, Northwestern is the No. 2 national seed, and LSU No. 10. ESPNews analyst Stacey Nuveman made a big point of how the SEC was not getting a lot of respect from the committee.

As the No. 5 national seed, Tennessee will likely have to play No. 12 seed UCLA in the super-regionals. As I've noted in recent postings, the Bruins have been rejuvenated by the pitching (and hitting) of frosh Megan Langenfeld and are playing really well at the moment, evidenced by UCLA's taking two of three this past weekend on its Arizona trip (one win each over U of A and ASU, and a loss to ASU).

[One addendum: As projected by some, the Pac 10 did indeed get all eight of its schools that field softball teams into the NCAA tourney: Arizona (No. 1 national seed), Washington (6), Arizona State (7), UCLA (12), Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, and Stanford.]

A listing of the selections and regional assignments are now available on the NCAA women's softball page.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

It's been an exciting day to close out conference-level softball play, both with some regular-season play and some tournaments. Next come the NCAA brackets, tomorrow!

Let's start with the Big 12. At the risk of overdoing the Cinderella imagery, for Texas Tech, the yellow softball finally turned into an orange pumpkin against Oklahoma in the tourney final. The Red Raiders, who finished eighth in the Big 12 regular-season standings at 4-12, upset Texas A&M in the semi-finals, the second Tech upset over a national top 10 team in two days.

In the title game, the Sooners led 6-3 going into the top of the seventh inning, but Tech loaded the bases with one out, thus bringing the potential go-ahead run to the plate. It took two consecutive great catches by OU on Tech foul balls (one by the first-baseperson and one by the left-fielder) to finally close out the Red Raiders.

In the Big 10, Ohio State followed up its regular-season conference championship with a conference tourney title, too, edging Northwestern 2-1 on a Wildcat throwing error on the final play of the game. Buckeye pitching ace Jamee Juarez came on in relief and got her 20th win; she also contributed offensively with a key hit. I don't know if anyone else would agree, but Ohio State's silver batting helmets (shown in the linked game article) make the players look like space cadets, in my view.

The SEC final was likewise close, with LSU squeaking by Florida, 1-0, in nine innings.

Finally, in the Pac 10, which doesn't have a conference tourney, Arizona defeated Washington and ASU knocked off UCLA in the key games of the day. The Sun Devils' Kaitlin Cochran hit her 18th homer of the season, setting a new school record. The final Pac 10 standings are as follows; some observers see the conference getting all eight of its teams in the NCAA field (USC and Washington State don't field teams).

Arizona 15-5-1
Arizona State 13-8
UCLA 12-9
Washington 12-9
Oregon State 10-11
Stanford 7-13-1
Oregon 7-14
California 7-14

Again, the NCAA tournament field and regional assignments will be announced Sunday at some point between 3:00-4:00 Eastern on ESPNews.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Late night

I said in an earlier posting that, in discussing results from the conference tournaments, I would focus on upsets. How this for an upset? The nation's top-ranked team, Tennessee, has lost in the SEC semis to Florida, by a 1-0 score. According to the linked article:

Senior pitcher Monica Abbott (41-3) allowed just two hits over seven innings of work with 13 strikeouts during the tough luck loss to UF. Unfortunately, the 6-3 left hander permitted a fourth-inning solo home run to Florida's Melissa Zick to mark the eventual game-winning score.

We should not make too much of one game. However, the storyline of a tall left-hander, in the orange-trimmed uniform of a school with the initials UT, pitching well but not getting any run support may sound familiar. Any implied comparison to Cat Osterman during her years at the University of Texas is purely intentional.

Florida faces LSU in tomorrow's SEC final.

Ohio State routed Purdue to make it to tomorrow's Big 10 final against Northwestern.

In the Big 12, rain in Oklahoma City has produced multiple delays, to the point where the semi-final and final rounds are scheduled for tomorrow. The 2- through 4-seeded teams -- Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas A&M, respectively -- have all made it through to the semis. Still waiting on the results of No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 8 Texas Tech.

[UPDATE: Texas Tech has shocked Baylor in a 12-inning thriller. With a 3-3 tie after the regulation seven innings, Texas Tech scored a run in top of the 11th, only to see it matched by Baylor in the bottom half. The Red Raiders then put up 4 in the top of the 12th, which held up for an 8-4 victory.]

[UPDATE 2: UCLA's late-season revival continues, with a 4-3 win at Arizona State.]

As I've been periodically restating, further details are available at the various conferences' tournament-specific websites, the links for which are shown a few postings down.

Late afternoon

A couple of game summaries, including "truth-in-advertising" identifiers of schools with which I'm affiliated.

Texas Tech (where I'm on the faculty) has scored a come-from-behind, extra-inning win over Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tourney. Normally, a game between two teams that finished toward the bottom of the conference standings would not be all that notable. However, in this case, the win gives Tech skipper Teresa Wilson her 800th career coaching victory. Next for the Red Raiders is top-seeded Baylor.

As I write, Michigan (my graduate school alma mater) is leading Northwestern 2-0 after two and a half innings, in their Big 10 semifinal. An online radio broadcast is available via the Big 10 tournament website, a link for which is shown a few postings down. Wolverine frosh pitcher Nikki Nemitz has already had a stretch where she struck out four straight Wildcats. The announcers noted that Lorilyn Wilson threw a one-hitter for Michigan in its first game today, a 4-0 win over Illinois (Michigan game article).

It seems like a great day for people named Wilson!

[UPDATE: It's now 4-2 Northwestern over Michigan, with the Wolverines coming up in the top of the fourth. Lorilyn Wilson replaced Nemitz in the circle for Michigan in the previous inning.]

[UPDATE 2: Northwestern has scored again in the bottom of the fourth, making it 5-2, and is still threatening. The SEC semi between Alabama and LSU is underway; Bama threatened in the top of the first, but didn't score.]

[UPDATE 3: Northwestern and LSU have won the games being followed above. ]

To round out the family ties, my undergrad alma mater is UCLA, my sister went to Arizona, and my brother went to University of Virginia.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Late night

UCLA has handed Arizona a rare defeat in Tucson, by a score of 7-4. The Bruins' Megan Langenfeld not only was the winning pitcher; she also socked a three-run homer.

Up the highway, ASU defeated Washington, 2-1.

Late afternoon

Today's action in the Big 12 tournament has been rained out, so play will begin tomorrow.

No upsets yet, of which I'm aware, but Alabama and LSU each needed extra innings to win their respective opening games in the SEC tourney.

Please visit the conference-tournament websites linked below for further details.

Morning

Today begins what will be several exciting weekends to determine, ultimately, this year's national champion of college softball. Immediately ahead of us are conference tournaments of the Big 10, Big 12, and SEC, which will determine the recipient of each of these conferences' automatic NCAA bids. All of the leading teams from these leagues will get in as at-large teams, anyway, if they don't win automatic bids, but I find conference tournaments to be exciting, nevertheless. These tourneys are all single-elimination (perhaps to avoid burnout?), but once NCAA play starts, every round is double-elimination. Websites for these conference tournaments are as follows:

Big 10

Big 12

SEC

As a time-saving measure, if nothing else, I will probably only be commenting on upsets that occur throughout these tournaments. Thus, if you don't see updates about a certain team, its games are probably going according to seeding.

Some of the best recent snark I've seen occurred in an Ultimate College Softball discussion thread. Noting that Auburn is hosting the SEC tournament, but did not qualify to actually participate in it, the commentator mentioned that Auburn's athletic department won't have any trouble finding people to staff the snack shack (i.e., the Auburn players!).

Plenty of other conferences besides just these are holding tournaments, also. Ultimate College Softball (see links section on the right) has a nice "Scoreboard" section to follow these other leagues.

In the Pac 10, which doesn't have a conference tournament, the final weekend of regular-season play takes place. The top four teams in the standings will be playing a bunch of games against each other, as UCLA and Washington travel to face the Arizona schools (see Pac 10 softball page in the links section).

Between CSTV and the various regional Fox Sports channels, several games from the above conferences will be televised this weekend. As they say, check your local listings!

The NCAA tournament field and regional assignments will be announced Sunday at some point between 3:00-4:00 Eastern on ESPNews.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

In football, teams sometimes have a "quarterback controversy." The softball equivalent would have to be a pitcher controversy. Unlike in baseball, where the strain of throwing overhand limits a starting pitcher to one appearance every five days or so, softball's underhand pitching motion is relatively untaxing physically, so that a team can use one pitcher exclusively in a regional or national tournament, if the coach desires.

At my undergraduate alma mater, UCLA, the Bruins are facing some uncertainty over who should be the lead pitcher. Junior Anjelica (Jelly) Selden has been UCLA's pitcher in the previous two years' Women's College World Series. Despite a few memorable homers given up and a mental block about throwing the ball to first base on grounders hit to her, Selden's World Series showings have generally been strong.

Selden has struggled at times this season, however, and combined with the emergence of frosh Megan Langenfeld, the UCLA pitching situation is now up in the air.

The question of "Selden or Langenfeld?" has also been the subject of a lengthy discussion thread, begun a couple of weeks ago, on Ultimate College Softball.

UCLA's Daily Bruin has also run an upbeat feature article on Langenfeld, in the April 19 issue. As pointed out in the article, Langenfeld also contributes offensively, starting at first base when she's not pitching.

Perhaps as a result of UCLA not being so dominant this year, there seems to be less softball discussion on the Bruin Report Online board, as compared to other years. There has been some, though, and as one commentator on this forum noted:

Selden has been inconsistent this year. It's like she is a different person out there compared to her freshman and sophomore year. Then again she has her moments. She two[-]hit Arizona earlier in the season and has looked awesome at times only to lose composure the next inning.

As shown in these UCLA pitching lines from this past weekend's three games against the northern California teams, Langenfeld has, for the most part, been the more impressive of late (copied from the UCLA softball site, with my insertion of commas to aid readability). Langenfeld, in particular, doesn't seem to give up many walks, as highlighted in bold.

LOSS TO CAL, 3-1

UCLA Bruins IP, H, R, ER, BB, SO, AB, BF, NP
--------------------------------------------------
Selden, Anjelica...... 2.1, 3, 3, 3, 2, 1, 10, 13, 52
Langenfeld, Megan... 4.2, 3, 0, 0, 0, 7, 16, 16, 64

WIN OVER STANFORD, 3-0

UCLA Bruins IP, H, R, ER, BB, SO, AB, BF, NP
--------------------------------------------------
Langenfeld, Megan... 7.0, 4, 0, 0, 0, 6, 26, 26, 99

LOSS TO STANFORD, 4-1

UCLA Bruins IP, H, R, ER, BB, SO, AB, BF, NP
--------------------------------------------------
Langenfeld, Megan... 5.1, 8, 2, 2, 1, 2, 23, 26, 110
Selden, Anjelica...... 1.2, 2, 2, 2, 0, 1, 5, 7, 32

UCLA concludes the regular season this Thursday through Saturday with a swing through the Grand Canyon State, with one game at Arizona and two at ASU. These games presumably should give Bruin coach Kelly Inouye-Perez a final opportunity to finalize her pitching line-up heading into NCAA play. An unquestionable positive of this situation from UCLA's perspective is the pitching depth and flexibility afforded by having these two players.