Thursday, February 08, 2007
With the 2007 college softball season beginning tonight, I welcome you to Season 2 of the College Softball Blog! In tonight's posting, I preview this weekend's major non-conference tournaments (which generally aren't tournaments in the sense of brackets and elimination rounds, but rather pre-arranged match-ups among the competing teams).
The bulk of the nation’s top teams (four of the top five according to the pre-season polls; see links on the right) are playing in Arizona State’s Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, the schedule for which is here.
Of the 22 schools in the Kajikawa Classic, five are from the Pac-10: host Arizona State, defending NCAA champion University of Arizona, University of Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA.
It appears that each team in the competition plays five games, except the home state ASU and U of A, who each play six. Arguably the signature game of the tournament will be a Saturday rematch of last year's College World Series championship series, the Battle of the Wildcats, Arizona vs. Northwestern.
In my view, Texas A&M and Northwestern may have toughest schedules in the tournament.
As noted in a press release from the official Northwestern athletics website:
“Northwestern opens the season February 9-11 with four-consecutive games against ranked teams, facing No. 13 Texas A&M, No. 21 Fresno State, No. 8 Stanford and No. 1 Arizona at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.”
In addition to Northwestern (pre-season No. 4 nationally), A&M’s opponents in the Kajikawa include Fresno State, Arizona, and UCLA (No. 3).
Three Big 12 teams from the Lone Star State are in the tournament: the aforementioned Texas A&M (this year's favorite for the conference championship), the Cat Osterman-less Texas (the lanky left-hander having finished her collegiate career at last year's World Series), and the school where I'm on the faculty, Texas Tech. Today's student newspaper, the Daily Toreador, had an article on the Parker twins, Ashley and Heather, who play for the Red Raiders.
The tournament this weekend that appears to rank second to the Kajikawa in the cache of its teams is San Diego State’s Campbell/Cartier Classic, which is getting underway tonight. The Campbell/Cartier features California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Oregon State, San Diego State, and UC Santa Barbara. In the two major national pre-season polls, Oregon State and Cal are top 10 teams, and UMass (led by soph pitcher Brandice Balschmiter, who had an amazing debut season in 2006) is in the top 25.
Tennessee, the pre-season No. 2 pick nationally, plays in the University of North Carolina tournament. Volunteers' star pitcher Monica Abbott was featured recently in an ESPN.com article.
To see where other top teams are starting off their seasons, see the team-specific pages in the links section on the right.
I hope you enjoy the blog and visit often during the season!