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.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Today marks the end of the regular season in three of the four power conferences -- the Big 10, Big 12, and SEC -- all of which will be holding postseason conference tournaments during the latter part of this coming week. The remaining conference, the Pac 10, does not hold a tournament, so next weekend will consist of "regular" conference play.

The final standings are now known for the Big 10. Ohio State has once again defeated Penn State, this time by a 4-0 score, to edge out Northwestern for first place. The Big 10 awards its regular-season champion the right to host the conference tourney, so teams will be converging on Columbus in the next several days.

Likewise, the Big 12's regular-season champion has been determined. As noted in this article from the Missouri website:

In a game with Big 12 title implications, the Tiger softball team (37-21, 13-4) was unable to hold off Nebraska (37-20, 10-8), 3-1, and finished the regular season in third behind No. 7 Baylor (14-3) and No. 3 Oklahoma (14-4).

The Big 12 tournament has a permanent site in Oklahoma City.

Finally (for now), in a game televised on ESPN, Tennessee routed Alabama, 9-2, in the opener of a doubleheader. I have not been able to locate a final score on Game 2 yet.

UPDATE: Tennessee took Game 2 over Alabama by a score of 4-0.

The Lady Vols are now being referred to as the SEC regular-season champion, even though the conference's official softball page has consistently listed the standings separately for the SEC East and West. SEC teams play a balanced conference schedule (three games each, barring weather-related cancellations, against 10 conference opponents, with Vanderbilt not fielding a team). The only purpose I can think of for the East/West separation is perhaps to aid in seeding for the conference tourney (which will be hosted by Auburn).

Something I forgot to mention in my original posting today is that Tennessee's Monica Abbott surpassed former Texas pitcher Cat Osterman (who was in the broadcast booth for ESPN) for the NCAA career strikeout record with a first-inning "K" in Game 1 against Alabama.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

UPDATE: Due to heavy rain in Knoxville, there will be no game today between national No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Tennessee. Initially, this afternoon's doubleheader was shifted to a single game tonight, but even that was unworkable, due to accumulated water on the field. The teams will try to play two tomorrow. See this announcement from the Tennessee athletics website for further detail.

Meanwhile, the headline on the Ohio State athletics website proclaims "One Win Away," as the Buckeye softballers have defeated Penn State in today's opener of the teams' two-game series and need to do so again tomorrow to claim the regular-season Big 10 title and, with it, the hosting honors for the conference tourney.

LATER UPDATE: Baylor has defeated Texas A&M 5-4 in 10 innings, clinching at least a share of the Big 12 title for the Bears. According to this game article:

The Lady Bears could win the conference championship outright with a Missouri loss to Nebraska on Sunday. No matter the outcome of Sunday's game, Baylor will claim the top seed in next weekend's Big 12 Softball Championships in Oklahoma City, Okla., holding the tiebreaker over the Lady Tigers.

The ending of the game, which as the home team, Baylor won in the bottom of the tenth, was hastened by the Big 12's use of a tie-breaking procedure that (I believe) kicks in when a game goes to 10 innnings, where each team begins its at-bats with a runner on second:

[Chelsi] Lake (Keller, Texas) began the tenth frame on second base due to international tie-breaker rules but could not advance as Alex Colyer (Houston, Texas) struck out to lead off the inning. Lake then advanced to third on a passed ball by Beverly Rowan. After Tiffany Wesley (Baton Rouge, La.) also went down on strikes, Lake came home on the second passed ball of the inning.

Just recently, Arizona's game at Stanford had to be halted and declared a tie after 12 innings so the Wildcats could catch their flight home. The international tie-breaker was not used in that game, although I found some old articles indicating that the Pac 10 formerly used it (such as this one). Perhaps it's time for the conference to go back to it.

Friday, May 04, 2007


The SEC regular season closes on a high note this weekend, with the nation's No. 1-ranked team, Alabama, facing No. 2 Tennessee in a three-game series. The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon and a single game on Sunday (the conference tournament then begins on Thursday, May 10).

The official SEC softball page has a nice preview of the series, with all kinds of statistics and brief featured-player profiles.

I've been skeptical of 'Bama this season, given what I consider a much less challenging schedule than that played by other top teams in the country (click here to see the Tide's schedule and results, and be sure to look at the column titled "Opp Rank" to see the ranking, if any, of each of their opponents).

Quoting from the Tennessee article previewing the series:

The series opener (Saturday at 1 p.m. ET) will be shown on ESPN2 while the finale (Sunday 1 p.m. ET) will be broadcast on ESPN with Eric Collins and U.S. National Team member Cat Osterman on the call for the two match-ups.

The preview article from Alabama's site is available here.

I would be remiss, especially if there are any LSU fans reading this, if I didn't note that the No. 4 Bayou Bengals have won their series against Alabama and Tennessee this season, each by two games to one. LSU has Georgia on its mind this weekend.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Earlier tonight, in a game televised on CSTV, Baylor used a late offensive outburst to down Texas, 5-2.

During the game, the television announcers told a story, of which I was unaware, on the history of Baylor softball. Enhancing the story is the role played by Texas assistant coach Corrie Hill, a Baylor player at the time.

It seems that, as the 1988 season was coming to a close, Baylor had decided to drop softball, effective upon completion of the schedule. With one out to go in the team's last game, against Sam Houston State, the Baylor players, including the aforementioned Hill, walked off the field in protest of the sport's cancellation.

Then, when Baylor was included in the upcoming merger of the old Southwest Conference and the Big 8, to form the Big 12 (which began competition in the 1996-97 academic year), the school decided to restore the roar of Bear softball.

Apparently, not liking any loose ends in their lives, a number of players from 1988, again including Hill, decided to stage a symbolic resumption of the Baylor-Sam Houston State game, more than seven years after the earlier walkout. Many, though not all, of the Baylor and SHSU players came back for the conclusion, as did the same umpire.

Some fill-in players were required, though, and as noted by the CSTV announcers, one of the participants in the resumed game was a women's basketball player who had always wanted to play softball.

A brief article on the resumption of the game, from Baylor's newspaper The Lariat on September 14, 1995, can be accessed by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tonight's scheduled game featuring Texas A&M at Baylor has been postponed until Saturday, due to rain.