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.