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.