Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Just within the last few minutes, I saw on my local Lubbock news broadcast that Texas Tech will be having a change in head coach. Teresa Wilson, who spent the last four years coaching the Red Raiders, will be heading to the University of Arizona to become pitching coach. Before coming to Texas Tech, Wilson enjoyed considerable success as the head coach at the University of Washington, taking the Huskies to six Women's College World Series appearances before some problems occurred in that program. Back here at Texas Tech, assistant coach Amy (Hanson) Suiter has been named interim coach. Here are some news articles on all the shifting:

Texas Tech athletics site

Arizona athletics site

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Monday, June 09, 2008

Here's my annual list of top teams' senior losses from this year's squad and top returnees for next year...

WORLD SERIES TEAMS

ARIZONA STATE

Seniors: Katie Burkhart (P), Mindy Cowles (IF), Rhiannon Baca (SS), Jackie Vasquez (OF)

Key returnees:Kaitlin Cochran (OF, Jr.), Krista Donnenwirth (SS-3B, Fr.) (year of school shown is from past season)

TEXAS A&M

Seniors: Megan Gibson (P), Amanda Scarborough (P), Jami Lobpries (IF-OF), Jamie Hinshaw (3B)

Key returnees: Erin Glasco (C, Jr.), Kelsey Spittler (OF, Fr.), Natalie Villarreal (IF, Fr.), Alex Reynolds (DP-1B, So.), Holly Ridley (RF, Jr.)

FLORIDA

Seniors: Mary Ratliff (OF)

Key returnees: Kim Waleszonia (UT, Jr.), Stacey Nelson (P, Jr.), Francesca Enea (C, So.), Ali Gardiner (1B, Jr.), Aja Paculba (2B, Fr.)

ALABAMA

Seniors: Jordan Praytor (UT), Chrissy Owens (P), Dani Woods (IF)

Key returnees: Kelsi Dunne (P, Fr.), Brittany Rogers (OF, Jr.), Kelley Montalvo (UT, Jr.), Lauren Parker (IF, Jr.), Charlotte Morgan (P-UT, So.)

UCLA

Seniors: Anjelica Selden (P), Ashley Herrera (IF), Krista Colburn (OF)

Key returnees: Megan Langenfeld (P-1B, So.), GiOnna DiSalvatore (IF, Fr.), Donna Kerr (P, Fr.), Monica Harrison (SS, Fr.), Amanda Kamekona (IF, Jr.)

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

Seniors: Holly Tankersley (DP-OF), Vanessa Soto (2B)

Key returnees: Ashley Brignac (P, Fr.)

ARIZONA

Seniors: Taryne Mowatt (P), Callista Balko (C), Adrienne Acton (OF)

Key returnees: Lauren Schutzler (OF, Fr.), Brittany Lastrapes (OF, Fr.), Sam Banister (1B, Jr.), Jenae Leles (3B, Jr.), Laine Roth (1B, Jr.), K'Lee Arredondo (SS, So.)

VIRGINIA TECH

Seniors: Angela Tincher (P), Caroline Stolle (OF)

Key returnees:

SUPER-REGIONAL TEAMS

Michigan

Seniors: Samantha Findlay (2B), Alessandra Giampaolo (OF)

Key returnees: Angela Findlay (OF, So.), Maggie Viefhaus (3B, So.), Dorian Shaw (1B, Fr.), Jordan Taylor (P, Fr.), Nikki Nemitz (P, So.)

Northwestern

Seniors: Darcy Sengewald (IF)

Key returnees: Tammy Williams (SS, Jr.), Lauren Delaney (P, So.), Nicole Pauly (2B, So.), Erin Dyer (C, Jr.), Kelly Dyer (OF, So.)

Oklahoma

Seniors: Lauren Eckermann (P), Savannah Long (IF)

Key returnees: Amber Flores (OF, So.), D.J. Mathis (P, Jr.), Samantha Ricketts (1B, Jr.), Lindsey Vandever (C, So.)

Stanford

Seniors:

Key returnees: Missy Penna (P, Jr.), Alissa Haber (OF, So.)

Houston

Seniors: Angel Shamblin (P)

Key returnees: Jessica Valis (SS, Jr.), Laurie Wagner (OF, Jr.)

Missouri

Seniors: Jen Bruck (P/UT), Amanda Renth (1B)

Key returnees: Stacy Delaney (P, Jr.), Rhea Taylor (OF, Fr.), Andee Allen (2B, Jr.)

Georgia

Seniors: Sojourner Moody (UT)

Key returnees: Sarah McCloud (P, Fr.), Taylor Schlopy (P-OF, Fr.), Kristin Schnake (IF, Jr.), Megan Wiggins (IF-OF, Fr.)

California

Seniors: Julie Meyer (C), Erika Racklin (OF), Katie Vickers (IF)

Key returnees: Valerie Arioto (UT, Fr.), Marissa Drewrey (P, So.)


One team that did not make the super-regionals, but is worthy of notice, is the University of Washington. As noted in this article looking forward to next year's Pac 10 season, star pitcher Danielle Lawrie is expected to return to the Huskies after pitching this year for the Canadian Olympic team.

UPDATE: As is inevitable, I tend to omit a few players whom many observers feel are important to their respective teams, either as departing seniors or returing players. Both to publicize the list and to allow others to suggest additions to it, I traditionally start a discussion thread at Ultimate College Softball. Here is the current thread, which contains several suggestions for additional players. My thanks to the contributors to this discussion from UCS.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

2008 WCWS Game 2

...CONGRATS TO ARIZONA STATE... ...2008 NCAA WOMEN'S SOFTBALL CHAMPIONS...

Sun Devil pitcher Katie Burkhart tossed her second straight shutout of the championship series against Texas A&M, to clinch the national title for ASU. Even if the Aggies had managed to get on the board, however, Burkhart's teammates had things under control offensively, the result being an 11-0 victory for ASU in Game 2. The Devils' Kaitlin Cochran, who had repeatedly been walked intentionally in the World Series, finally put the metal to one, belting a three-run homer tonight.

With all the great pitchers gathered in Oklahoma City -- Virginia Tech's Angela Tincher, Arizona's Taryne Mowatt, and Florida's Stacey Nelson, among others -- Burkhart was perhaps overshadowed. Back-to-back shutouts in the championship round speak for themselves, however. A&M's Megan Gibson also had a great year in the circle, but she evidently ran out of gas tonight.

Article links:

ESPN.com/Associated Press

Graham Hays column (ESPN.com)

Arizona Republic

Bryan-College Station (Texas) Eagle

ASU athletics website

Texas A&M athletics website

Monday, June 02, 2008

2008 WCWS Game 1

Arizona State has pushed across a run in the bottom of the first against Texas A&M, to lead 1-0 in the opening game of the two-out-of-three final championship series...

Krista Donnenwirth, whose hit drove in the Sun Devils' first run, adds a solo homer in the third, making it 2-0 ASU...

Donnenwirth adds yet another RBI in the fifth inning -- 3-0 Sun Devils...

...GAME OVER... ...3-0 ASU... ...SUN DEVILS LEAD SERIES 1-0...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Game 3

With a spot in the final championship series against Arizona State on the line (see the Game 2 summary below), Texas A&M and Florida are scoreless after eight innings (the regulation seven, plus one extra inning).

UPDATE: Texas A&M has defeated Florida, 1-0 in nine innings. The Aggies got a key triple in the top of the ninth when Kelsey Spittler pulled a hard grounder pulled down the right-field line, to drive in the game's first -- and ultimately only -- run. A&M second-baseperson Natalie Villarreal, who dropped a crucial pop-up in the first game of the day with Florida, engineered a nice double play in the bottom of the ninth to help short-circuit a Florida rally.

The final two-out-of-three championship series, beginning Monday night, will thus pit Texas A&M against Arizona State. Not to toot my own horn too heavily, but I did write the following exactly one week ago, before the World Series even started.


Actually, over many years of being a sports fan, my predictive ability has probably not been any better than chance. Given how rare it is for me to forecast so well, I just wanted to bask in this success.

Game 2

Arizona State rode the three-run homer of Jackie Vasquez to a 3-1 win over Alabama. With the victory, ASU becomes the first team to qualify for the final championship series, a two-out-of-three affair that will take place on Monday, Tuesday, and (if necessary) Wednesday nights.

Game 1

Florida has just beaten Texas A&M by a score of 6-1, leaving each team with one loss for the World Series and setting up a rematch at 6:00 Central on ESPN2 for the right to go to the final championship series. Each team scored a run in the second inning. The Gators really broke the game open in the fourth. With one out and a runner on third, the Aggies dropped an infield pop up, allowing the runner to score. Florida then started teeing off on A&M pitching ace Megan Gibson with some long drives and the next thing you knew, it was 4-1 Gators.

A&M removed Gibson in the fourth, presumably because Coach Jo Evans thought a three-run deficit would be difficult to overcome and thought it better to save Gibson for the rematch. Interestingly, Gator Coach Tim Walton answered by removing his ace, Stacey Nelson, at the earliest available opportunity.

Next up: Undefeated Arizona State vs. once-beaten Alabama.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Game 4

[Posted on Sunday] Alabama defeated Louisiana Lafayette 3-1, to eliminate the Ragin' Cajuns. There was a long weather-related delay late Saturday night, during which I went to sleep. It's only from this article that I learned of the game's outcome. As it turned out, play didn't resume until after midnight local time.

Bama now goes against Arizona State. The undefeated Sun Devils need only win once to make the final championship series, whereas the Crimson Tide must beat ASU twice.

Game 3

Florida has eliminated UCLA, 2-0. This makes the SEC 2-for-2 in games today against the Pac 10 (see below for a summary of Alabama's win over Arizona).

Florida next will play Texas A&M on Sunday. The Aggies, undefeated in World Series play, only need a single win over the Gators to qualify for the final championship series. Florida, with one loss already, must beat A&M twice to make the finals.

Game 2

The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!

We don't yet know who the new champion of college softball will be, but we know it will not be the 2006 and 2007 champion Arizona Wildcats. Thanks to a four-run explosion in the top of the sixth, the Alabama Crimson Tide has knocked off Arizona, 5-1. If I heard the ESPN announcers correctly, this is the first time Arizona has been eliminated in two games without a win, since 1990.

Bama will next face Louisiana Lafayette, in the second game of today's evening session (UCLA-Florida is first).

Game 1

Florida has just narrowly avoided the embarrassment of being both the first-seeded team in the tournament and the first team to go home. With Virginia Tech batting in the bottom of the seventh inning of a 0-0 game, the Hokies loaded the bases with none out. However, a ground-ball double-play (a force-out at home and then on to first base) and then a regular ground-out saved the Gators. In the top of the ninth, Florida then staged a two-out rally to score twice, and the 2-0 lead held up.

The Gators move on to face UCLA tonight, and the spectacular run of Angela Tincher and the Hokies comes to an end. The next game on tap features Arizona vs. Alabama.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Texas A&M captured tonight's opener, 2-1 over the University of Louisiana Lafayette (article). After the Ragin' Cajuns scored a run to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth, the Aggies responded with a tally in the top of the seventh that turned out to be the winning run. Given the Cajuns' tight games yesterday and today, I've made up an advertising slogan for them:

Never a (D)ULL Moment!

In the nightcap, Arizona State recorded the most decisive victory of the World Series thus far, blanking UCLA 4-0. It could have been considerably worse as, for example, the Sun Devils failed to score in a bases-loaded, none-out situation in the first.

Next up is "Survival Saturday," where the teams with one loss play each other. If you lose, you go home; but if you win, you get to keep playing. Action starts at noon Eastern, with Florida playing Virginia Tech; next is Alabama against Arizona. The losers of Friday night's games -- ULL and UCLA -- will then come onto the scene Saturday night, each being matched up against a winning team from Saturday's earlier games.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

END-OF-THE-DAY UPDATE

Day 1 of the NCAA Women's College World Series ended a short time ago, with UCLA edging Pac-10 rival Arizona, 1-0. Both teams started off a little shaky in the field, resulting in numerous baserunners for whomever was batting at the time. The Bruins got a key first-inning hit by Amanda Kamekona to drive in the game's only run. After a few innings, both starting pitchers -- UCLA's Anjelica "Jelly" Selden and U of A's Taryne Mowatt -- settled down, and there were few offensive threats by either team the rest of the way.

In the first game of the evening session, it looked like Alabama's strategy of pitching around Arizona State slugger Kaitlin Cochran was going to work, as the Tide took a 1-0 lead into the Sun Devils' at-bats in the top of the seventh. Other ASU players started getting key hits, however, and the result was a 3-1 Sun Devil win.

The two afternoon games took place while I was at the office, so I only obtained periodic score updates on the computer and did not follow the games closely. In these contests, unseeded Louisiana-Lafayette upset No. 1-seed Florida, 3-2, and Texas A&M pushed across a run in the sixth to get by Virginia Tech, 1-0.

An ESPN.com article summarizing all of the Opening Day games is available here. Also, you can visit the team-specific webpages via the links on the right, to get more information on the games of your favorite school.

Two games will be played on Friday, both in the evening, featuring today's winning teams. Texas A&M will take on Louisiana-Lafayette, followed by another all-Pac 10 match-up, between Arizona State and UCLA.

EARLY REPORT

The NCAA Women's College World Series will be getting underway momentarily (at 12:00 Central), with top-seeded Florida taking on Louisiana-Lafayette. This game will be followed, in order, by Texas A&M-Virginia Tech, Alabama-Arizona State, and UCLA-Arizona. These games will be televised on ESPN. The official NCAA bracket is available here.

ESPN.com's Graham Hays has an excellent team-by-team rundown of the series participants. As always, you can find additional information by looking at the individual teams' official websites via the links on the right-hand side of the present page.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Below is my annual diagram to see, at a glance, how the teams in the upcoming NCAA Women's College World Series fared against each other during the regular season. Arizona State stands out for both the quantity and quality of its record against WCWS teams. As is characteristic of recent years, the SEC teams (in this case, Alabama and Florida) kept to themselves during the regular season.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

END-OF-THE-DAY UPDATE

I've so gotten into making the colorful charts (below) that I haven't written much text lately. The super-regionals are now over, five of them having been sweeps and the other three going the distance. At this stage, Texas A&M and Arizona State look like the strongest teams, to me.

Virginia Tech pitcher Angela Tincher, who no-hit the U.S. national team in an exhibtion game during the season and shut down the high-powered Michigan offense this weekend, makes the Hokies a darkhouse pick, in my view.

Only three of last year's eight teams from the NCAA Women's College World Series -- Arizona, Arizona State, and Texas A&M -- are returning. The non-repeaters from last year are Baylor, DePaul, Northwestern, Tennessee, and Washington.



LATE-AFTERNOON UPDATE

Saturday, May 24, 2008

END-OF-THE-DAY UPDATE

As shown in the following chart, a fifth team has now made it to Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series, namely two-time defending champion Arizona. In the two series that opened this evening, UCLA and Texas A&M scored easy wins to take 1-0 leads over their respective opponents.



MID-DAY UPDATE

Four teams have "punched their ticket" for the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, thus far today. These results can be seen at a glance in the chart below...


As I write, a decisive third game in the super-regional between Arizona and Oklahoma is going on. It's 2-1 Wildcats after four (with UA the visitors in this game, via coin flip).

Michigan took the opener of its series against Virginia Tech, with the next game (or two, if necessary) to be held tomorrow.

Finally, the UCLA-Georgia and Texas A&M-Stanford series begin tonight.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The first night of super-regional play is now in the books. Five of the eight series got underway. As shown in the chart below, four of tonight's opening games were captured by the higher-seeded team. These series follow a two-out-of-three format. Please see the official team-specific homepages in the links section to the right, for further details on these games.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

As I wrote about in the previous days' entries, I attended this past weekend's UCLA regional. I took some pictures, which are shown immediately below (you can click on the images to enlarge them)...


Three teams -- Nevada, Purdue, and Cal State Fullerton -- came to Easton Stadium to challenge the national No. 2 seed Bruins. As can be seen both from the outside and from the inside (small inset), beach umbrellas lined the upper rim of the stadium to protect fans sitting high up from the intense sun. Temperatures were around the 90-degree mark, well above what's usual for this time of year.


In the first of Saturday's three games, UCLA and Nevada both scored early and often. Megan Langenfeld came on during the second inning for the Bruins, to replace Anjelica "Jelly" Selden.


This is my humorous attempt to display a panoramic view of the field from the left-field foul pole to the right-field one, by joining two separate photos. If the differences in color shade between the two pictures doesn't give it away, note that UCLA (in blue) is in the field in the left-hand photo, whereas Nevada (in white) is in the field in the right-hand photo.


Nevada's Sam Bias is only 5-foot-3. She also squats down heavily in her batting stance, as seen above. My best estimate is that she has a strike zone of what, a foot-and-a-half?


Nevada's Richelle "Chach" Villescas pitched admirably in long relief Saturday against UCLA, but once the Bruins got to her for some late runs, she gave way to Jordan McPherson (left). Having just lost to UCLA and thus facing a late-night game against the winner of the next game (between Cal State Fullerton and Purdue), the Wolfpack players visit with their fans on the concourse level of the stadium (right).


UCLA had perhaps only the third-best fan support, despite playing in its own stadium. In addition to Nevada's large and loud contingent, Fullerton had a well-organized family section (photographed from two different perspectives). Clad in the white shirts with orange sleeves, many Fullerton fans sported designations such as "TITAN MOM," "TITAN DAD," and "TITAN SIS."


Purdue, clad in black jerseys, knocked out Fullerton in Saturday's second game, then fell just short against Nevada in the day's third and final game (which went past midnight local time). If nothing else, Purdue would have a number of leading candidates for the All-Violent Name team, featuring Sarah Killer and Amy Butcher.


As detailed in some earlier postings, Nevada gave UCLA all it could handle, both on Saturday and in what turned out to be the final game on Sunday. Ultimately, however, the roar of the Bruin Bear could not be overcome (the bear statue is near the bookstore, athletic department offices, and Wooden Center recreational facility).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Here are the match-ups for next weekend's super-regionals. Each team's NCAA tournament seed (if any) is shown, plus I've put in links to articles on each team's winning of its respective regional this weekend. The higher-seeded team will host each super-regional series, which follows a 2-out-of-3 format.

Florida (1) vs. Cal

UCLA (2) vs. Georgia (15)

Alabama (3) vs. Missouri

Michigan (4) vs. Virginia Tech

Texas A&M (5) vs. Stanford (12)

[As an aside, both Texas A&M's Megan Gibson and Stanford's Missy Penna pitched no-hitters in helping their teams advance.]

Arizona State (6) vs. Northwestern (11)

Arizona (7) vs. Oklahoma (10)

Houston (8) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

A bracket from the official NCAA softball page, listing the dates, times, and television information (if any) for each series, is available here.

As can be seen, all of the No. 1-through-8 seeded teams won their respective regionals. It wasn't always easy, though. No. 1 Florida dropped a game to Central Florida. No. 2 UCLA went undefeated in its regional, but twice Nevada gave the Bruins all they could handle.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

With your humble blogger in the house for the UCLA region, the national No. 2 seed Bruins by all rights should have been sent to the losers' bracket, by Nevada. The Wolfpack led 4-3 with two out for the Bruins in the top of the seventh (UCLA was officially the visitor). UCLA hit a grounder to the second-baseperson that should have ended the game, but the throw pulled the first-baseperson off the bag. The Bruins then rallied for the tying run and ultimately won 6-4 in nine innings (for fans new to softball, seven innings is the regulation length). Below, I've highlighted some key plays in bold from an online play-by-play sheet:

UCLA 7th - Camuso struck out swinging. Harrison singled to left field, advanced to second on a fielding error by lf. Schroeder, J flied out to cf. Herrera reached on a throwing error by 2b; Harrison advanced to third. Schroeder, K singled through the right side, RBI; Herrera advanced to second; Harrison scored, unearned. Colburn flied out to rf. 1 run, 2 hits, 2 errors, 2 LOB.

Neither starter -- Katie Holverson for Nevada, Anjelica "Jelly" Selden for UCLA -- got out of the second inning. However, the pitchers brought in for long relief -- Richelle "Chach" Villescas for Nevada, Megan Langenfeld for UCLA -- acquitted themselves well. Nevada also flashed the leather in the field, recording three double-plays.

As I write, Nevada is getting ready to take on Purdue in some late-night action. The winner will play UCLA tomorrow; the Bruins will need to win once to advance to the super-regionals, whereas their opponent will need to win twice.

***

Two teams have already earned their way into the super-regionals, No. 3 seed Alabama and No. 15 Georgia.

One seeded team has already been eliminated, No. 14 Long Beach State. Two others, No. 9 LSU and No. 16 Fresno State, each have absorbed a single loss thus far, to Louisiana-Lafayette and Cal, respectively.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Through nearly all of today's action (and the little that took place yesterday), the NCAA tournament games are going largely according to expectation.

One team whose season has ended in what many observers would consider a premature fashion is the University of North Carolina. Though not one of the 16 teams nationally to receive a seed (the University of Georgia got the nod, at No. 15, within UNC's region), the Tar Heels had been ranked as high as No. 13 in the national polls toward the end of the season. In addition to (probably) being one of the top teams outside the 16 NCAA seeds, UNC got to host the regional in Chapel Hill, suggesting that the Tar Heels might be able to give Georgia a run for its money. It was not to be, however, as UNC was eliminated via losses to BYU and Campbell.

National No. 4 seed Michigan looked to be in some danger, trailing 4-0 against Wright State. However, the Wolverines accomplished the unusual feat of hitting two grand-slam homers in the same inning, en route to a 13-5 run-rule victory.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The NCAA bids, seedings, and regional assignments were announced earlier this evening. I have spent the last couple of hours in a labor of love, making the following geographically focused diagrams of the teams assigned to the 16 regional sites. As can be seen in the diagrams below, many of the regionals are geographically compact, thus minimizing travel expenses, whereas others are not. A more conventional region-by-region listing of teams is available here from Ultimate College Softball.

The shocker of the evening is that Arizona State, the Pac 10 conference champion and No. 1 team in the nation for much of the season in at least one of the polls, was dealt a No. 6 seed. UCLA (No. 2 seed) and Michigan (No. 4 seed) did better than I would have expected, but since I have degrees from both of these schools, I won't complain.

Here are the geography-based diagrams. You can click on any of them to enlarge them.





[CORRECTION: The region with Georgia (UGa), North Carolina (UNC), Campbell, and BYU is actually being hosted by UNC, even though UGa is the nationally seeded team.]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

EVENING

Florida (62-2) won the SEC tournament with a 4-1 victory over Alabama. Look for the Gators to be the No. 1 national seed when the NCAA field is announced tomorrow. As has been common for SEC teams in recent years, Florida did not play the toughest possible out-of-conference schedule this year. Still, a 62-2 record is amazing, regardless of schedule.

Northwestern edged Iowa 1-0 for the Big 10 tournament championship.

Tomorrow's Big 12 tourney final pits Nebraska against Texas A&M.

[Also in the Big 12 tourney, my school Texas Tech did something unusual in its opening game against Missouri. See my Hot Hand page, which is devoted to statistical analysis of sports streakiness.]

The Pac 10 title (with no tournament) goes to Arizona State (18-3), just ahead of UCLA (17-4).

MORNING

In today's conference tournament action around the country...

Florida and Alabama will be getting underway shortly in the SEC championship game. With Arizona State stumbling a bit lately, Florida seems to be in a good position to obtain the No. 1 national seeding when the NCAA field is announced on Sunday night (via a Fresno State discussion board, I learned of these details about the NCAA selection show).

Meanwhile, Iowa and Northwestern will be playing in the Big 10 title game.

The Big 12 tourney holds two rounds on Saturday (the quarter- and semi-finals) with the title game on Sunday.

***

UCLA dropped a Friday decision to Oregon State, putting the Bruins a game behind Arizona State in the Pac 10 standings. Each team has one game to play.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A couple developments from Thursday's play...

Stanford stunned Arizona State, leaving the Sun Devils tied at 16-3 with UCLA atop the Pac 10 standings.

Michigan was upset by Michigan State in the first round of the Big 10 tournament. With their national poll rankings at 5 and 6 prior to this loss, the Wolverines may be on a little shaky ground for obtaining a top-8 seed in the NCAA tournament. Such a seeding is necessary to host a super-regional (assuming you win your opening regional). Each of the last two years, Michigan has been a No. 9 seed and has had to go on the road to take on the No. 8 seed in the super-regionals (Tennessee in '06 and Baylor in '07); both times the Wolverines have lost the series two games to one.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Starting at the top of the national rankings, Arizona State scored a 5-2 victory over UCLA this afternoon, putting the Sun Devils (16-2) one game ahead of the Bruins (15-3) in the Pac 10 standings. The folks on the Left Coast don't play a conference tournament, so next weekend will feature three more games of league play for each team.

In the other major conferences covered on this blog, the regular season is now over and tournament action will be getting underway. Here is a roundup:

BIG 10

Michigan and Northwestern each won out this weekend, leaving the two teams tied. According to this Northwestern press release:

NU tied Michigan atop the conference standings this year with an 18-2 record, and after all tiebreakers between the two came out equal, the Wildcats won the official coin toss conducted by the Big Ten Conference office to determine the host of the postseason tournament.

The tournament runs this upcoming Thursday-Saturday, with the bracket available via the Northwestern softball page.

BIG 12

Texas A&M wrapped up the regular-season title a few days ago. The Aggies will thus headline the conference tournament field in Oklahoma City competing Friday-Sunday.

(Following up on an item from yesterday, Texas Tech failed to reach .500 in league play, losing today to Oklahoma State, but nevertheless enters the tournament with a respectable No. 6 seed.)

SEC

A nice overview page for the SEC's conference tourney (coming up Thursday-Saturday) is available here. Although the SEC softball page reports the standings separately for teams in the conference's Eastern and Western Divisions, the team with the best record in league play is nevertheless considered the SEC's overall regular-season champion (with the conference tourney seeded accordingly). Here is a synopsis from the SEC site:

The [Florida] Gators [No. 2 in one of the national polls] clinched the conference title by sweeping the No. 12 Tennessee Lady Vols in the final series of the regular season and posted a 27-1 record. Nationally top-ranked Alabama [in one of the polls] was upset by Georgia and finished second in the league with a 25-3 record.

I encourage everyone to check out the conference and team webpages in the links section on the right, to find out when your favorite teams are playing and learn about the available television coverage of the conference tournaments.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

UCLA shut out Arizona State, 5-0, earlier today to create a tie atop the Pac 10 standings at 15 wins and 2 losses for each team. The Bruins and Sun Devils play again tomorrow, with the winner taking a one-game lead into next weekend's final games of conference play.

Michigan defeated Penn State (in 10 innings) while Northwestern knocked off Michigan State. As a result, the Wolverines and Wildcats remain tied for first in the Big 10, with each completing its respective two-game series against today's opponent, tomorrow. The Big 10 rewards its regular-season champion with the hosting honors for the conference tournament. If two teams end up tied for first, as I understand it, then a coin flip will determine who gets to host.

A nice turnaround is taking place here in Lubbock, Texas. After starting off the year 0-12, the Texas Tech softballers finally got their act together with the start of Big 12 play. Now, with today's win over Oklahoma State, the Red Raiders (8-9) stand only one win from finishing with a .500 record in league play (a Sunday rematch against OSU awaits). Because of the horrible start, however, Texas Tech's only hope of making the NCAA tournament rests with winning the Big 12 tourney.

Friday, May 02, 2008

I've just learned via the CSTV Gametracker that UCLA frosh shortstop Monica Harrison has just homered in the bottom of the seventh to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory over Arizona. The Wildcats' Sam Banister had hit a two-out homer in the top of the seventh to tie the game 1-1.

Update: Here's an article on the UCLA win.

Meanwhile, Arizona State blanked Washington 3-0 up in Seattle. This sets up a pair of games in Los Angeles, one each Saturday and Sunday, between the Sun Devils (15-1) and Bruins (14-2), with first place in the Pac 10 at stake. Unlike the other top softball conferences, the Pac 10 does not have a conference tournament. Thus, while the other conferences are having their tournaments next weekend, UCLA will be closing out its regular season at the Oregon schools, whereas ASU will be hosting the northern California schools.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Texas A&M claimed the outright Big 12 regular-season title with a 2-1 victory tonight over the University of Texas. The game was nationally televised on ESPN-U. Previously, the Aggies had clinched at least a tie for the crown.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Northwestern takes Game 1 of its doubleheader at Michigan, 2-1. The win by one run is the Wildcats' third in their last three games. The Wolverines had the bases loaded with two out in the bottom of the seventh, but couldn't get the equalizer. Both teams left a lot of runners on base (NU 11, UM 10). Wildcat pitcher Lauren Delaney's 12 strikeouts overall -- and especially her seven combined K's of Samantha Findlay, Maggie Viefhaus, and Dorian Shaw in the heart of the Michigan line-up -- appear to have been the key to the game.

Michigan scores three runs in the bottom of the seventh to edge Northwestern 3-2 in Game 2, thus earning a split of the doubleheader. As she's done many a time over her four-year Wolverine career, Samantha Findlay gets the game-winning hit.

In Pac 10 play, UCLA enjoyed a perfect weekend in the Bay Area -- winning at Cal and twice at Stanford -- to raise its conference record to 13-2. That keeps the pressure on conference leader Arizona State, which stands at 14-1 after breezing through the Oregon schools. The Sun Devils will visit the Bruins for games next Saturday and Sunday (before that, on Friday, UCLA will host Arizona for a single game, whereas ASU will play a game at Washington).

In the Big 12, Texas A&M took two from Nebraska this weekend to clinch at least a tie for the conference title. The Aggies stand at 16-1, with one league game to go for them -- Wednesday night hosting Texas on ESPN-U. Second place Oklahoma (14-2) closes with a two-game series against Baylor.

Finally, in the SEC, Florida (No. 2/3 nationally, 24-1 in conference) sits comfortably atop the Eastern Division of the league, whereas Alabama (No. 1/3, 23-2) does the same in the West. The conference's official Sunday round-up is available here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Big 10's marquee match-up of the season takes place Sunday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as U of M hosts Northwestern for a doubleheader. Each team is 15-1 in conference play, meaning that a sweep by either team would put it in excellent position to win the league's regular-season title. The Wolverines have been flexing their offensive muscles of late, today winning their fifth straight run-rule (or mercy-rule) contest. These wins have come against Michigan State (twice), Ohio State (twice) and Eastern Michigan. Northwestern comes into Sunday's games having won two straight one-run battles at Penn State.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Just to broaden the coverage on this blog beyond the conferences I usually discuss, here's a nice article by ESPN.com's Graham Hays on the University of Massachusetts softball program.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It must have been an incredible atmosphere at Tempe earlier today, as Arizona State put on a dramatic comeback to beat intrastate rival U of A, 9-8. After the Wildcats had scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take an 8-6 lead, the Sun Devils came up with three of their own in the bottom of the inning to pull out the win.

It was the Sun Devils' first regular-season sweep of the Wildcats in 20 years; ASU had defeated U of A 8-1 on April 9, in Tucson, and 2-0 yesterday in the first game of the current two-game series in Tempe.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Starting today, this weekend in the Pac 10 will be devoted to local rivalries: Arizona-ASU, Stanford-Cal, Oregon-OSU, and UCLA against... [wait for it]... the University of Washington. OK, UCLA and U-Dub aren't that close to each other at all geographically, but with USC and Washington State not fielding softball teams, there's little alternative. These series will either be two games (if the teams have already met once before) or three. In fact, the opener of the Bruin-Husky series is already over, with UCLA winning 2-1.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A couple of belated notes from Wednesday's play...

Oklahoma State defeated Texas A&M 6-5 in the first game of the teams' doubleheader. The loss snapped two streaks: the Aggies' 12-0 start to Big 12 conference play and pitcher Megan Gibson's 25-0 win/loss record this season. A&M rebounded to take the second game, 4-3.

Another team ranked in the national top 10, Tennessee, split a doubleheader with Mississippi.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

UCLA, having been shut out by ASU (3-0) Friday night and by U of A (8-0, run rule) Saturday, was able at least to salvage a win from its weekend Arizona trip, edging the Wildcats 2-1 earlier today. In a battle of senior aces, the Bruins' Anjelica Selden prevailed over the Wildcats' Taryne Mowatt.

Arizona State, which looked to be headed to a consensus No. 1 national ranking -- and probably still will receive it -- stumbled in its weekend finale against Washington.

Texas A&M swept its two-games series from Oklahoma, both teams having come in undefeated in Big 12 play. Aggie pitcher Megan Gibson now has a 25-0 overall record. I'm probably at the head of the line in saying that won-loss record is a poor metric to evaluate pitchers, because so much depends on how well a pitcher's team provides run support. Indeed, A&M's offense is averaging 6.09 runs per game in conference play (67/11). Still, anyone with a 25-0 record has to be doing something right, and Gibson's Sunday win over the Sooners was by a 1-0 score, not exactly coasting on the offense's coattails.

Iowa, which last week put the only blemish on Michigan's Big 10 record (the Wolverines are currently 11-1), did the same this weekend to Northwestern (now 9-1). The Hawkeyes (29-13, 7-3) may be a team to keep an "eye" on.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

In late night action Friday, Arizona State shut out visiting UCLA, 3-0, in a battle of the two major national polls' No. 1 teams. ASU should now be the consensus No. 1 for a while. The Bruins now go to Tucson for games against Arizona today and tomorrow.

Conversely, Washington, which lost an extra-inning affair at Arizona last night, comes over to ASU for a pair.

Those readers not already familiar with the Pac 10's softball scheduling format may have noticed an asymmetry in the scheduling (i.e., a traveling team will play one game at one school and then two games at another school). Things are balanced out again on the return trip, so that, for example, when the Arizona schools come out to Los Angeles the first weekend in May, UCLA will host U of A once and ASU twice.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Over on the Ultimate College Softball discussion boards, a person known as "UMass Fan" has been posting highly detailed "bracketology" projections for this year's 64-team NCAA tournament. The projections go well beyond which teams will make the tournament; the 16 first-round hosting sites are forecast, along with the four teams that will be assigned to each site. Here's a link to the most recent bracketology projections!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Arizona State tuned up for its Friday night clash against UCLA, with an 8-1 win tonight at Arizona. ASU's win ends a long drought for the Sun Devils in Tucson -- the last time they won there, most of tonight's players would have been 5 years old or younger!

Texas A&M, getting ready for a pair of big games of its own this weekend against Oklahoma, defeated Texas 3-1 tonight.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

With the completion of this weekend's action, the leading teams and key developments in the major conferences are as follows:

Big 10

Northwestern leads the conference standings at 6-0, sparked by Lauren Delaney's no-hit pitching against Ohio State. Michigan is 7-1, having dropped one of two games against Iowa.

Big 12

Texas A&M (8-0) and Oklahoma (6-0) continue on undefeated in conference play. That won't last too much longer, as the Sooners will visit the Aggies for single games on Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, April 13 (before that, though, the Aggies play Wednesday at Texas, whereas the Sooners host Texas Tech for a double-header on Thursday).

A&M pitcher Amanda Scarborough, out for the season with a foot injury, continues to blog about the Aggies' season.

Pac 10

UCLA (7-0) is off to its best conference start in 15 years, having dispatched of Stanford and Cal this weekend.

Arizona State is also undefeated in league play (5-0), with its final game of the weekend, at Oregon State, suspended due to travel deadlines.

UCLA (ESPN/USA Softball) and ASU (USA Today/NFCA) are each No. 1 in a national poll (see rankings in the links section to the right). We should have a consensus on the top team soon, however, as the Bruins face the Sun Devils Friday night, April 11, in Tempe.

Arizona is 4-2 in conference play, having lost this afternoon at Oregon.

SEC

Florida leads the Eastern Division at 15-1, whereas Alabama leads the Western Division at 15-2. The Crimson Tide, ranked No. 2/3 nationally (depending on which poll), swept a three-game series from No. 10/11 LSU this weekend.

For further details, see the official conference and team pages in the links section.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tonight's Baylor-Texas game will be nationally televised on ESPN-U at 6:00 pm Central.

EVENING UPDATE: Baylor rallied for a 5-4 win over Texas in the aforementioned contest.

UCLA, which recently took over the nation's No. 1 spot in the ESPN/USA Softball poll, eked out an extra-inning victory over Washington.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The opening weekend of Pac 10 play had the Arizona schools in northern California, and the Oregon schools taking on UCLA and Washington (USC and WSU don't field softball teams). ASU swept its three games -- one at Cal, two at Stanford. Arizona, by splitting two with Cal and beating Stanford, ended up with a 2-1 record, whereas Cal and Stanford each had losing records for the weekend.

UCLA also was a perfect 3-0, with two wins over Oregon and one over OSU. Washington had its one scheduled game with UO rained out, and split with OSU.

At the end of the Big 10's first weekend of play, traditional powers Michigan, having taken two games from each of the Indiana schools, IU and Purdue; and Northwestern, with a pair of two-game sweeps over Wisconsin and Minnesota respectively, are tied atop the conference at 4-0.

Only two Big 12 teams still have perfect conference records at this point, Texas A&M (6-0) and Oklahoma (4-0). Baylor is struggling at 1-5.

For further details, see the various official conference and team pages in the links section on the right. The SEC, in particular, provides nice weekend round-up articles, which saves me a lot of work!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Last night, I attended my first softball game of the season, as Texas Tech held on for a 5-4 win over Texas, here in Lubbock. This was one of the Red Raiders' first home games, as they played in several tournaments around the country during the nonconference part of the schedule. I was very impressed with Texas Tech's defense.

The Big 10 and Pac 10 open conference play this weekend, joining the SEC, Big 12, and other leagues that have already done so. See the conference softball pages in the links column to the right, for further details.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I noticed recently that Michigan's slugging senior Samantha Findlay, a longtime first-baseperson in the field, has been moved to second base. A little research turned up the fact that this change was first made a while ago.

The move allows frosh Dorian Shaw to play first; Shaw homered for the Wolverines last weekend in Fullerton at the Judi Garman tournament. As of UM's March 22 statistical report, Shaw had a slugging percentage of .475, essentially matching third-baseperson Maggie Viefhaus (.488), but still well behind Findlay (.815). How's that for a power-hitting infield? (Full disclosure: I received my Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fresno State was the only team to go through the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, CA without losing a game. En route, the Bulldogs handed two teams, Michigan and Long Beach State, their only losses of the tournament. No. 1 Arizona State (with a loss to Florida State) and San Diego State (with a loss to the Wolverines) also finished with one loss each (for further details, go to the tournament website and then scroll down when the page comes up).

A round-up of this weekend's SEC play through Saturday (there was only a limited amount of non-conference action on Easter Sunday) is available here.

After the first weekend of Big 12 play, four teams are undefeated in the conference: Texas A&M (3-0), Missouri (2-0), Oklahoma (2-0), and Texas (2-0). For further information, see the official Big 12 conference page via the links in the right-hand column.

Friday night in Lubbock, Texas Tech appeared on the verge of upsetting #7/9 Texas A&M, leading 3-0. However, A&M rallied in the late innings of regulation to tie the game, then broke out for 4 runs in the 9th, eventually winning 7-3.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Here are a couple of major developments taking place in the coming days...

Play in the Big 12 conference gets underway Wednesday night, with Texas A&M hosting Baylor in a battle of nationally ranked squads; both were in the Women's College World Series a year ago. A full slate of conference games will then be played on Friday and Saturday (no games are on Easter Sunday). Also, I noticed from the Aggie softball page that pitcher Amanda Scarborough is writing a blog this season.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Aggies win big. FURTHER UPDATE: Amanda Scarborough is out for the season, due to a foot injury originally suffered a month ago. Scarborough's injury -- the exact nature of which was not specified in the news release -- is said to be to the Lisfranc area of her right foot.

Out west, Cal State Fullerton will be hosting the Judi Garman Classic, from Wednesday to Saturday. Top teams in the field include Arizona, Arizona State, DePaul, Michigan, and Washington. The host Titans own a recent upset win over highly ranked UCLA.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Alabama and Florida split a doubleheader earlier tonight. This SEC battle of top 5 nationally ranked programs caught me off-guard, as marquee match-ups tend to take place on the weekends. In fact, I was just looking at some softball sites to see what the big games were for this upcoming weekend, when I discovered that the Tide and Gators had already played!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Alabama took 2-of-3 from Tennessee in the teams' SEC opening-weekend series, while Florida swept Ole Miss. The concluding games of these series are summarized in this Sunday round-up from the SEC softball page.

At the Long Beach State Invitational, UCLA went a perfect 5-0, including an eight-inning 1-0 win over the host school. The tourney was not kind to Northwestern, who lost three games -- to Virginia Tech, Long Beach State, and UCLA -- without scoring a single run. The Wildcats' Lauren Delaney actually threw a no-hitter against VaTech, but lost 1-0 in eight innings, in good part due to the international tie-breaker policy of having each team start its at-bats in an extra inning with a runner automatically placed on second; for her part, Hokies pitcher Angela Tincher allowed only one hit in the contest (article, box score).

Another bunch of Wildcats -- the ones from Arizona -- had their 13-game winning streak snapped by Creighton.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The highlight of this weekend's action is the beginning of conference play in the SEC -- and it begins with a bang! The league's two premier programs, national No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Tennessee, will be meeting in Tuscaloosa. So eagerly anticipated is the three-game series (a doubleheader Saturday, plus a single game Sunday) that 'Bama is selling special hillside general-admission seats to accommodate the excess crowd. There's no question that the Vols suffered greater senior losses from last year's team (including pitching ace Monica Abbott) than did the Tide, but Tennessee seems to be hanging in there.

Also within the SEC, Florida (24-1 and No. 5 in both polls with a few first-place votes in each) hosts Mississippi.

Speaking of Florida, the only team to defeat the Gators this season, Long Beach State, hosts a tournament this weekend that also includes UCLA and Northwestern (Long Beach tournament site).

Sunday, March 02, 2008

No. 1 ranked Alabama suffered its first loss of the season, falling 6-3 to host University of Washington at the Husky Classic.

Meanwhile, at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Georgia, two teams, Tennessee and Michigan, compiled 5-0 records against their respective opponents. Texas A&M went 4-1, losing only to UMass (which went 2-3). DePaul went 5-1, losing only to Texas A&M.

Among the other highly ranked teams nationally, UCLA swept all of its games in the San Diego tournament, with frosh pitcher Donna Kerr tossing a five-inning perfect game against St. Peter's; Northwestern dropped a game to Bradley in the Southern Illinois tournament; and Arizona State swept all its games in another of the many tournaments the Sun Devils are hosting this season.

Lastly, my local team, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, tasted victory for the first time this season, going 3-2 in the Fullerton tourney; Tech had been 0-12 coming in.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This weekend's top gathering appears to be the 21-team NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Georgia. The headlining teams include Tennessee, Texas A&M, DePaul, and Michigan.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Nic Hoch, the radio announcer and student manager for the University of Alabama softball team, has started a blog about the Crimson Tide for this season. Nic posts frequently, so give it a look. I've created a new area in my links section (see right-hand column) for "Unofficial Team Pages" and my first entry there is a link to Nic's page.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

This weekend's major event, the Palm Springs Classic, is now complete; one can find all the results by clicking on the link and then scrolling down to the chart listing all games.

With 24 teams each playing five (or six) games with preordained matchups and no playoff brackets, there cannot really be a definitive winner. Having said that, there did appear to be a standout team, namely the UCLA Bruins. As noted in this UCLA athletics release, the Bruins "...went 5-0 this weekend with four victories over Top 20 teams." The ranked teams mowed down by UCLA were Northwestern, Hawaii, Baylor, and Georgia, with UMass the remaining team. Further, as the article notes, UCLA senior pitcher Anjelica "Jelly" Selden seems to be regaining the form of her frosh and soph seasons in Westwood.

Stanford, one of the teams that played six games, won its first five, before dropping its finale to Texas; the loss was the Cardinal's first of the season.

The most interesting body of work for the tournament arguably belongs to San Diego State. The Aztecs went 2-3, but the victories came over Arizona and Northwestern, two teams that have spent time this season at (or near) the top of the national rankings.

***

This afternoon, I was watching a little of the Notre Dame-at-DePaul women's basketball game on ESPN-U. During halftime, the interview guest was none other than Blue Demon head softball coach Eugene Lenti. Noting that he had a senior-laden team this year, Lenti expressed optimism about DePaul's chances of making it back to the Women's College World Series.

Another development, which has been public for a while but was news to me, is the arrival at DePaul of former University of Texas pitching star Cat Osterman as pitching coach. As this article describes, however, Osterman will not be available on a regular basis to the Demon pitchers, due to a heavy traveling schedule with the U.S. national team heading into this summer's Beijing Olympics.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I just found the tournament website for the 24-team Palm Springs Classic, which starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday (if you go to the tourney website, you'll need to scroll down a bit to see the list of participating teams and the schedule).

Northwestern, ranked No. 2 and 3 nationally in the two major polls, will be playing in Palm Springs. So will UCLA, Arizona, Oklahoma, and LSU, all of whom are ranked in (or near) the top 10. The U.S. national team is also included in the field.

Elsewhere this weekend, consensus No. 1 Alabama will play in the Florida International University tournament.

Arizona State and Texas A&M, each of whom is in the top 4 of both national polls, are both in action this weekend. The Sun Devils host what looks to be a low-key tournament, a pattern they will be repeating for the next couple of weekends thereafter (see ASU's homepage in the links section to the right, for the team's schedule). The Aggies, too, will be hosting a tournament this weekend; similar to ASU's, the A&M tourney lacks "big name" opposition.

***

Given how cold February tends to be in the midwestern and northeastern United States, college softball teams from these regions typically will travel to warmer climates to play in tournaments at this time of year. In recent weeks, however, some snowbelt teams have been staying home -- and under a dome.

I've tried to find pictures online of softball being played on what ordinarily would be a baseball or football field, with some success. There's a nice photo gallery from the February 9-10 tournament at North Dakota State's Fargo Dome. For the 2007 Northern Iowa UNI-Dome Classic, I found two galleries (here and here); you might want to check back here to see if 2008 tourney photos appear at some point. Finally, Minnesota has hosted a tournament at the Metrodome in recent years; here's an article from 2005 with a photo.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The University of Arizona will surely drop from the No. 1 national ranking, following three losses this weekend -- to Northwestern, Texas A&M, and Nevada -- at the Kajikawa Classic hosted by Arizona State. Northwestern compiled a perfect record at the tourney, including a win over A&M. The host Sun Devils also went undefeated, with the school's official athletics website proclaiming ASU the tournament champion. Skeptics will note, however, that the Devils did not play as tough a schedule as did some other teams.

At the Time/Warner Cable Invitational in Austin, Texas, the University of Michigan finsihed as the only undefeated team, taking a Sunday game from Penn State, and Friday games from Cal State Fullerton and the University of Texas (Saturday's action was rained out).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The jewel of this weekend's set of college softball tournaments is the Kajikawa Classic hosted by Arizona State. In addition to the Sun Devils, the field includes top-ranked Arizona, Texas A&M, and Northwestern (the latter two teams are also ranked within the top 7 nationally). ASU and U of A will not play each other in this tournament.

Elsewhere, the University of Texas hosts the Time/Warner Cable Invitational. The Longhorns are right around the border of the national top 25 (in it, according to one poll, and out of it, according to the other). Two other participants, Michigan and Cal State Fullerton, are in the top 25, with Penn State rounding out the field.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Today's Arizona Daily Wildcat offers its season preview of the two-time defending NCAA World Series champions' prospects for the 2008 season.

Among the topics discussed in the article is the arrival of two first-year players, Brittany Lastrapes and Lauren Schutzler, each of whom has an older sister who achieved softball prominence at a rival school -- Dominique Lastrapes at Washington and Lindsay Schutzler at Tennessee.

Also, as was covered in a previous Daily Wildcat article, longtime coach Mike Candrea is taking the collegiate season off (most of it, anyway, in what the article calls a "partial leave") to coach the U.S. Olympic team, with veteran assistant coach Larry Ray filling in as skipper.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

With the possible exception of Tennessee (ranked No. 6 and 11 in the two national polls), none of the biggest name teams nationally blew away the field at their respective opening-weekend tournaments. Consensus No. 1 Arizona was idle, but Arizona State and Texas A&M, each of which was ranked No. 2 in one poll and No. 3 in the other, were in action.

The Lady Vols went 5-0 in the Cathedral City Kickoff, but tempering this result somewhat is that they didn't play Texas A&M. The Aggies went 4-1 in the event, losing on opening day in what was probably the weekend's biggest shocker -- a 5-1 drubbing by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (which ended up with a 2-3 record).

Arizona State and UNLV each went 3-1 in the tournament hosted by the latter (the Sun Devils lost to UNLV, whereas the Rebels lost to Loyola of Chicago).

UCLA finished with a 4-1 record in its own tournament, splitting two games with Oklahoma. The Sooners apparently engaged in some creative scheduling, taking the middle day of the UCLA event off and going over to Cal State Fullerton to play a couple of games; OU, now 3-2, lost a game to the Titans.

Finally, at the Florida Atlantic University tourney, the top teams were Maryland and Michigan, each ending up with one loss -- to each other.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Welcome to Year 3 of the College Softball Blog!

I always like to start each season with a photo. The one above features me in my office at Texas Tech University, standing alongside two softball schedule posters I have up on the wall, for last year's Arizona and Texas Tech squads.

As always, the initial, nonconference, weeks of the schedule are dominated by tournaments in warm-weather locales. A little bit of play begins today, with more action getting underway Friday and Saturday. Here are some highlights, with links to tournament websites...

UNLV tourney, featuring among others Arizona State, Washington, and Texas Tech (the two Pac-10 teams will not meet).

Oregon State, Texas A&M, and Tennessee are in the Cathedral City Kick-Off.

Oklahoma is among the teams participating in UCLA's tourney.

Finally, Michigan and UMass are in the field for the Florida Atlantic University Kick-Off Classic in Boca Raton.

For a comprehensive list of all games taking place this weekend, go to Ultimate College Softball (see the links section to the right), then select UCS Forum, and then Scoreboard.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Amateur Softball Association's 50-player "watch list" for possible national collegiate Player-of-the-Year honors has been announced by USA Softball.

Based on my recollections of how various players did last year, I'll go out on a limb and name a "Dandy Dozen" really serious candidates, as follows alphabetically by team:

Taryne Mowatt (Arizona) Sr. P

Katie Burkhart (Arizona State) Sr. P

Kaitlin Cochran (Arizona State) Jr. OF

Kirsten Shortridge (Baylor) Soph. P/OF

Brandice Balschmiter (Massachusetts) – Jr. P

Angela Findlay (Michigan) Soph. OF

Samantha Findlay (Michigan) Sr. 1B

Lauren Eckermann (Oklahoma) Sr. P

Megan Gibson (Texas A&M) Sr. P/1B

Amanda Scarborough (Texas A&M) Sr. P/1B

Krista Colburn (UCLA) Sr. OF

Ashley Charters (Washington) Sr. IF

Friday, January 25, 2008

The USA Today/NFCA preseason softball poll came out a couple of days ago, and the overwhelming No. 1 choice is two-time defending NCAA World Series champion Arizona (see link to poll in the right-hand column). The Wildcats received 27 of the 29 first-place votes. Taryne Mowatt, Arizona's pitching stalwart in last year's World Series, returns for her senior year. Two seniors who powered the Cats' offensive engine last season, Caitlin Lowe and Kristie Fox, are of course gone, leaving somewhat of a question mark about this year's run production.

The remainder of the projected top 5 include (in order)Texas A&M, Arizona State, Alabama, and Oklahoma. Major teams' returnees and senior losses from last season are summarized here.

I'm a University of Michigan alumnus (Ph.D., 1989), so maybe I'm looking at things through maize and blue-tinted glasses, but a preseason No. 12 ranking seems unduly low. Samantha Findlay, who hit the big home run to lead the Wolverines to the 2005 NCAA championship, returns for her senior year, accompanied by soph sister Angela Findlay. Also, by the end of last season, newcomer Nikki Nemitz (now a sophomore) had established herself as a solid pitcher.

Friday, January 18, 2008

It's been a long time since I last posted, but the start of the 2008 season is only a few weeks away and it's time to get going again!

The Big 12 conference just announced its pre-season coaches' poll, and Texas A&M is the favorite to win the conference title. I am on the faculty at one of the Big 12 schools, Texas Tech, and this press release from the school's athletic department presents an optimistic view of the Red Raiders' predicted seventh-place finish.