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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.