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.