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.