Saturday, June 06, 2009

Here is my annual list of graduating seniors and key returnees for the teams in the recently concluded Women's College World Series, as well as other top players not in the WCWS. To construct the lists, I looked at the NFCA and Easton All-America teams, finalists for Player of the Year, and various All-Region and All-Conference teams. You can click on the chart to enlarge it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

2009 WCWS Game 2

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON...


Here's how I live-blogged the final at-bats of the game:

Washington is two outs away from the national championship, leading Florida 3-2 in the top of the seventh. But the Gators just got a double, putting the tying run on second... The next batter walks, putting runners on first and second... Strike-out, the Huskies are one out away... And another strike-out... THE HUSKIES ARE THE CHAMPIONS!

Here's an article posted tonight on the UW athletics site about the championship.

Monday, June 01, 2009

2009 WCWS Game 1

Washington gets an easy win over Florida tonight in Game 1 of the NCAA Women's College World Series final round and thus stands just one win away from the championship.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Washington used a first-inning grand-slam homer from pitcher Danielle Lawrie and some late insurance runs to defeat Georgia by a score of 9-3 in tonight's late game. The win gives U-Dub a spot in the best-of-three championship series against Florida starting Monday (Georgia had defeated Washington earlier today, 9-8 in nine innings, to force tonight's rematch). The Huskies thus claimed "top dog" status over Georgia on their side of the bracket.

Florida got a two-out grand-slam homer from Ali Gardiner in the bottom of the seventh to edge Alabama 6-5. The Crimson Tide made a strong recovery in the tournament after looking "not ready for prime time" in an opening-round loss to Michigan. But, as a result of tonight's heartbreaking loss to the Gators, Bama is now eliminated.

Lowrie's and Gardiner's grand-slams are among four that have been hit so far in this World Series.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

With today's action now complete, we're down to four teams -- and three of them are from the SEC. Sunday's schedule is as follows:

*Washington will face Georgia at 1:00 Eastern. If the Huskies win, they advance to the championship series. If the Bulldogs win, the teams will have a decisive rematch at 7:00 Eastern.

*Florida and Alabama will play at 3:00 Eastern. A win by the Gators will put them in the championship round, whereas a Tide win will force a rematch at 9:00 Eastern.

Here is a summary of Saturday's results...

Evening Session

Alabama eliminated its second Arizona-based opponent of the day, defeating ASU, 6-2, in the nightcap. A fourth-inning grand-slam by Jazlyn Lunceford was the big blow for the Crimson Tide.

Georgia sent Michigan back home to Ann Arbor, by a 7-5 score. The star of the game had to be the Bulldogs' Taylor Schlopy, who homered twice -- solo in the first, a three-run job in the second.

Afternoon Session

Alabama drubbed Arizona, 14-0, in a run-rule game, thus eliminating the Wildcats.

In today's opener, Georgia knocked off Missouri, 5-2. The Tigers were thus the first team to be excused from the Women's College World Series.

Friday, May 29, 2009

If you like pitchers' duels, tonight was your night at the Women's College World Series. If you like to see a lot of runs being scored, it wasn't your night.

Florida used Stacey Nelson's one-hit pitching and a sixth-inning homer by Megan Bush to edge Michigan, 1-0.

In the earlier game, Washington defeated Arizona State, 1-0, in eight innings.

Tomorrow will be a busy day, with all teams except Florida and Washington taking the field as part of "Elimination Saturday."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

No. 1 seeded Florida closed out the first day at the NCAA Women's College World Series by shutting out Arizona, 3-0. The Gator win prevents the SEC from going winless on the day, while also halting what had been a perfect day by Pac 10 teams.

Florida will next meet Michigan, who defeated Alabama, 6-1. The Gator-Wolverine battle will be Friday night 9:00 Eastern on ESPN.

The two other winning teams from today, Arizona State and Washington, will play Friday night at 7:00 Eastern on ESPN 2. ASU got out to a fast 6-0 lead against Mizzou in Thursday afternoon action, and coasted to a 7-3 victory. Washington took the opener, 3-1 over Georgia.

The teams that lost today will have until Saturday to regroup, before beginning play in the losers' bracket of this double-elimination event.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Here's the schedule for Thursday's opening action in the NCAA Women's College World Series...

Washington vs. Georgia (1:00 Eastern)

Missouri vs. Arizona State (3:00 Eastern)

Alabama vs. Michigan (7:00 Eastern)

Arizona vs. Florida (9:00 Eastern)

All games are on ESPN. Check out the team homepages in the links section to the right (I've asterisked the WCWS participants in an attempt to make them stand out).

UPDATE: ESPN.com's Graham Hays has a detailed, team-by-team run-down of the WCWS participants.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

With the start of the NCAA Women's College World Series just two days away, readers may be interested in how the teams in the WCWS field fared against each other during the regular season. As per my annual custom, I've created the diagram below...


Florida and Washington really seemed to go the extra mile to schedule a tough nationally based schedule, and each did very well against this competition. Michigan, to a lesser degree, showed national ambition, but didn't do quite as well.

Georgia and Arizona State will really have to turn things around, in terms of their performance against nationally elite teams, if they're to have any chance in the World Series.

Finally, there's Missouri, who did not play any games during the regular season against any of the other seven (eventual) World Series teams. Mizzou will be an unknown entity to the other seven teams (at least in terms of direct playing experience), and the other teams will be unknown entities to Mizzou. To whose benefit will this accrue?

Monday, May 25, 2009

ESPN.com's Graham Hays looks at the personal side of Michigan coach Carol Hutchins.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Our Super-Regional Board is now complete, with Missouri "run-ruling" UCLA, 9-1, in Game 3 to earn the final ticket to the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. The World Series will begin Thursday...


Two teams joined the WCWS field earlier today, Florida and Washington. The Gators swept a pair of tight, low-scoring contests from Cal, whereas the Huskies picked up an easy win over Georgia Tech to close out their series.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A long day of softball is now over. With Missouri upsetting UCLA, 2-1, here's the Super-Regional Board at the conclusion of Saturday's play...


The opening of the Florida-Cal super-regional series in Gainesville was rained out, so play will begin Sunday.

Defending NCAA champion Arizona State will be returning to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, having routed North Dakota State in a game that was out of reach very quickly.

Michigan will be making its first trip back to the World Series since 2005, when the Wolverines won it all. With a 7-1 win over Baylor this afternoon, Michigan ends a three-year streak of losing in the super-regionals. The Wolverines will now head down to Oklahoma City having won 26 of their last 27 games.

Alabama has eliminated Jacksonville State to advance to the WCWS. The Crimson Tide's Kelsi Dunne pitched no-hit ball throughout the super-regional -- a pair of five-inning run-rule games.

Washington won its opener against Georgia Tech.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Arizona has just completed a second straight win over Stanford tonight, sending the Wildcats to the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. In the finale, the Cardinal closed a 6-2 deficit to 6-5 in the bottom of the sixth, but went quietly in the seventh. Here is how my Super-Regional Board now looks at the conclusion of Friday's action.


Georgia became the first team to "punch its ticket" to the World Series with a win over Ohio State.

Meanwhile, Alabama, Arizona State, and Michigan have taken 1-0 series leads over their respective opponents. Dorian Shaw had a spectacular night for the Wolverines, belting three homers!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Here is how my "Super-Regional Board" looks at the end of Thursday night's play.


Indeed, tonight's winners are Georgia (over Ohio State) and Stanford (over Arizona). As coincidence would have it, both games were decided by a score of 6-4.

As I noted in my introduction earlier today, there are eight "super" series, each two-out-of-three games. In any given super-regional, the teams will play a single game on the first day, then one or two on the second day (depending on whether a third and deciding game is necessary). The ESPN family of television networks (ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPN U) will be showing the games. Alternatively, you can watch games on your computer via the free broadcasts on ESPN 360. You can also visit the team pages for the participating schools (asterisked) in the links section to the right.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

12:21 AM Monday Central time

As the late broadcasting legend Howard Cosell used to shout in his New York accent when a dramatic sporting event came to an end, "It's all over!" Washington has finished off UMass in the bottom of the 15th, making the Huskies the final team (chronologically) to gain entry into the super-regionals.

12:09 AM Monday Central time

Washington has broken through with five runs in the top of the 15th to take a 6-1 lead over UMass. The Minutewomen had a chance to get out of the inning with no runs allowed, but the Huskies' Jenn Salling beat out an infield grounder with the bases loaded and two out. After that, the floodgates opened.

10:30 Central time

There's one more spot in the super-regionals, for which UMass and Washington are battling tenaciously. In a game that may reach midnight Eastern time, the Minutewomen and Huskies are tied 1-1 going to the 11th inning. Pitching aces Brandice Balschmiter and Danielle Lawrie are in the circle for, respectively, UMass and U-Dub. You can watch the game (or what's left of it) here for free.

Arizona State and Georgia Tech are in.

7:06 Central time

Jacksonville State (of Alabama) is the second longshot to make the super-regionals, with two straight wins over Tennessee today.

Alabama and Stanford are also headed to the supers, each winning its respective regional with ease.

The No. 3 national seed Washington Huskies may be experiencing "Mass Hysteria" at the moment, as the host University of Massachusetts has defeated U-Dub, 5-1, forcing a decisive rematch for the regional championship, beginning about now.

5:11 Central time

UCLA and Baylor are in.

4:15 Central time

We have two more teams that have made the "supers": Arizona and North Dakota State (yes, North Dakota State).

2:37 Central time

We have three more super-regional qualifiers: Missouri, Cal, and Florida.

1:49 Central time

Michigan advances to the super-regionals, thanks to a late offensive explosion that defeats Notre Dame, 4-0.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

2:48 Central time

Georgia's the second team to qualify for the super-regionals, getting a walk-off two-run homer from Megan Wiggins to defeat North Carolina, 4-2.

1:50 Central time

Ohio State becomes the first team to make the super-regionals, knocking off Kentucky, 7-2. The Columbus, Ohio, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, regionals started a day earlier than the rest. At the latter site, UNC and Georgia are the final two remaining teams, with the Bulldogs needing just one win to advance and the Tar Heels, two. In Game 1, the teams are tied 2-2 after five innings (with Georgia the home team).

1:15 Central time

We have one upset so far -- North Dakota State over Oklahoma, 1-0, in 11 innings...

...and one near-upset -- Michigan rallying for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to edge Notre Dame, 2-1.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Not a good day so far for Chicago-area teams in NCAA tournament competition...

Northwestern, the only national seed (#12) in the Waco, Texas regional, has been stunned 8-0 by Texas State in run-rule fashion.

DePaul, the only national seed (#15) in the Columbia, Missouri regional, was edged by Bradley, 1-0.

Elsewhere, the song of the day might as well have been "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," as weather considerations delayed action in the Ann Arbor, Michigan; Columbia, Missouri; and Norman, Oklahoma sites.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Let the tournament begin! Two of the NCAA regional sites -- Chapel Hill, NC and Columbus, OH -- get underway today. Above is a montage of programs and ticket stubs from regionals I've attended in recent years. By visiting family in Los Angeles or attending academic conferences in various cities, I've usually been able to get to some softball action. This year, however, I'm not going anywhere, so I'll just have to follow the regionals via computer and television (you can check the master schedule for ESPN's set of channels). Many of the websites in the links section to the right -- such as the official NCAA softball page; Ultimate College Softball; and individual team pages -- would be good places to follow the tournament.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I've just finished (at 3:00 in the morning Central) plotting the NCAA regional groupings geographically. At a glance, you can see how well the NCAA balanced the competing goals of geographic compactness to save money and competitive balance among the regions. Unlike last year, where I used four copies of the U.S. map to fit in four regional groupings apiece, I tried this time to get all 16 regionals on one map. I thought it would help if I used a map that adjusted for the population of each state, thus giving me more space to use in California, Texas, Florida, and some other states. Here's what I came up with (numbers in parentheses are seeds, underlines indicate hosting sites). Unless you have unbelievable eyesight, you'll have to click on the map to enlarge it...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Florida, the nation's No. 1-ranked team, has won the SEC tournament by knocking off Alabama.

Tomorrow's Big 12 tournament final will feature a clash of the top two seeds, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Tomorrow night at 10:00 pm Eastern, the NCAA tournament Selection Show will air on ESPN-U. Come back here to the College Softball Blog late Sunday night for my initial reactions, my geographic mapping of the regionals, and other coverage!

Friday, May 08, 2009

UCLA's 1-0 win over Stanford, combined with Washington's loss to Cal by the same score, gives the Bruins the Pac 10 title.

Michigan's 8-2 victory over Michigan State gives the Wolverines the Big 10 crown.

Saturday's SEC tournament final will pit Alabama against national No. 1 Florida.

The Big 12 tourney, having held only early rounds today, will have its quarter- and semifinals Saturday, and championship game Sunday.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The final weekend of Pac 10 play is underway, and all of Thursday's action has been completed.

UCLA has defeated Cal, 2-1, putting the Bruins atop the standings at 14-5.

Washington routed Stanford, 7-0, leaving each of these teams at 13-6.

Oregon has upset Arizona, 2-1 in 10 innings. The Wildcats' loss leaves them at 11-7 (U-of-A's final conference record will be short at least one game, as a rain-out at Cal last week won't be made up).

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


As a Michigan alum, I'm so excited about tonight's Wolverine doubleheader against Ohio State that I made the adjoining logo! The twin-bill, which starts in Ann Arbor at 5:00 Eastern, will in all likelihood decide the Big 10 championship. Each team is 14-2 in conference play. If either team sweeps tonight, it would take a two-game lead over the other (16-2 vs. 14-4), with each team having two games left (UM vs. Michigan State, and OSU vs. Penn State); even if UM and OSU ended up tied at 16-4, however, a sweep tonight would give the Wolverines or Buckeyes the head-to-head tie-breaker (assuming that's how the Big 10 does things). Should UM and OSU split tonight, all bets are off!

As I noted in my summary of this past weekend's action (see posting immediately below), there are no hotter teams in the country at the moment than the Wolverines (18 straight wins) or Buckeyes (16 wins out of 17). At the risk of oversimplifying, one could say that the key foci will be Michigan's pitching and Ohio State's hitting.

The Wolverines' Jordan Taylor and Nikki Nemitz have each received Big 10 Pitcher of the Week honors in recent weeks. According to a UM news release, Nemitz "ranks second in [the] nation with [a] 0.76 ERA." The presence of two strong pitchers gives longtime Wolverine Coach Carol "Hutch" Hutchins a great deal of flexibility. I would expect tonight's starting duties to be split between Taylor and Nemitz, with either available for relief if the other gets in trouble. Michigan's offense has some pop, with 1B Dorian Shaw, OF Angela Findlay (younger sister of Samantha Findlay who finished her UM career a year ago), and Designated Player Amanda Chidester. However, Michigan has faced three of the nation's elite pitchers this season -- UMass's Brandice Balschmiter, Florida's Stacey Nelson, and Washington's Danielle Lawrie -- and the Wolverines have been shut out in all three games.

For the Buckeyes, SS Alicia Herron (this past week's Big 10 Player of the Week) and OF Courtney Pruner have been a wrecking crew, recently blasting Northwestern pitching in an OSU sweep. Kim Reeder and Lindsay Bodeker seem to be sharing the Buckeye pitching duties, so perhaps each will start one of the games tonight.

If you can't get to the games or watch it on the Big Ten Network, online gametrackers are readily available. Here are some links for readers who would like to study up in greater depth:

UM-OSU preview from the official Big 10 softball page

Preview from OSU athletics site

Preview from UM athletics site

Announcement (May 4) of Ohio State shortstop Alicia Herron as the Big 10's Player of the Week, and Michigan's Jordan Taylor as Pitcher of the Week

UPDATES

Game 1 goes to Michigan, 6-3...

...as does Game 2, with Jordan Taylor's complete-game, one-hit pitching leading the way for a 5-2 Maize and Blue victory.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Michigan and Ohio State have one of the greatest rivalries in college football. Though softball will never capture the same attention as the schools' battles on the gridiron, the Buckeye-Wolverine softball rivalry will reach a high point Wednesday, when the teams meet in Ann Arbor for a double-header. Today's results, which have left UM and OSU tied atop the Big 10 at 14-2, set the stage for dramatic action Wednesday.

Michigan won its 18th straight game today, 6-0 over Iowa.

Ohio State is only the slightest bit less hot -- 16 wins by the Buckeyes in their last 17 games -- having routed Northwestern, 10-1, in a run-rule shortened game.

PAC 10 UPDATE: Stanford made it two straight over Arizona, 2-1, on a Missy Penna one-hitter. The Cardinal (13-5) has now overtaken the Wildcats (11-6) in the loss column in the race for the conference title.

UCLA likewise upped its record to 13-5, by blowing out Oregon State.

Washington (12-6) is also in the hunt, following a win over Oregon.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

UPDATE 1: Ohio State has defeated Northwestern in the opener of their series, ending a long Wildcats' home winning streak. With Northwestern now having five conference losses, it will be a very tall order for it to catch Ohio State and Michigan, each of whom has only two losses in the Big 10.

UPDATE 2: Michigan has edged Iowa.

UPDATE 3: Stanford squeaked by Arizona, leaving each team with five losses in the Pac 10 (no team has fewer). UCLA, a winner today over Oregon State, is tied with Stanford and Arizona in the loss column.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Arizona schools travel to play their northern California counterparts this weekend. More specifically, the scheduling gives U-of-A two games with Stanford and one with Cal. A look at the top of the current standings shows the importance of the Wildcat-Cardinal match-ups:

Arizona 11-4
UCLA 10-5
Stanford 10-5

UCLA (and Washington) host the Oregon schools.

This weekend's Big 10 action should also add clarity to that conference's pennant race, the standings of which are as follows:

Ohio State 12-2
Michigan 12-2
Northwestern 12-4
Iowa 9-5

The Buckeyes will be playing two games at Northwestern (one each on Saturday and Sunday), while Michigan will be hosting Iowa for two. Ohio State will then play a double-header Wednesday at Michigan.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

ESPN "Rise," an outlet for coverage of up-and-coming high school athletes, has a feature article on LSU recruit Rachele Fico, who recently threw her 22nd career perfect game.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Pac 10 offers some important midweek games today, as UCLA travels to Washington, and Arizona visits ASU. In Tempe, it will be a double-header of sorts, as the teams will first finish a rain-suspended game from earlier in the season (with U-of-A in the role of home team) and then play the regularly scheduled game.

Talking about the Bruins, the latest column from ESPN.com's Graham Hays discusses how UCLA pitcher Megan Langenfeld may go down as a tranformational figure in the history of college softball.

UPDATE 1: Washington's Danielle Lawrie no-hits UCLA, as the Huskies win 3-0.

UPDATE 2: Arizona wins 3-2 over ASU in the completion of the rain-suspended game.

UPDATE 3: 'Zona makes it a sweep over ASU, 10-6.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

With a two-game sweep at Missouri this weekend, Oklahoma has clinched the Big 12 title for this year.

UCLA added a Saturday-Sunday sweep over ASU (now 7-6 in the conference), to its Friday night win over U-of-A, to round out its swing through Arizona. The Bruins started out Pac 10 play at 1-4, and are now 10-4. Arizona (9-4) and Washington (8-6) split their two games. Stanford, which was perfect this weekend against the Oregon schools, is 10-5. Cal, which did likewise, is 8-7.

In the Big 10, Northwestern was swept this weekend in a two-games series with Illinois, dropping the Wildcats to a 12-4 conference record. Michigan, which took two from Wisconsin, is now 10-2 in Big 10 play; the Wolverines lost a pair of one-run games at Northwestern to open conference play, but have been perfect within the league ever since. Another team to look out for is Ohio State (12-2), which played out of conference this weekend. The Buckeyes face a tough upcoming road schedule that will likely make or break their Big 10 title hopes:

Sat, May 2 at Northwestern
Sun, May 3 at Northwestern
Wed, May 6 at Michigan (DH)

Finally, Florida (49-3 overall, 26-1 conference) continues to cruise through SEC play.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Last night's winners in the crucial Pac 10 games taking place in the desert were UCLA (2-1 over Arizona) and ASU (9-2 over Washington).

The Bruins and Sun Devils will now play each other today and Sunday, as will U-of-A and U-Dub.

Friday, April 24, 2009

This weekend's signature games would have to be UCLA and Washington visiting the Arizona schools. U-of-A leads the Pac 10 standings at 8-2, but has benefited from getting to play the vast majority of its conference games at home, thus far. At the conclusion of this weekend's action, the Wildcats will have played 10 of their first 13 Pac 10 games in the friendly confines of Hillenbrand Stadium. Arizona will then play its final eight conference games on the road.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ultimate College Softball has put up its Watch List (to be updated daily) of all NCAA Division I teams' prospects of making the 64-team national tournament field. Take a look to see whether your favorite team is already projected to be "In" on the basis of an excellent record thus far, if it needs to win its conference tournament, or is somewhere in between these two extremes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The U-of-A Wildcats were the big winner this weekend, as the Pac 10's northern California schools came down to play the two Arizona schools. The Wildcats swept their three games (one against Stanford, two against Cal). ASU nearly did as well, dropping only an extra-inning affair against the Cardinal.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Just a couple hours ago, Big 12 leader Missouri completed a 12-0 run-rule shellacking of Texas Tech here in Lubbock (article). As noted in the ESPN.com article I cited in yesterday's posting, Mizzou relies on both aggressive baserunning and powerful hitting. I was able to take what I think are some decent photos of the action.

First, the Tigers' Lindsey Ubrun, here being pursued by Red Raider catcher Holley Gentsch in a rundown, ran back toward third fast enough to draw a throw from Gentsch, and then beat the throw back home (you can click on this photo -- and all others -- to enlarge them).


Teammate Abby Vock wasn't as lucky, being thrown out at home on a steal attempt.


As for Mizzou's slugging prowess, Marla Schweisberger homered (see celebration below), to go along with five Tiger doubles.


Stacy Delaney, a University of Michigan transfer (ouch!) started for the Tigers, but was given the afternoon off after a few innings once the game appeared out of reach for the Red Raiders.


The only bright spots for Texas Tech were the weather (mild and sunny) and the attendance (not bad, considering the spring football game was going on opposite softball).

Friday, April 17, 2009

In key Pac 10 action this weekend, the Arizona schools host the northern California schools.

In the Big 12, an up-and-coming Missouri team that was recently spotlighted by ESPN.com writer Graham Hays, comes here to Lubbock to face Texas Tech.

Monday, April 13, 2009

As can be seen from the purple-and-black logo to the right, I was invited to join the Women Talk Sports network and have agreed to do so. Obviously, I'm a man, but my blog's subject matter of NCAA softball fits squarely with the aim of raising awareness of, and interest in, women's sports. Practically speaking, there won't be any changes in the operations of the College Softball Blog. For those of you whose interest in women's athletics encompasses additional sports beyond softball, however, a click on the Women Talk Sports icon will take you to a venue for following the full gamut of women's sports.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

UCLA swept Washington with a 10-0 (run-rule) rout of the Huskies today. The Bruins' Megan Langenfeld allowed no hits in the game's five innings. Combined with yesterday's game, Langenfeld pitched 16 innings against U-Dub and gave up only one hit.

Cal took two of three from Stanford.

ASU and Arizona had their game halted by rain.

Friday, April 10, 2009

This afternoon's game featuring Washington at UCLA turned into a titanic pitcher's duel, as the Bruins won 2-0 in 11 innings. UCLA's Megan Langenfeld pitched no-hit ball for the regulation seven innings and ended up allowing only one hit in a complete-game effort. A walk-off homer by Andrea Harrison off Husky ace Danielle Lowrie ended the game.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

This weekend in Pac 10 play, starting tonight, will feature the natural geographic rivalries (note that UCLA and Washington are partnered, because USC and Washington St. don't have softball teams). These are the games, as I've copied and pasted from the Pac 10 website:

Apr. 9, 2009
CALIFORNIA at STANFORD 7 p.m. PT
(For those of you with extended cable or satellite TV packages, this game will be shown on CBS College Sports)

Apr. 10, 2009
ARIZONA vs. ARIZONA STATE 7 p.m. PT
CALIFORNIA vs. STANFORD 4 p.m. PT
OREGON vs. OREGON STATE 4 p.m. PT
UCLA vs. WASHINGTON 1 p.m. PT

Apr. 11, 2009
ARIZONA vs. ARIZONA STATE 7 p.m. PT
CALIFORNIA vs. STANFORD 1 p.m. PT
OREGON vs. OREGON STATE 1 p.m. PT
UCLA vs. WASHINGTON 1 p.m. PT

Not to slight the other major conferences, but the Pac 10 clearly seems to have the most quality depth, with exciting match-ups every weekend.

In the SEC, Florida has established itself as the class of the league at 18-1 in conference. The next fewest losses belong to Alabama, with four. A positive sign for the SEC is that Georgia is now in the top 10 in both major national polls.

The top of the Big 10 standings in conference play look like this:

Northwestern 9-1
Ohio State 7-1
Illinois 5-2
Michigan 4-2

What would appear to be the most important remaining games are not for a while, with Ohio State going on the road to face two major rivals, Northwestern (May 2-3) and Michigan (May 6, doubleheader). Illinois has not yet played Ohio State, Michigan, or Northwestern, so the Illini will probably fall in the standings. Illinois plays at Ohio State this weekend, so now is the chance for the Illini to prove me wrong.

Finally, the Big 12's leaders are as follows:

Texas 7-2
Missouri 6-2
Oklahoma 7-3
Baylor 6-3

Missouri and Oklahoma, respectively, are Nos. 10 and 11 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, and Nos. 11 and 13 in the USA Today/NFCA poll. No other conference teams are near the top 10 nationally.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Stanford swept the Oregon schools to hold first place in the Pac 10 at 5-1. Washington swept the Arizona schools, leaving the Huskies, Sun Devils, and Wildcats tied for second, each at 4-2. UCLA edged Arizona 3-2 on Sunday to break a four-game conference losing streak.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Arizona State slugger Kaitlin Cochran had her streak of a home-run in seven straight games snapped Saturday at Washington (box score). The game only went five innings instead of the regulation seven, as the Huskies' 11-3 lead triggered the mercy rule to end the game; under ordinary circumstances, therefore, Cochran probably would have gotten an additional plate appearance. A tip of the batting helmet to the folks at Ultimate College Softball, who pointed out the streak.

Cross-posted at my Hot Hand site.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Washington pitcher Danielle Lawrie threw a no-hitter as the Huskies blanked Arizona, 6-0. Meanwhile, Arizona State shut out UCLA, 5-0.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Alabama salvaged a win in its three-game series with Florida.

Over in the Pac 10, Stanford made it two straight over Washington, whereas Cal won its second straight over UCLA.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Florida just destroyed Alabama in a doubleheader today, 9-1 and 10-1.

Washington's Danielle Lawrie pitched no-hit ball for the seven regulation innings and another one and one-third extra innings, but her Huskies lost in 11 innings to Stanford, 1-0.

Also in the Bay Area, Cal edged UCLA 7-6. It was a nice recovery for the Golden Bears, who had lost a 9-1, run-rule-shortened game to Washington the day before.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The big softball weekend has gotten underway with a UCLA win at Stanford.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Arguably the best weekend of play thus far this season will be taking place over the next few days. First, take a look at the top teams in the most recent national polls (ESPN.com/USA Softball ranking listed first, USA Today/NFCA listed second).

1/1. Florida (32-2)
2/2. Washington (27-3)
3/3. Stanford (29-1)
4/5. UCLA (24-3)
5/4. Alabama (26-4)

Florida will be hosting Alabama in a three-game SEC series (a Saturday doubleheader, followed by a single game Sunday). Florida's pre-series news release is available here (one does not yet appear available from Alabama).

Way over on the other coast, Stanford hosts UCLA Friday night, and then Washington for single games Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Palo Alto Online offers this article on the Cardinal's weekend challenge.

True, Stanford has lost only once this season. However, the Cardinal has not played any of the nation's top teams thus far (see the team's schedule/results page).

The UCLA and Washington games will thus give us an idea of whether Stanford truly belongs among the nation's elite teams. At the conclusion of this weekend's play, Stanford conceivably could be ranked No. 1 in the nation. But so could any of the other four teams listed above!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The three series I previewed for this weekend all ended with one item in common -- a broom -- as each resulted in a sweep.

Florida took all three games from Tennessee.

Northwestern swept two from Michigan, and Ohio State did likewise against Michigan State.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Northwestern (ranked No. 12 and 14 in the two major national polls) hosts Michigan (a consensus No. 8) in Saturday and Sunday afternoon games, as part of the Big 10's opening weekend. ESPN.com's Graham Hays has a column on the Northwestern program, heading into the Michigan series. You can also click for the Michigan and Northwestern preview pages for this weekend.

Though it would be fair to refer to Northwestern and Michigan as the Big 10's premier programs in recent years, Ohio State has created some buzz in the college softball community with a 20-3 record and national rankings of No. 14 and 17 in the major polls. On top of that, the Buckeyes will host Michigan State this weekend in the inaugural games of OSU's newly refurbished softball field.

In the SEC, No. 1 Florida hosts No. 6 Tennessee in a three-game series (doubleheader Saturday, single game Sunday). These national rankings are consistent across the two polls. Previews from Florida and Tennesee are available.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I've been noticing in recent days that there are a lot more unofficial, fan-based team webpages than I was aware of. You can find them in the links section to the right, below the list of official team sites.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Judi Garman Classic concluded today, with full results available from the tournament website. Among the 17 participating teams, five tied for the best record at 4-1:

WASHINGTON -- It will shock nobody to say that the Huskies are a different team with and without Danielle Lawrie in the circle. Accordingly, in summarizing U-Dub's results, I note whether she pitched in each game.

Opponent..........Score..........Lawrie's Innings

Florida State......4-1..................7........
Penn State........14-13.................0........
Michigan...........1-0............. 7(1-hitter)..
Fresno State.......3-0.................11........
Fullerton..........2-3 (L)..........Final 2......

MICHIGAN -- The Wolverines lost only to Washington. The four teams Michigan beat were all nationally ranked (ranking shown in parentheses by each team, according to the Wolverines' schedule/results page): Fresno State (24), Louisiana-Lafayette (16), Arizona State (6), and Arizona (12).

CAL STATE FULLERTON -- The Titans beat Washington (albeit with only a limited appearance by Lawrie), Oklahoma, Texas, and Bowling Green State University. Fullerton's only loss was to DePaul.

ARIZONA STATE -- The Sun Devils lost only to Michigan. The four teams ASU beat -- New Mexico, DePaul, Nebraska, and Notre Dame -- aren't exactly a "Murderer's Row." However, the tournament's (apparent) policy of avoiding games matching-up conference foes prevented the Sun Devils from playing Washington or Arizona.

NEBRASKA -- The Cornhuskers, who may be in for one of their best seasons in recent years, beat Pacific, Louisiana-Lafayette, New Mexico, and Penn State, losing only to ASU.

***

Conference play has begun in the SEC. The conference's website produces a detailed summary of each weekend's action, so I'll refer readers there (see the links section on the right).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Conference play has begun in many parts of the country, but Cal State Fullerton's Judi Garman Classic this weekend presents one last chance to see some stellar out-of-conference match-ups.

Three top Pac-10 teams -- Washington, Arizona, and ASU -- will be participating. They'll be joined by other top national programs such as Oklahoma, DePaul, Michigan, and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners visited Texas Tech this afternoon and swept a doubleheader (6-1, and 12-0 via run rule) to open Big 12 play. I got out to the ballyard for the second game, and took some photos (you can click on the photos to enlarge them).

While OU's Allee Allen was shutting out the Red Raiders...



...Texas Tech's starter, junior Ashly Jacobs (left), had a tough day at the office, before giving way to frosh Karli Merlich.


Oklahoma celebrated offensive success early and often, with three homers and numerous other hits (I would guess the player with an ice pack over her left shoulder is D.J. Mathis, who closed out Game 1)...


One style of hitting in softball is to take a running start and slap at the ball. So fast is the run-up of the Sooners' Evan Sallis that, on a pitch she missed, her momentum carried her several strides toward the pitching circle...


OU batters didn't miss many pitches on the day, though. Having retired Texas Tech in the bottom of the fifth, Oklahoma had a run-rule 12-0 victory on the books (i.e., one team being ahead by seven or more runs, after at least five complete innings)...


...leading to the teams' post-series trip through the handshake line...


***

On a separate matter, I noticed today for the first time that, within the pitching circle, there's a set of two parallel chalk lines from the pitching rubber toward home plate (visible in the photos above of the Texas Tech pitchers). The lines are part of a new rule, which is discussed here.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

This weekend's Easton SEC/Pac-10/Big 12 Challenge, which included the No. 1 teams in the two major national polls, Alabama and Washington, came up as a draw, of sorts. After Alabama beat Washington on Friday for the Huskies' first loss of the season, U-Dub defeated the Tide in a Saturday rematch. Washington also split a pair with Georgia. As the article on Sunday's Huskies-Bulldogs contest notes:

The No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs became the first team to solve No. 1 Washington's Danielle Lawrie this season, scoring the first earned runs off her in 90.0 innings to upset the Huskies, 2-0, on the final day of the Easton SEC/Pac-10/Big-12 Challenge at the Alabama Softball Complex.

At the other tournament I previewed last Friday, the OU/Worth gathering in Oklahoma City, Northwestern emerged with the best record (3-1). Tennesee finished 2-2, with the host Sooners bringing up the rear at 1-3.

This coming Tuesday, OU will be at my university, Texas Tech, to open Big 12 play with an afternoon doubleheader.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Some highlights of this weekend's play...

The Washington Huskies, No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Softball poll and the last remaining undefeated team in the nation (at least among the major programs), will get some tough competition.

Tennessee and Northwestern come down to Oklahoma to join the Sooners in the Worth tournament.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The NFCA Leadoff Classic was severely curtailed by rain all through the weekend.

Friday, February 27, 2009

This weekend's feature tournament is the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Georgia. This event brings together most of the top teams from the eastern half of the U.S., including Alabama, DePaul, UMass, and Michigan.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In a midweek treat for softball fans, No. 2 Florida will host No. 6 Michigan today at 4:00 Eastern. Preview articles from the Florida student newspaper and Michigan athletics website are available. With UM on spring break (one of the earliest in the nation), the Wolverine softballers have used the opportunity to schedule a long stretch in Florida and Georgia. They played in last weekend's Seminole Classic at Florida State (plus a stand-alone game at FSU), now today are playing UF, and they'll conclude the trip at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Georgia this coming weekend.

UPDATE: Florida wins 4-0.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

With the Cathedral City (Palm Springs) tournament now concluded, I thought I'd evaluate how several of the nation's top teams acquitted themselves (teams listed alphabetically; ^ = the team's "stock" is rising; v = falling; <--> = holding pattern).

Alabama (<-->) -- Went 4-1, including a win over Oklahoma (by a 4-3 score), with the loss to UCLA (4-1). Not bad, but a team aspiring to No. 1 will be held to high standards!

Arizona State (v) -- Lost three games in the tournament, to Florida (an 8-2 blowout), Oklahoma (8-6), and UMass (1-0).

Florida (^) -- The Gators' record would have been perfect, but for an extra-inning loss to Washington.

Oklahoma (^) -- Would have been perfect but for a one-run loss to Alabama (4-3).

UCLA (^) -- Finished a perfect 5-0, including wins over 'Bama and UMass; the Bruin wins were generally achieved quite handily.

UMass (v) -- Went 2-3, with losses to Tennessee, UCLA, and Oklahoma.

Washington (^) -- Though the Huskies came into the tournament 9-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country, I was skeptical, due to strength-of-schedule concerns. Well, U-Dub leaves Palm Springs 14-0, including a win over Florida. The skeptic in me would still note that the Huskies' draw was not as tough as other teams'.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The biggest of this weekend's -- if not this entire regular season's -- nonconference tournaments is the Cathedral City Classic (near Palm Springs, California). Oregon State is the host school for the tournament, even though the Beavers are from a different state. It must be remembered, however, that geographical strangeness in sports is nothing new to southern California, witness the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim."

As detailed on the above-linked tourney website, the 32 participating schools provide both quality and quantity. Depending on which national poll one looks at, either 12 or 13 of the nation's preseason top 25 teams will be taking part, and nearly all of the top 5.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Several tournaments concluded today, perhaps the biggest of which was the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas (tournament page). Arguably the signature game of the tournament was the rematch of the 2005 Women's College World Series championship round pitting Michigan (currently ranked No. 6 nationally) and UCLA (No. 4). I must admit to some personal bias here, however, as I attended UCLA for my undergraduate education and Michigan for grad school! Anyway, the Wolverines prevailed over the Bruins, 7-4. The only blemish on Michigan's ledger this weekend was a 5-3 loss to No. 16 DePaul.

Shifting to another region of the country, 2008 national runner-up Texas A&M seems to be finding things difficult after the loss of Megan Gibson, Amanda Scarborough, and other seniors who were such integral parts of recent years' Aggie squads. Though ranked No. 5 nationally in the preseason, the Aggies already have five losses!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Texas Tech Daily Toreador reports on the Red Raider softball squad's improved start this year, compared to a year ago.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Here are some brief impressions I formed off of the first weekend of play...

The traditional Pac-10 powers showed some vulnerability, as Arizona State, Arizona, and UCLA each suffered one or more losses. It's obviously a little early in the season to draw strong conclusions, but the results are what they are...

No. 1 Florida took two-of-three against Baylor...

UMass senior Brandice Balschmiter won a pitcher's duel against Michigan, 1-0.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The opening weekend of the 2009 season is here! Several tournaments will be getting underway today, the most prominent being the Kajikawa Classic. Hosted by defending national champion Arizona State, this year's Kajikawa also includes such high-level programs as the University of Arizona, Northwestern, and Stanford. A directory of all of this weekend's tournaments is available via Ultimate College Softball's "Scoreboard" page.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The pre-season No. 1 team in the USA Today/NFCA poll? It's Florida, narrowly over defending national champion Arizona State.