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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.