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.