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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:'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'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


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