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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pac 10 play gets underway tomorrow, with each pair of geographic rivals playing each other in a three-game series (Washington and UCLA are treated as paired rivals, as Washington State and USC don't have teams).

Washington vs. UCLA is the marquee match-up, as the Huskies are a consensus No. 1 in the two major national polls, whereas the Bruins are a consensus No. 5. Arizona (No. 2/3) vs. ASU (No. 7/10) is also big, whereas Stanford-Cal, with each team on the outskirts of the Top Ten, isn't bad either.

The conference's weekly press release contains extensive information on the teams and match-ups.

One thing I noticed is that the Pac 10 apparently has changed its travel format. For example, all three ASU-Arizona games this weekend are listed as being in Tempe, whereas in previous years, there would be a 2/1 split between the two campuses. Similarly, all three Stanford-Cal games are in Palo Alto, and all three OSU-Oregon games are in Corvallis. I can understand avoiding a geographic split with UCLA and Washington, as the distance is hardly drivable, but the other changes seem harder to grasp. I posted a message on the discussion boards at Ultimate College Softball to see if anyone knew more about the Pac 10 travel situation. One person has suggested the changes reflect a cost-saving move.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Any list of the nation's most improved college softball squads (thus far) would have to include Texas Tech. From a 15-42 record a season ago, the Red Raiders are now 29-4. That record includes a 6-3 victory this afternoon against Iowa State. Shown above is the Tech squad celebrating at home plate after a Logan Hall home run, her first of two. I attended under blustery conditions and took some pictures, on which you can click to enlarge them.

Raider senior Ashly Jacobs, shown warming between innings in the shots directly above and below, allowed the Cyclones only one run through six innings, before giving up a pair in the seventh.

Texas Tech batters, including Ashley Hamada (below), left only one runner on base the whole game, compared to six for Iowa State (box score).

The Cyclones' offense did perk up here and there, including when Heidi Kidwell beat out an infield hit in the third inning.

Iowa State starter Rachel Zabriskie struck out six in five and one-third innings, but gave up three homers to Texas Tech. The way the wind was blowing toward the outfield, virtually any well-hit fly ball had a good chance to leave the yard.

The Red Raiders' dramatic improvement has taken place under first-year coach Shanon Hays, who literally moved down the street from Lubbock Christian University, where he led LCU to the NAIA national championship in 2008, to take over at Texas Tech. (In an interesting development, Shanon's father Larry Hays, the retired Tech baseball coach who amassed over 1,500 wins as a skipper, replaced his son with the LCU softball squad.) To some extent, the Raiders' improved softball record this season reflects an easier non-league schedule than in the past. Previously, the team would play in several out-of-town tournaments that attracted some of the nation's top teams. This year, Texas Tech hosted three tourneys of its own, with a lower quality of competition. Whether the Red Raiders are for real will be revealed over the coming weeks of Big 12 play.


Here's my "Softball Squares" bingo card, different versions of which were given out to fans at the game today. Whenever a given type of play occurs, one can cross-out the play on his or her card, if it appears. Needless to say, I was not in the winning group of fans. There were a couple of ambiguous situations. On an infield single, the public address announcer said fans could cross-out "Infield Single" if their card had it. Wouldn't an infield single qualify under "Single"? Also, a pitched ball got away from the catcher, but there was never an announcement of wild pitch or passed ball. Finally, there was no inside-the-park home run; the announcer simply instructed everyone who had that event on their card to cross it off, to speed the game along (hence, my dashed cross-out).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

With March Madness and the climax of the health care reform debate going on this past weekend, I'm a little behind in writing my softball synopsis. Please forgive me. The key event in the college softball world was the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, California and, for those who enjoy upsets, the Garman delivered!

No. 1 Washington had its 18-game winning streak snapped by DePaul, who going into the weekend was listed as one of 2010's biggest disappointments on an Ultimate College Softball discussion thread.

No. 2 Arizona, whose loss to No. 4 Michigan is documented in an earlier entry, also lost to unheralded Virginia.

Finally, the aforementioned Wolverines lost to No. 15 Texas. Perhaps the Longhorn program, which hasn't done much in the post-Cat Osterman era, can return to the national spotlight.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

No. 4 Michigan edged No. 2 Arizona, 1-0 in eight innings, earlier today in the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, California. The Wolverines' Jordan Taylor allowed the Wildcats only one hit.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Judi Garman Classic at Cal State Fullerton has gotten started with a couple of games today. The main action begins Thursday, however. The marquee match-up Thursday pits No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 4 Michigan, with a listed starting time of 11:15 AM Pacific. No. 1 Washington is also in the field, but has no game scheduled against Michigan (teams in the same conference, as are Washington and Arizona, generally do not play in mid-season tournaments, saving their contests for league play). Other Top Ten teams participating include Oklahoma and Arizona State (depending on which poll one looks at).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Conference play has begun in the SEC, and there was a key weekend series matching two Top Ten teams to mark the occasion. In that series, Alabama took two of three from Georgia. The SEC's website provides excellent recaps of each day of league play, so I'll direct interested readers there to find out more about the Bama-Georgia series. The Bulldogs were scheduled to play another tough series, against Florida, in the middle of last week, but those games were rained out.

Starting dates for league play in other major conferences include: Big 10, March 27; Big 12, March 27; and Pac 10, April 1. Please see the conference and team webpages via the links section in the right-hand column.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Michigan used the home-run ball to defeat Alabama, 5-2, tonight, in a battle of Top Ten teams in Tuscaloosa.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Arizona and Washington went undefeated in the Cathedral City Classic, and Missouri did so in the NFCA Leadoff Classic, to highlight this past weekend's action. With so many games going on in these tournaments, there was bound to be a few upsets. Indeed, Central Florida took a 3-2 decision over Alabama in the NFCA tourney, whereas UCLA dropped two games in the Cathedral City event, including a 7-0 blowout loss to Ohio State.