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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).