Friday, July 22, 2011

The Los Angeles Times has an article on the state of women's professional softball, such as it is. Many players who would be familiar from their college softball days are quoted.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Some off-season developments...

The search for a new LSU softball coach has taken on some drama. As I learned over at Ultimate College Softball, Alabama coach Patrick Murphy had accepted the position, but then pulled back. LSU's Athletic Director seems none too pleased. Movement of coaches within the same conference always has the potential to be awkward, as the departed coach must compete against his or her old team with greater frequency than when the move is out of conference. The abandoned school may also feel that it helped nurture and develop the coach, only to have him or her jump to a major rival. For reasons along these lines, many schools put language into contracts to forbid a coach from moving directly to another school in the same conference. Having failed at an attempted intra-conference shift, LSU appears to be back to square one.

[UPDATE: LSU has hired Florida International coach Beth Torina.]

ESPN.com's "Rise" section on up-and-coming high school prospects ranks the Top 10 college-softball recruiting classes (via Ultimate College Softball). No surprises, really. All 10 of the listed schools either were in this year's Women's College World Series or have been in recent years.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

CONGRATULATIONS TO ARIZONA STATE ON WINNING THE 2011 WOMEN'S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES!

Florida struck first in Game 2 of the Women's College World Series championship round, with a run in the bottom of the first. The lead didn't last long, as Arizona State plated three in the top of the second. The Sun Devils gradually pulled away over the course of the evening, ultimately winning 7-2.

ESPN announcer Beth Mowins noted a few times toward the end that the Pac 10 had won 23 of the 30 WCWS titles. The conference's domination over roughly the last decade is even more pronounced, with 10 of the last 11 titles -- including ASU in 2008 and 2011 -- being won by Pac 10 teams (the one exception was Michigan in 2005).

The SEC remains without an NCAA softball title, despite three recent trips to the final round (Tennessee, 2007; Florida, 2009, 2011). One of these years, I'm sure, an SEC team will win it all.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Game 1 of the Women's College World Series championship series is underway. Arizona State takes a 1-0 lead over Florida in the bottom of the first inning, on a walk and a single that is misplayed by the center-fielder and goes to the wall.

Punctuated by a three-run homer from Krista Donnenworth, ASU adds 6 more runs in the second, to go up 7-0. The Sun Devil batters have been able to foul off Gator pitcher Hannah Rogers's strikes to keep at-bats alive and draw walks. If not doing that, ASU has been able to hit it where the Gator outfielders ain't.

If anyone's still following, it's now 10-0 Sun Devils.

Your final: 14-4 Sun Devils. ASU is now one win away from the championship.

If this year's Florida team is going to win the first NCAA softball title by an SEC school, it's going to take one heck of a comeback!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Florida has routed Alabama for the second time today, 9-2, to make the championship series against Arizona State. The two-out-of-three final round begins Monday night. Even though ASU is undefeated in the Women's College World Series and Florida has one loss, the slate is wiped clean heading into the final series. Neither team will be a stranger to the championship series, as ASU won the NCAA title in 2008 and Florida lost in the 2009 final to Washington.

Arizona State has defeated Baylor, 4-0, to eliminate the Bears and move into the championship round.  ASU will meet the winner of tonight's Alabama-Florida showdown.

Baylor accomplished an ususual feat. It scored zero runs -- zilch, nada, bupkis -- in regulation play during four games of the Women's College World Series, yet it won two games! The way it happened, of course, was that the Bears won two extra-inning affairs. Baylor won its opener over Oklahoma State, 1-0, with a walk-off homer in the eighth inning, then got skunked by Alabama, 3-0. Then came another overtime 1-0 win, in 13 innings over Missouri, before Baylor's ultimate elimination today, 4-0 at the hands of ASU. Baylor's final numbers: 0 runs in 28 innings of regulation play, and 2 runs in 35 innings total.

Florida has opened up Sunday play with a bang, scoring 11 runs in the first inning against Alabama and finishing off the Tide, 16-2, in a run-rule-shortened five innings. The teams will have a rematch tonight, with the winner making it to the championship series.

Here is the final version of the loss chart from all WCWS play leading up to the final championship series, where again, the slates are wiped clean...

No LossesOne LossTwo Losses (Gone)
Arizona StateFloridaOklahoma State
......Oklahoma
......Cal
......Missouri
......Baylor
......Alabama

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Baylor's Holly Holl has homered right around midnight Central to give her team a 1-0, 13-inning win over Missouri, sending the Tigers home. Baylor moves on to a Sunday semifinal match-up with Arizona State, with the Sun Devils needing one win to make the championship round and the Bears, two.

Florida ousts Cal, 5-2, setting up an all-SEC semifinal Sunday between the Gators and Alabama. Bama just needs one win to advance to the championship round, whereas Florida needs two.

Softball fans in the Oklahoma City area had the unique opportunity to see both of the state's Big 12 schools -- the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State -- come to town for the Women's College World Series. Alas, the two local schools are the first to be eliminated from the WCWS, with OU's 4-1 loss to Missouri (see chart below).

The first team has been eliminated from the Women's College World Series, namely Oklahoma State, which has lost to Cal, 6-2. The Golden Bears will take on Florida tonight in another elimination game.

Missouri leads Oklahoma 1-0 early on, in the second game of "Survival Saturday." The winner will face Baylor later.

The WCWS is all about losses -- you get to keep playing until you lose two. Accordingly, I'm introducing the loss chart, as follows...

No LossesOne LossTwo Losses (Gone)
Alabama (A)Florida (A)Oklahoma State
Arizona State (B)Baylor (B)Oklahoma
......Cal
......Missouri

Teams with the same letter will be playing each other.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Arizona State has just edged Florida, 6-5, with a two-out, bases loaded shot that got through the Gator third-base person. ASU took an early 4-0 lead, but its frosh pitcher Dallas Escobedo struggled in the top of the fourth, giving up five runs (including a pair of two-run homers). The ESPN announcers suggested that Escobedo was telegraphing her change-up by doing something different with her arm motion than when she threw faster pitches. The Sun Devils tied the game 5-5 in the bottom of the fourth and then there was no more scoring until the bottom of the seventh.

Alabama has defeated Baylor, 3-0, in the opener of tonight's "Winners' Bracket Friday" of the Women's College World Series. It is the second straight shut-out for Tide pitching.

The Big 12 conference has garnered attention for sending four teams to the WCWS. All four have now suffered a loss and must play on "Survival Saturday," when all games are in the losers' bracket of the double-elimination tournament. One Big 12 team is guaranteed to be sent home early on, as Missouri and Oklahoma play each other (Saturday, 2:30 Eastern). The winner will then get Baylor Florida (Saturday night, 9:30). On the other side of the losers' bracket, Oklahoma State will face Cal (Saturday, noon), with the winner playing Florida Baylor at 7:00 pm Saturday.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Runs came more readily as the evening moved along, with Florida knocking off Missouri, 6-2, in the nightcap. Friday's action will feature the two winners' bracket games, Florida vs. ASU and Alabama vs. Baylor.

In a relative slugfest (compared to the afternoon session), top-seeded Arizona State has topped Oklahoma, 3-1, to open up the evening session.

I had a busy day at the office, so I could only follow the opening afternoon session of the Women's College World Series sparingly. Runs were extremely hard to come by at the WCWS, with Alabama defeating Cal and Baylor beating Oklahoma State, both by 1-0 scores. In fact, Cal was limited to just one hit!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Before the Women's College World Series gets underway tomorrow, I wanted to revisit a story that ended with Arizona's elimination in the super-regionals at the hands of Oklahoma. Arizona senior catcher Stacie Chambers had been seeking the all-time NCAA Division I softball record for home runs in a career, held by former UCLA catcher Stacey Nuveman at 90. Nuveman played for the Bruins from 1997-2002.

Chambers, who overcame a head injury suffered in fall practice of her first year at U of A, entered the 2011 season with 67 homers (21 as a junior, 31 as a sophomore, and 15 as a freshman). She thus needed 23 to tie Nuveman and 24 (or more) to pass her. As it happened, Chambers hit 20 dingers this year to finish her collegiate career with 87, three shy of Nuveman's mark, but in possession of the Wildcat school record, which had been 85.

Chambers hit three homers in last year's World Series championship round against UCLA, seemingly giving her momentum heading into this season. I was curious as to where Chambers fell short this season, so I created the following graphic to document her at-bats and homers game-by-game (you may click on the graphic to enlarge it).


I acknowledge that the chart is pretty "busy," as I sometimes get carried away with graphic arts! If you follow the chart in the same direction one would run the bases, a few key points are evident:

*Chambers's home runs this year (depicted by the home plate icons) tended to occur in bunches.

*The homers occurred to a large degree (but not entirely) against teams that were not from power conferences.

*Her quest for the all-time record was put in jeopardy by a midseason stretch (starting with Game 3 of the Baylor series) that spanned 18 games and 54 official at-bats (e.g., not including walks), but included only two homers.

The fact that Arizona missed the WCWS this year -- for only the second time in the last 24 years -- also obviously harmed Chambers's chances. A World Series appearance would have guaranteed the Wildcats at least two more games and potentially several more, thus giving Chambers some additional cracks at the home-run record.

Ultimately, however, Chambers missed out, not just on the overall career home-run record, but also on the record for most home runs by someone named Stacey/Stacie/Stacy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ESPN.com's Graham Hays is out with his preview of the Women's College World Series.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Here are the match-ups for the super-regionals, which begin tomorrow. I will update the table as the results come in (links are to game articles).

Teams Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Texas A&M (16) at ASU (1) ASU ASU ---
Stanford (15) at Alabama (2) Stanford Alabama Alabama
Houston at Oklahoma St. Okla. St. Houston Okla. St.
Oregon (13) at Florida (4) Florida Florida ---
Washington (12) at Missouri (5) Missouri Missouri ---
Baylor (11) at Georgia (6) Baylor Georgia Baylor
Cal (7) at Kentucky Cal Kentucky Cal
Oklahoma (9) at Arizona (8) Oklahoma Oklahoma ---

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The table below tells the story heading into today's play -- who needs just one win to advance to the super-regionals, and who needs two. Numbers in parentheses refer to teams' seedings. If a team needing two wins gets its first win, I will put an asterisk (*) by that team. I am also adding links to articles about teams winning their regionals, in the far right column.

Regional Needs 1 win Needs 2 wins Champion
Tempe AZ Arizona State (1) San Diego State Arizona State
Tuscaloosa AL Alabama (2) Chattanooga Alabama
Austin TX Houston Louisiana-Lafayette Houston
Gainesville FL Florida (4) UCLA* Florida
Columbia MO DePaul Missouri (5)* Missouri
Athens GA Georgia (6) Florida State Georgia
Louisville KY California (7) Louisville California
Tucson AZ Arizona (8) Texas Tech Arizona
Norman OK Oklahoma (9) Tulsa* Oklahoma
Ann Arbor MI Kentucky Michigan (10) Kentucky
College Park MD Baylor (11) East Carolina Baylor
Seattle WA N/A N/A Washington (12)
State College PA Oregon (13) Penn State Oregon
Knoxville TN Oklahoma State Tennessee (14) Oklahoma State
Palo Alto CA Stanford (15) Nebraska Stanford
College Station TX Texas A&M (16) LSU Texas A&M

HTML Tables

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The seeded teams have been holding their own, for the most part, thus far. However, No. 10 seed Michigan has lost to Kentucky, 7-6, in early Saturday play. The Wolverines' furious comeback attempt from a 7-0 deficit, consisting of a run in the sixth and 5 in the seventh, fell just short. I'll be posting occasional updates throughout the weekend.

In other play early Saturday, UCLA jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead over No. 4 seed Florida, but the Gators came back for a 4-2 victory.

As Saturday's play unfolds, things are not going so well for the national seeds, after all. In addition to the Michigan loss...

Houston scored a run in the first against No. 3 seed Texas, and made it hold up in a 1-0 victory.

Oklahoma State has just spanked No. 14 Tennessee, 6-1.

DePaul has outlasted No. 5 Missouri, 2-1, in 11 innings.

As Saturday's play moved toward early evening, Michigan seemed virtually certain to be the first seeded team to be shown the door. Having already lost to Kentucky earlier in the day, the Wolverines trailed Notre Dame 8-3 after 5 1/2 innings. However, Michigan rallied for 6 runs in the bottom of the sixth and held off a Fighting Irish threat in the top of the seventh (runner on third with one out) to remain alive, 9-8. It's now Kentucky and Michigan for the regional championship on Sunday, with the Wildcats only needing to win once and the Wolverines, twice.

Now, it looks as if the dubious distinction of being the first seeded team to be eliminated may fall upon the University of Texas, as the Longhorns trail Louisiana-Lafayette 5-0. Update: Yep, Texas is gone, with a 5-3 loss to ULL.

No. 12 Washington, whose regional started a day before all the others, has become the first team to win a regional and advance to next weekend's super-regionals. The Huskies knocked off BYU today, 7-5.

LINK TO SATURDAY SCOREBOARD

Friday, May 20, 2011

As visitors to this site over the past month are probably aware, I ran a little non-scientific poll on who you all thought should be the favorite to win the Women's College World Series. With the bulk of the NCAA tournament getting underway today, it's time to look at the final poll results...


Arizona State, No. 1 in the NCAA seeding and in the media/coaches polls, came in first in our reader poll, garnering nearly 30% of the 175 votes cast. Second place was "Other," with nearly 20% of the vote. I have no way of knowing for sure which specific teams voters were thinking of when they selected "Other." Likely candidates would seem to be Missouri (No. 5 seed) and Cal (No. 7 seed). Michigan and Alabama were the only other teams to receive at least 10% of readers' votes.

The NCAA website's softball section has both a scoreboard and a brackets page available for following tournament action. Over at Lateral Sports, you can look up and connect to Internet coverage of your favorite team, whether it be by video, audio, or gametracker.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The NCAA tournament begins today, with the Seattle region (Washington, Portland State, Auburn, and BYU). This regional is starting a day earlier than the other 15, apparently to accommodate BYU's school policy of not competing on Sundays.

The host Huskies, a participant in the last two Women's College World Series and 2009 national champions, started off the 2011 season 20-0 and rose to as high as No. 4 in the national rankings. However, their non-conference schedule was not of the highest difficulty. U-Dub went on to compile a 9-12 record in the Pac 10, yielding a No. 12 seed for the NCAA tourney.

Auburn recently made some noise by upsetting highly ranked Florida in the SEC tournament. BYU played a number of nationally ranked teams during the season, going 5-8. The Cougars have won 26 of their last 28 games, playing against Mountain West Conference opponents and non-conference teams from the immediate region (e.g., Southern Utah, Utah Valley, Idaho State).

NOTES...

I wanted to pass along a message I received yesterday from Joe Bleymaier, co-founder of Lateral Sports. This free website allows fans of all college sports to look up -- and connect to -- whatever Internet coverage is available for their favorite teams on a given day, whether it be by video, audio, or gametracker. Here's a direct link to Lateral's softball page.

Michele Smith, a TV analyst for ESPN and a dominating pitcher in her day, joins with ESPN.com writer Dave Scheiber to evaluate this year's top collegiate pitchers.

[Updated early Thursday evening.]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Annual Geo-Spatial NCAA Tourney Travel Map

At roughly four hours post-announcement of the NCAA tournament brackets (which translates to 1:30 a.m. Central), this is one of my fastest turnarounds for posting my annual geo-spatial bracket! Unless you have some really fine eyesight, you are urged to click on the map to enlarge it.


Each clustering shows the teams playing in a given region, shaded in the color of the host school (the home team is also underlined). I would say 15 of the 16 regions are geographically compact, to one extent or another. Only one regional, which I am calling the "super-jumbled" regional, is really a grab-bag, sending No. 7-seeded Cal to Louisville, along with Illinois-Chicago and Jacksonville State (Alabama); these teams are seen as red blocks.

I would say the Alabama (No. 2 seed), Texas (No. 3), Missouri (No. 5), Georgia (No. 6), and (arguably) the Michigan (No. 10) regionals are extremely compact. There are several others, such as the Florida (No. 4) and Stanford (No. 15) regions, in which three of the schools are located pretty close to each other and the fourth is coming from great distance.

As a Michigan alum, let me state my beef with the seedings from the outset. The Wolverines were typically ranked at (or around) No. 2 in the national polls in the closing weeks of the regular season. Yet, the Maize and Blue ended up with a No. 10 seed! What do Arizona State (No. 1 seed) and Arizona (No. 8) have in common this season? They were both beaten by Michigan. OK, the Big 10 was down this year and the Wolverines had a few bad non-conference losses. But a 10 seed?

Also noteworthy (although not necessarily undeserved) is UCLA being completely unseeded, which I assume is the first time that's ever happened. With 24 appearances in the Women's College World Series and 11 NCAA national championships, it must be quite a shock for the Bruins to be considered almost as an afterthought by the commitee. We'll see if they can pull a surprise in the Florida regional.

[Credit: The map onto which I superimposed the softball teams is known as a cartogram, which adjusts the sizes of states or other jurisdictions from their usual sizes and boundaries to reflect other characteristics, such as population. I used this cartogram, which is based on each state's number of electoral votes in the 2008 presidential election.]

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Texas loses to Baylor, giving Missouri the outright Big 12 championship. Waiting for tonight's selection show!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cal has beaten Arizona, 6-3, this afternoon to take two out of three in the series and finish in second place (15-6) in the Pac 10. Arizona State had clinched the conference title Thursday night.

Talking about clinching conference titles, Michigan (18-2) did the same in the Big 10, with Jordan Taylor pitching a run-rule-shortened no-hitter over intrastate rival Michigan State.

The Big 12 championship is up in the air, with Texas and Missouri tied with 14-3 records at the moment. Mizzou won the first game of a doubleheader today over Iowa State, and is leading the second game 6-0 after three innings. Texas hosts Baylor Sunday.

In the SEC, which is the only major conference to still decide its champion by tournament, Tennessee and Georgia square-off in the final (7:00 pm Central, ESPN and online at ESPN3).  UPDATE: Tennessee has won the SEC tourney, 6-5 in eight innings.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger.com, the hosting site for this blog, was down from late Thursday night to Friday afternoon, thus preventing me from doing updates Thursday night.

Suffice it to say that the major story of the SEC tournament's opening day on Thursday was Auburn's upset of Florida, which under the single-elimination format, eliminates the Gators from conference-championship contention. The other Thursday winners were Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. The SEC website's "Tournament Central" is available here, for following the remainder of the event.

Thursday night in the Pac 10, Arizona and Cal battled through 10 innings, with the host U of A prevailing, 2-1. The Wildcats' Kenzie Fowler and Golden Bears' Jolene Henderson both pitched complete games. Arizona needed a two-out, game-tying hit in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

There's a lot of action on America's college softball fields today through Saturday, with very few games on Sunday. Presumably, this schedule is meant to allow the NCAA selection committee to complete its Sunday work in advance of that night's announcement of the brackets, with minimal distraction from ongoing games.

The SEC tournament (which is the only tourney among major conferences) is already underway. Tennessee has eliminated Kentucky in the opener (with a single-elimination format), and Auburn came up with three early runs against Florida. SEC tournament action is receiving wall-to-wall coverage this weekend on the ESPN family of networks.

One of the more interesting series beginning tonight is a three-game set featuring No. 5/6 Cal at No. 10/10 Arizona. The Wildcats showed some signs of rebounding last weekend at UCLA from what had thus far been a disappointing season, with the return of pitcher Kenzie Fowler and some renewed offensive spark leading U of A to wins in two of three games against the Bruins. Against Cal, the Wildcats can show if their late-season improvement is for real. Also, here's a nice article on U of A's record-setting attendance  (discovered via Ultimate College Softball).

I'll be updating scores throughout the weekend, so please check back periodically!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

With the NCAA selections coming up Sunday night, a recent discussion thread on Ultimate College Softball reminded me of how the tournament seedings don't always match up with the media/coaches' poll rankings. I thus decided to make the following chart, which compares the past three years' final regular-season ESPN.com/USA Softball poll rankings (which I chose based on their nice archiving; see 2010, 2009, and 2008) and NCAA tournament seedings (2010, 2009, 2008). You can click on the chart to enlarge it.


As can be seen, I divided teams into three categories: comparably high in the poll rankings and NCAA seedings (+/- 1 of each other); seeded markedly higher than their poll rankings; and seeded markedly lower than their poll rankings. At the very top levels, the seedings and poll rankings tracked very well in 2008 and 2009, but much less so last year.

Though we obviously have a small sample, it seems that of the two, poll rankings may be a better indicator of likely tournament success than the seedings. Most notably, the 2008 Arizona State squad that won the Women's College World Series was ranked No. 2 in the poll, but only seeded sixth. That same year, Virginia Tech, which made a surprise appearance in the WCWS, had a poll ranking of 16th (potentially warranting a No. 16 seed), but was unseeded. Louisiana-Lafayette, another surprise 2008 WCWS participant, was ranked 17th, but unseeded.

Arizona, which made the final championship series last year against UCLA, had its finish better forecasted by its No. 6 poll ranking than its 10 seeding. The Wildcats were also seeded somewhat worse than their ranking in 2009.

One team, the University of Georgia, was seeded more favorably than its final regular-season poll position would warrant in all of the past three seasons.
 
Some have suggested that the RPI rankings, a computer-based system that takes into account teams' strength of schedule, have informed the NCAA seedings more strongly than the weekly polls (here supposedly are last year's RPI rankings).
 
I don't claim to know all that is going on. But, as you're watching the Selection Show, don't be surprised to see your favorite team seeded higher or lower than what you may have been expecting based on the polls!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Florida completed a sweep today of Tennessee, closing out the series with a 7-2 victory. No. 1 Arizona State did the same to Washington. In other series we were looking at, two other teams had their brooms out today, but couldn't pull off the sweep.

Missouri managed a split with Texas, whereas UCLA salvaged one game out of three vs. Arizona. It was good to see U of A's Kenzie Fowlie back in the pitching circle after her concussion injury.

Elsewhere, Northwestern ended Indiana's 15-game winning streak (13 wins of which were in Big 10 play). Michigan (16-2) now clings to a one-game conference lead over the Hoosiers (15-3). The Wolverines conclude the regular season next weekend with a Friday-Saturday home-and-home series vs. Michigan State, whereas Indiana hosts Purdue in a doubleheader next Saturday.

Among the major conferences, only the SEC still has a conference tournament.

Friday, May 06, 2011

There appear to be two marquee series this weekend. In a three-game set beginning late this afternoon, Tennessee (No. 3/5 in the two national polls) visits Florida (4/6). The Saturday and Sunday games will be televised on the ESPN family of networks.

Over in Columbia, Missouri, No. 8/9 Mizzou hosts No. 3/4 Texas in a two-game series, Saturday and Sunday. The latter game will be on ESPN.

In most years, a three-game series between Arizona and UCLA would qualify as "marquee." This year, however, both teams have fallen out of the Top 10, so the Friday-through-Sunday series in Westwood can probably best be seen as an opportunity for one of the teams to jump-start its season.

Other Pac 10 series include: No.1 Arizona State at Washington, Cal at Oregon State, and Stanford at Oregon. All six of these teams, except Oregon State, are nationally ranked.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The latest column from ESPN.com's Graham Hays is primarily about the success of the Georgia Tech program. What I found more interesting, however, are the notes underneath the main column, in which Hays discusses several teams that either seem to be on the rise (Cal, Oregon, Auburn, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Long Beach State, and Indiana) or floundering (UCLA, Arizona, Georgia, and Baylor) as the NCAA tournament approaches.

Regarding Arizona, pitching ace Kenzie Fowler has been out since getting hit by a batted ball while in the dugout and suffering a concussion, a couple of Sundays ago. To some extent, the Wildcats' recent five-game losing streak -- three straight to Arizona State and two to Oregon, all in Tucson -- might be attributable to diminished pitching depth. However, U of A was shut out twice during the stretch, which of course cannot be blamed on the pitching staff.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

No. 17 Baylor will be giving away T-shirts to produce a "green out" of the stadium, as the Bears host the No. 3 Texas Longhorns tonight...

...but it doesn't help, as Texas wins 3-0.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

This weekend's softball action among the nation's leading teams can only be described by one word: Comeback!

No. 1 Michigan rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh today to edge Iowa, 3-2, and salvage a split of the teams' series. The Hawkeyes won 4-2 on Saturday, holding the Wolverines scoreless for the final four innings. Adding these innings to the initial six today in which Michigan failed to score yields a streak of 10 consecutive scoreless frames for the Maize 'n Blue offense.

No. 2 Arizona State swept a three-game series from archrival University of Arizona in Tucson, with the most noteworthy win coming in Friday's Game 2. Trailing 9-1 after two innings, the Sun Devils scored 2 in the fourth, 1 in the fifth, and 3 in the sixth (with UA scoring 1 in its half of the fifth), sending ASU to its at-bats in the top of the seventh trailing 10-7. A six-run outburst, culminating in a grand-slam by Kaylyn Castillo, gave the Devils a 13-10 lead, which ended up being the final score (box score).

No. 3/4 Alabama, after winning Friday at No. 8/9 Florida on a 5-0 shutout, was on the wrong side of comebacks in the final two games of the series. On Saturday, the Tide led 5-3 as the Gators came up to bat in the bottom of the seventh, but Bama gave up a walk-off three-run homer to UF's Kelsey Bruder for a 6-5 Gator victory. Today, in a game that was scoreless through the regulation seven innings, Florida came up in the bottom of the eighth trailing 2-0, but scored 2 in the eighth to tie the game and 1 in the ninth to win, 3-2.

Finally, No. 6/5 Texas needed a little bit of a comeback to secure a two-game sweep over Texas Tech. Friday night's affair was a 15-2 run-rule-shortened romp for the Longhorns. On Saturday, however, the Red Raiders held a 5-1 lead after two, only to have the Horns score the final 8 runs of the game (a 1-run inning, two 2-run innings, and a 3-run frame) for a 9-5 victory.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

With Easter coming up on Sunday, many college softball (and baseball) series are being played Thursday-Friday-Saturday (or Friday-Saturday, if only two games). A key intrastate battle in which Arizona State (No. 2 nationally in both polls) visits University of Arizona (No. 7 in both polls) is one three-game series that gets underway tonight. 

The Texas Longhorns (No. 6/5) bring their hot pitching to Lubbock, to take on Texas Tech Friday night and Saturday morning.

Not all schools are avoiding games on Easter. Consensus No. 1 Michigan, which yesterday swept a doubleheader from Penn State, hosts Iowa Saturday and Sunday. Also, Alabama (No. 3/4) travels to Florida for a Friday-Saturday-Sunday series, the latter two games of which will be televised on the ESPN family of networks.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The way the present season has gone, each new set of weekly national polls seems to have a new team at No. 1. Such as the case this week, as the Michigan Wolverines have now ascended to the top of the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings. According to this UM athletic news release:

Michigan is the fifth team to earn the NFCA's No. 1 selection this season and the seventh to garner USA Softball's top spot. Teams that previously held the No. 1 spot this season are Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Florida, Georgia and UCLA.

I'm a Michigan alumnus (Ph.D., '89) and, as fervently as I want it to be true that the Wolverines are the nation's top team, even I think a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted. Yes, UM is 39-3 (including wins over Arizona State and Arizona). However, the team's three losses are to Western Kentucky, Fresno State, and Indiana.

Of course, the polls won't matter once the NCAA tournament begins. With so many teams having their proverbial 15 minutes of fame atop the national polls, there doesn't seem to be a clear favorite at this point to win the Women's College World Series.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

No. 1 Arizona State and No. 7/8 University of Arizona each won their respective series this weekend, leading into a key series between the Arizona schools starting this upcoming Thursday in Tucson. ASU shutout UCLA in the final two games of the teams' three-game series (2-0, 5-0), after the Bruins had taken the opener. Meanwhile, after being shutout 3-0 by Washington on Friday night, Arizona and its bats came alive to take the final two games over the Huskies (13-5, 6-1) and win the series.

In some high-scoring action, No. 2 Michigan swept its two-game series at Illinois, which had to be played as a doubleheader today due to inclement weather Saturday, 8-6 and 9-7.

Texas (ranked 3 and 4 in the two national polls) upped its Big 12 record to 9-0 with a two-game sweep of Iowa State.

In the topsy-turvy SEC, Tennesee swept three at LSU, outscoring the Tigers by a cumulative 24-2. Alabama, Florida, and Georgia also swept their respective opponents (weekend roundup).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The hierarchy among the nation's top college softball teams has been shaken up in the last week, so perhaps this weekend's games will help restore order. On the other hand, perhaps we'll just see more upsets!

Alabama, No. 1 in recent weeks, got swept at LSU last weekend in a three-game series, dropping the Crimson Tide to No. 3 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and No. 5 in USA Today/NFCA's. Granted, two of Bama's three losses were in extra innings (14 and 10 frames), but Tide fans must have some offensive concerns with only two runs scored in 31 total innings. Alabama will try to bounce back hosting Mississippi State for three over the weekend.

With no teams currently making a compelling case for No. 1 (in the present author's view), Arizona State has been handed the designation in both polls. Though 37-4 overall, the Sun Devils did not play the most challenging nonconference schedule and are an undistinguished 4-2 in Pac-10 play, having faced Cal and Oregon. UCLA (11/9 in the polls) will visit ASU this weekend. A couple of hours down the road, Washington (8/7) will be at Arizona (7/8).

Michigan, the consensus No. 2 team (but like ASU, without much fanfare), will play at Illinois this weekend. Texas (4/3), fresh off a stunning loss to Stephen F. Austin (who came in at 10-27), hosts Iowa State.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Baylor swept a doubleheader from Texas Tech tonight in Lubbock (5-1 and 10-3), with your trusty blogger attending and photographing the action (you may click on the pictures to enlarge them). The Bears nearly got a no-hitter in the opener -- more on that later.


Bear catcher Clare Hosack (number 15 in green) and her teammates were on the bases early and often in Game 1.


An illegal-pitch call, which Tech Coach Shanon Hays (red shirt) went out to discuss with an umpire, prolonged a Baylor rally...


...but some good Red Raider defense, here retiring a Baylor player between third and home in a rundown, mitigated the damage.


Bear starter Whitney Canion dominated the Red Raiders in Game 1, striking out 11 Texas Tech batters.



With the scoreboard in the background displaying Texas Tech's lack of hits after six innings, Canion ran out to pitch the final inning with a no-hitter only three outs away.



But it was not to be, as Tech's Mikey Kenney led off the bottom of the seventh by blasting a 2-2 pitch over the left-field fence. I call this kind of shot a "Gwen Stefani Homer," as there was "No Doubt."



Tech, here trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth, would tie the game 3-3 later in this half-inning. However, Baylor scored the final seven runs of the game. With the sweep, the Bears are now 30-6 overall, 4-2 in the Big 12. Ranked No. 17 nationally in both major polls coming into the doubleheader, Baylor seems on track to make the NCAA tournament. 

Texas Tech, which compiled a 35-1 record in non-conference play against a schedule that was, shall we say, not so heavy on highly ranked teams, now stands at 1-5 in the Big 12, with all six games having been played at home. The Red Raiders are going to have to start winning some conference games to salvage an NCAA tournament berth.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Texas Tech and Oklahoma split their two-game series, with the Red Raiders winning Friday night on a shutout (5-0) by junior college transfer pitcher Kelsey Dennis, and the Sooners holding on for a 7-6 win this afternoon after leading 7-1 entering Tech's at-bats in the bottom of the seventh. OU pitcher Keilani Ricketts looked rickety toward the end, allowing a lot of Red Raiders to hit the ball hard, before recording a game-ending strike-out.

In a game televised Friday night on ESPN-U, it only took one pitch in the bottom of the tenth -- which Tennessee's Kelly Grieve belted for a home run -- to give the Lady Vols a 2-1 win over Auburn. Tennessee pitcher Ellen Renfroe struck out 20 Tigers on the night. This afternoon, however, Auburn evened up the series with a 9-1 victory.

Michigan suffered its first Big 10 loss, splitting a doubleheader with Indiana.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The ESPN family of networks will be televising a number of college softball games in the coming weeks, as part of its larger portfolio of springtime collegiate athletics. The schedule is heavily, though not exclusively, oriented toward the SEC. There are several doubleheaders and even a tripleheader. I have copied and pasted the softball information below (all times Eastern):

Fri., April 1
Auburn at Tennessee 8 p.m. ESPNU
Hawaii at Fresno State 10 p.m. ESPNU

Sun., April 3
Liberty at Winthrop 2 p.m. ESPNU

Sat., April 9
Kentucky at Georgia 2 p.m. ESPNU

Sun., April 10
Alabama at LSU 2 p.m. ESPNU

Sat., April 16
Tennessee at LSU Noon ESPN2

Sun., April 17
South Carolina at Arkansas 2 p.m. ESPNU
Oklahoma at Missouri 4 p.m. ESPN

Fri., April 22
LSU at Ole Miss 6 p.m. ESPNU

Sat., April 23
Alabama at Florida 4 p.m. ESPN2

Sun., April 24
Alabama at Florida 1 p.m. ESPN

Sat., April 30
Oklahoma at Texas 7:30 p.m. ESPN
 
Wed., May 4
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame 4 p.m. ESPNU
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame 6:30 p.m. ESPNU

Sat., May 7
Tennessee at Florida Noon ESPN
Cal St. Fullerton at Long Beach St. 3 p.m. ESPNU
Cal St. Fullerton at Long Beach St. 5:30 p.m. ESPNU

Sun., May 8
Texas at Missouri 1 p.m. ESPN
Tennessee at Florida 3 p.m. ESPNU
SWAC championship 10 p.m. ESPNU

May 12-14
Complete coverage of SEC tournament
 
Sat., May 14
Big East championship 5 p.m. ESPN2

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Georgia swept a three-game series from Florida this weekend in SEC play, to reassert itself as a conference and national force. The SEC softball website always provides nice weekend wrap-ups; here is today's.

In the Big 10, Michigan swept a two-game series at Northwestern.

Finally, in the Big 12, Missouri (4-0) and Texas (2-0) sit undefeated atop the conference standings. The Longhorns, building on their success in last week's Judi Garman Classic, swept Kansas, while Mizzou came down to Lubbock and took a pair from Texas Tech. The Red Raiders came into this conference-opening series with a 35-1 record, largely against lower-tier competition (or at least nothing like the caliber of Missouri).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Georgia rebounded from last weekend's sweep at the hands of Alabama by beating national No.2 Florida tonight, 10-7, to kick off this weekend's play. Conference action in the Big 10 and Big 12 is also on tap. Michigan, No. 3 and 4 in the two national polls, plays at Northwestern Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Alabama, ranked No. 2/3 last week in the national polls, swept three games from No. 1 Georgia over the weekend. Look for the Crimson Tide to move to No. 1, but Bama faces another tough assignment in short order -- a doubleheader at No. 11 Tennessee on Tuesday.

Out in Fullerton, California at the Judi Garman Classic, the only team to go undefeated was No. 12/14 Texas, as the Longhorns were 5-0. Among the wins was a 12-0 run-rule blasting of previously unbeaten Washington, with Blaire Luna pitching a perfect game (albeit only five innings). Still, I'm sure Luna was over the moon! Also at the Garman...

Michigan beat both Arizona schools (ASU and UA), but lost to Fresno State to go 4-1.

Oklahoma went 4-2, beating Arizona and Washington, but losing to Notre Dame and Penn State.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

With this being the opening weekend of college basketball's March Madness, probably only the most hardcore softball fans will be focusing on the diamond rather than the hardwood. If so, it will be too bad, as this weekend also features arguably the best match-ups of the softball season thus far.

Georgia and Alabama, who are the top two teams in the nation according to the latest ESPN.com/USA Softball poll (Nos. 1 and 3 in the USA Today/NFCA poll), meet in a three-game series in Tuscaloosa. Game times (Central) are Friday (6:30), Saturday (7:00), and Sunday (1:30). Saturday night's game will be televised on ESPN-U. See the Georgia and Alabama team pages in the links section to the right, for further details.

Meanwhile, out in Fullerton, California, the annual Judi Garman Classic swings into full action today after a couple of games last night. The University of Washington, the nation's last remaining undefeated team (ranked fourth in both polls) heads a deep field that also includes, among others, Arizona State (5/6), Michigan (6/5), Arizona (7/7), and Oklahoma (8/9).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Texas Tech, which started off the season 24-0 and achieved a No. 19 national ranking in both major polls, suffered its first loss Friday, 4-2 to Alcorn State.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The latest rankings from the nation's two major softball polls both have SEC teams in the top three slots, albeit in different orders. The ESPN.com/USA Softball poll has it: 1. Florida, 2. Alabama, and 3. Georgia. The USA Today/NFCA has it: 1. Georgia, 2. Florida, and 3. Alabama.

Friday, March 04, 2011

As can be seen on the daily listing of games over at Ultimate College Softball, the top teams are scattered around the nation in this weekend's tournaments, without a concentration of marquee schools in any one location.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

ESPN.com columnist Graham Hays is out with his summary of the Cathedral City Classic, held this past weekend.

Also, Shanon Hays, coach of undefeated Texas Tech, is interviewed by a Lubbock radio station (click here and, when the page comes up, click on "Download" to hear the full 9-minute, 53-second interview).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The annual Cathedral City Classic is now over, so I thought I'd report on the win-loss records at the event of teams that were either highly ranked coming in or pulled some surprises (tourney site). (Rankings are shown as ESPN.com/USA Softball listed first, USA Today/NFCA second.)

No. 1/3 Arizona 4-1 (lost to Georgia)

No. 3T/1 Georgia 4-1 (lost to Oklahoma State)

No. 3T/2 UCLA 3-2 (lost to Florida and Tennessee; the Bruins also appear to be a little banged up at the moment)

No. 5/4 Florida 5-0

No. 6/6 Oklahoma 1-4 (lost to Georgia, Hawai'i, Long Beach State, and UCLA)

No. 9/7 Washington 5-0

No. 10/8 Tennessee 5-0

No. 11/10 Hawai'i 1-3 (lost to Nebraska, Syracuse, and Virginia; summary)

No. 18/19 Oklahoma State 4-1 (lost to Fresno State)

(Unranked) Syracuse 5-0 (summary)

(Unranked) Fresno State 3-1 (lost to Syracuse)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The 34-team Cathedral City Classic, hosted in the Palm Springs, California area by Oregon State, runs from today through Sunday. Eight teams currently ranked in the national Top 10 by one or both of the major polls are playing at Cathedral City, as follows (ESPN.com/USA Softball ranking listed first, USA Today/NFCA ranking listed second).

Arizona (1/3)
Georgia (T3/1)
UCLA (T3/2)
Florida (5/4)
Oklahoma (6/6)
Washington (9/7)
Tennessee (10/8)
Hawai'i (11/10)

Three Top 10 teams are not competing in the tournament: Alabama (2/5), Michigan (7/9), and Arizona State (8/12).

As of early this evening, there already has been one upset, with Oklahoma State beating Georgia. The Bulldogs did rebound, however, to defeat Oklahoma. Some of the more attractive upcoming games include:

*UCLA facing a pair of tough opponents Friday, first Florida and then Oklahoma.

*UCLA against Tennessee on Saturday.

*Arizona vs. Georgia, Saturday.

Friday, February 18, 2011

This weekend's top tournament appears to be the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic, hosted by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The 17-team field is headed up by defending national champion UCLA and two other teams that played in last year's Women's College World Series, Tennessee and Hawai'i.

Monday, February 14, 2011

That Texas Tech (the school where I teach) could go undefeated in a major tournament, including wins over two nationally ranked teams, would have been unimaginable a few years ago. Under coach Shanon Hays who came on board last year, however, the Red Raiders advanced to the final of the Stanford regional before losing to Hawai'i, and now Texas Tech has opened 2011 with a bang.

Playing in Arizona State University's Kajikawa tournament -- an event with roughly 20 teams, so that any given team plays only a subset of all teams in the field -- the Red Raiders won all five of their games. These wins included a 5-4 decision over No. 12 Cal, and a 7-5, nine-inning, win over No. 16 BYU. The latter win included an eighth-inning triple-play to escape a major Cougar threat. In the team's final game of the tournament, the Red Raiders got a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh, to beat Appalachian State, 10-9, and finish 5-0.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Welcome to another college softball season! As longtime visitors to this blog may have noticed, I've totally redone the graphic design. I hope you like it.

The season's pre-conference tournaments get underway tomorrow. The annual Kajikawa Classic, hosted by Arizona State, presents a large field of teams, a few of whom have been ranked in this year's preseason Top 10 (Arizona, ASU, Oklahoma; see posting immediately below) and many others of whom appeared in last year's NCAA tournament (e.g., BYU, Oregon, Stanford, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech).

Over at Ultimate College Softball, they have a monster compendium of all of this weekend's tournaments, so you can see where your favorite team is playing.

Also, ESPN.com's Graham Hays has a mega-preview of the upcoming season.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The two major national polls -- ESPN.com/USA Softball and USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association -- released their preseason rankings about a week ago.  The two polls agree that UCLA and Arizona, last year's NCAA finalists, should be the top two teams this year, too. However, the polls disagree on the order. USAT/NFCA clearly favors the Bruins with 27 first-place votes to just 3 for the Wildcats. ESPN/USAS, though giving UCLA 10 first-place votes to Arizona's 9, puts the Wildcats ahead on overall points.

Both polls also place four SEC teams -- Alabama (3/6), Florida (5/5), Georgia (4/3), and Tennessee (7/4) -- right behind the two Pac 10 powers (ESPN/USAS ranking listed first).

Other teams making the preseason Top 10 in one or both polls include Oklahoma (6/9), Michigan (8/11), Missouri (9/7), Arizona State (10/13), Hawai'i (13/8), and Washington (11/10).