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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 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 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.