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.