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Sunday, July 08, 2012

Book Review: "Women's Fast Pitch Softball"

Steven Clarfield recently sent me a copy of his (co-authored with Bill Plummer) new book, Women's Fast Pitch Softball: Best of the Best, which I am happy to review. Readers will likely be immediately impressed by these authors' ability to get Arizona coach Mike Candrea to write the preface and former UCLA and Olympic star Dot Richardson to write the foreword.

The core of the book consists of 19 chapters on all-time great figures of the sport -- 10 on contemporary  players and nine on "oldsters" (coaches from various historical eras and players from an earlier day). The contemporary-player chapters, featuring such individuals as Lisa Fernandez, Michele Smith (now a color commentator on ESPN's annual coverage of the Women's College World Series), Cat Osterman, and Jennie Finch, touch on ingredients typically associated with athletic greatness, such as preparation from an early age, hard work, persistence in the face of adversity, a never-ending quest for self-improvement, and the importance of mentors.

The chapters on the oldsters revisit the era before college softball came along with the AIAW in the 1970s (and then progressed with the NCAA from the 1980s forward). In order to be a highly accomplished coach, one has to have been around awhile, thus limiting the universe of individuals who both played NCAA softball and have amassed large numbers of coaching championships (somewhat of an exception is Sue Enquist, who played AIAW softball at UCLA and then had an illustrious career as coach of the Bruins).

I personally knew very little about ASA club softball before reading the book. However, given that the ASA apparently was the only game in town before the 1970s, it would have been impossible to profile the veteran coaches and players without discussing this level of competition. It was in this context that I first learned about historical figures such as Ralph Raymond (longtime coach of the Connecticut-based Raybestos Brakettes, who were named after the automobile brake company), Joan Joyce (pitcher for the Brakettes and California-based Orange Lionettes, who once held her own in a pitching exhibition against Ted Williams), and Carol Spanks (a fine-hitting shortstop for the Lionettes). Joyce and Spanks later went on to coach NCAA softball. 

The coaches' chapters mainly seemed to focus on the individuals' motivational styles and personal backgrounds. In the early days of collegiate competition, some of the coaches had to keep a day job and then come to campus for late-afternoon practices, that was how little pay the colleges offered. In addition to the coaches already mentioned, others profiled in the book include Sharron Backus, Margie Wright, and Judi Garman, the latter of whom is honored with an annual collegiate tournament in her name.

The final chapter supplements the in-depth profiles of the featured 19 players and coaches with very brief bio sketches of roughly 50 additional personalities. (One quibble I had, as a Michigan alumnus, is the inclusion of coach Carol Hutchins in the supplemental, rather than main, part of the book, and the misspelling of her name as "Hutchings.")

One thing I liked about the book is its relatively concise chapters. Depending on how busy one is with other things, one can read a few chapters, put the book aside for awhile, and then pick it up again. Some readers may find the book's tone to be a little heavy on romanticism and idealization of the profiled subjects. However, the authors are obviously enthusiastic about their subject matter and it's hard to begrudge that. Overall, the book is an excellent resource on the history of U.S. women's softball in the past 60 years or so, both club and collegiate.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Final Notes 2012

The 2012 college softball season is now on the books, and I would like to thank the visitors to this site. I don't get a lot of traffic, but I like to think I have a devoted, though small, following. Below is a screen capture from the Sitemeter tool I use to track readership. It shows the 100 most recent visits to my site (with the most recent in red and 10 most recent in green). As you can see, in the aftermath of the Women's College World Series, there were heavy concentrations of visits from people in and around Oklahoma and Alabama.

I post occasionally during the off-season, so I hope you'll check back from time to time. Definitely, though, plan to return for full-time coverage of the 2013 season!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

2012 WCWS Game 3

We're finally underway. Alabama is officially the home team. The Crimson Tide is looking to become the first team from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) to win the Women's College World Series (Florida lost in the 2009 and 2011 finals, and Tennessee lost in the 2007 finals; here's a summary chart of all WCWS results). Oklahoma is going for its second WCWS title, as the 2000 Sooners won the school's first softball title. I'll be live-blogging during the game...

With an Oklahoma fan's sign referring to "K-Lani," Sooner pitcher Keilani Ricketts strikes out the side in the bottom of the first.

Ricketts then comes up to bat and leads off the top of the second with a home-run blast to right.

OU's Lauren Chamberlain adds a two-run blast to left to make it 3-0.

Alabama gets its first two hits of the game in the bottom of the third, although neither ball left the infield.

The rain has returned, but play is continuing.

Bama gets on the board with two out in the bottom of the fourth on, as play-by-play announcer Beth Mowins points out, "a single and three wild pitches."

With the rain intensifying, it appears that play is being suspended briefly with two outs. As field reporter Holly Rowe informs us, the umpires will discuss whether to impose a longer suspension. Apparently, the footing is still OK, but Ricketts is claiming she cannot properly grasp the ball due to the rain. Alabama seems to be arguing that Ricketts should have to complete the inning, just as the Tide's Jackie Traina had to do in the top half. Meanwhile, the Bama players are leading their fans in some cheers!

The decision is made to resume play without a long delay.

A two-out single by Amanda Locke with a runner on second brings in another Alabama run, cutting OU's lead to 3-2 (the hitter takes second on the unsuccessful throw home). A drive to the warning track by Courtney Conley ties the score.

OU messes up two potential chances to get out of the inning with the score tied, on a grounder to short. The first-baseperson bobbles the throw from the shortstop, then the throw from first to the catcher when Conley heads home gets away. The Tide leads 4-3.

The Sooners finally get out of the inning, on a cleanly fielded play when the Tide hitter tries to bunt for a base hit.

With OU batting in the top of the fifth, my TV picture is going in and out, presumably due to the OKC storms. I see that the Sooners have gotten a two-out walk. I'm now following the game on the Internet (link). OU doesn't score in the inning.

OK, my picture is back. Alabama has a runner on third with one out in the bottom of the fifth, seeking to extend its one-run lead.Bama pitcher Jackie Traina drives a hard single to right, upping the Tide's lead to 5-3. Ricketts allows no further damage.

OU shows a little offensive spark in the top of the sixth, with a one-out single. A weak pop-up to short, however, makes it two down for the Sooners.And a strike-out makes it three.

Alabama goes down quietly in the bottom of the sixth.

Oklahoma is down to its final three outs, needing two runs to tie...

Bang-bang play on an OU grounder to third -- narrowly out at first.

A dribbler up the first-base line. OU's runner is called out for running inside the baseline, after a collision with the Bama fielder.

A two-out homer by Lauren Chamberlain, her second of the game, cuts the Tide lead to 5-4.

Keilani Ricketts up with a chance to make up for her pitching difficulties. She strikes out looking, ending the game.



The decisive Game 3 of the Women's College World Series has been delayed by rain in Oklahoma City. As shown in the following screen capture I took from, the current rain over OKC appears relatively light. According to ESPN, the game will start at 9:45 pm Central.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

2012 WCWS Game 2

Oklahoma, looking to close out the Women's College World Series tonight, has scored a run in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead. Click here for stats and a play-by-play sheet.

Alabama has runners on first and second with one out in the top of the second, however. The Crimson Tide has now put a four-spot on the board, thanks primarily to a bases-loaded double by pitcher Jackie Traina that brought all three runners home. OU pitcher Keilani Ricketts has looked, well, rickety, hitting two batters with pitches in the second inning alone, in addition to the other damage.

Bama increases its lead to 5-1 in the fourth. Ricketts is yanked from the pitching circle, perhaps an acknowledgement by OU coach Patty Gasso that a comeback win by her team tonight is unlikely and that Ricketts may as well be rested for tomorrow.

8-1 Tide.

Oklahoma scores 5 in the bottom of the seventh, but it's not enough. 8-6 Bama. Wednesday night for all the marbles.

Monday, June 04, 2012

2012 WCWS Game 1

Alabama is now batting in the bottom of the second inning against Oklahoma, in the opening game of the two-out-of-three championship round. The Sooners already have four hits in just two innings, but haven't scored. Neither has the Crimson Tide. Here's a link to real-time statistics and a play-by-play sheet.

Bama scores the game's first run in the bottom of the fourth inning, on a sacrifice fly.

Oklahoma bounces back in the top of the fifth to take a 2-1 lead, then adds two more runs in the sixth to pad the lead to 4-1.

That's how it ends: 4-1 Sooners. OU will be aiming to close out the Women's College World Series tomorrow night.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

It turns out to be a short day today at the Women's College World Series, as each of the no-loss teams (Oklahoma and Alabama) win their first games against the one-loss teams (ASU and Cal, respectively), to preclude the need for any rematches.

It's now on to the two-out-of-three championship series, beginning Monday night, between Oklahoma and Alabama. As the ESPN announcers noted throughout the day, it will be the first final without a team from the Pac 10/12 since 1986.

Below are my live bloggings from the two Sunday games. See you tomorrow night!


Alabama pitcher Jackie Traina has just homered in the bottom of the second to give the Crimson Tide a 1-0 lead over California.

In the top of the third, Traina got off the track a bit, allowing Cal to load the bases with two outs. However, a good play by the Bama first-baseperson in snaring a hard-hit (apparent) one-hopper prevented any score.

The Crimson Tide has upped its lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the third, with a threat still going (second and third with one out).

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene! (a musical reference). Cal's Henderson strikes out two straight to end the threat.

Sister Danielle Henderson socks a two-run homer into the upper part of the left-field bleachers to tie the game at 2-all.

Bama retakes the lead, 3-2, in the bottom of the fourth. But for some great defensive plays by Cal, the margin would be even greater.

Kaila Hunt's solo shot in the bottom of the fifth gives the Tide a two-run cushion.

Another solo shot, by Jazlyn Lunceford in the bottom of the sixth, extends Alabama's lead to 5-2.

And that's how it ends: 5-2 for Bama, to eliminate Cal.


Defending national champion Arizona State is running out of time. Having lost once earlier in the Women's College World Series, the Sun Devils are currently down to their last at-bats, trailing Oklahoma 5-3. I will live-blog the top of the seventh:
  • ASU leads off with a hard single to left.
  • Keilani Ricketts overcomes a 3-1 count to the next batter, blowing two straight strikes by her (1 out).
  • Another strike-out. Sun Devils down to their final out.
  • Ricketts strikes out the side.
OU now advances to the championship round, beginning tomorrow night.

Alabama and Cal are up next.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Today and tomorrow, teams in the Women's College World Series will be fighting to avoid a second loss, which means elimination. The final two teams standing will qualify for the championship round, a two-out-of-three affair that begins Monday night (the slate is wiped clean for the title round, so it doesn't matter at all if a team has one or no losses in the qualifying round). I will continuously update the following chart of where teams stand. Links to game articles will also be included.

Current game: Cal's Jace Williams hits a three-run bomb in the top of the first, to put the Golden Bears up 3-0 over Oregon (play-by-play sheet). The Cal lead is now up to 5-0, with Oregon coming up in the bottom of the second. Cal hangs on for a 6-3 victory.

Last game: LSU vs. Arizona State (play-by-play sheet) , scoreless going to the third The Sun Devils go up 3-0 on a three-run homer by Alix Johnson in the top of the third. ASU has added three more runs, to lead 6-0 with LSU coming up in the bottom of the fifth. The game ends with a 6-0 final score.

No LossesOne LossTwo Losses (Gone)


...Arizona St.
...LSULSU (lost to Arizona St.)
...So. FloridaSo. Florida (lost to LSU)
...OregonOregon (lost to Cal)
...TennesseeTennessee (lost to Oregon)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Oklahoma has taken a 1-0 lead over Cal in the top of the third. The Sooners had the bases loaded with none out, so the Golden Bears are lucky not to be further behind. OU ups its lead to 2-0, with Cal coming up in the bottom of the fourth. OU's Keilani Ricketts pitches a two-hitter, striking out 16, as the Sooners beat Cal 3-0.

Alabama has edged Arizona State, 2-1, in the nightcap.

Oklahoma and Alabama are now off until Sunday, while the other teams sort themselves out through the losers' bracket on Saturday.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The 2012 NCAA Women's College World Series is underway. Currently, No. 4 seed Oklahoma is playing South Florida, and the Sooners lead 2-1 with the Bulls batting in the top of the fifth. OU has won, 5-1.

The second game of the afternoon session featured No. 1 seed Cal against LSU. The Golden Bears took this one, 5-3.

Both of today's evening match-ups are of the intra-conference variety. No. 2 Alabama takes on SEC rival Tennessee, the No. 7 seed, and No. 3 Arizona State takes on Pac 12 rival Oregon.(No. 11).

Tennessee is trying to rally in the top of the seventh against Alabama. The Tide led 5-2 entering the inning, but the Vols have scored a run and have two on base with two outs. It's final: Bama 5, Tennessee 3.

In the nightcap, ASU has beaten Oregon, 3-1.

Friday's play, entirely in the winners' bracket, will pit Cal vs. Oklahoma, and Arizona State vs. Alabama.

I'll be blogging throughout the tournament, as the opportunity permits.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tennessee and Georgia went down to the wire, with the Bulldogs taking Game 2 by a 1-0 score to even the series, and the Volunteers coming back to win Game 3 by a 2-1 margin and advance to the Women's College World Series.

LSU and Missouri are tied 1-1 after 8 innings in Game 2 of their series. This game doesn't get settled until the 12th inning, with Mizzou scoring four runs in the top half (thanks, in part, to an errant LSU throw) and LSU going down quietly in the bottom half. Mizzou's 5-1 win sends the series to a deciding third game which should start a little before 7:00 pm Central.

LSU takes Game 3 by a 3-1 score over Missouri.

Washington and Cal are scoreless in Game 2, heading into the bottom of the second. The Huskies loaded the bases in the bottom of the first, but couldn't score. Cal has beaten Washington 2-0 in Game 2, thus sweeping the series without allowing the Huskies a run.

Please see my super-regional chart in Thursday's posting (below), which gives the game-by-game results of all the series at a glance.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

For the second straight day, Oklahoma has routed Arizona (7-1), sending the Sooners to the Women's College World Series. As I discuss elsewhere, the hot hitting of OU outfielder Brianna Turang has been key to the Sooners' success.

South Florida has just edged Hofstra, 2-1, to even up the series. Both games thus far have gone to extra innings. Game 3 will be held later today.

In Game 3, South Florida and Hofstra are tied 1-1, as the Pride comes up in the bottom of the fourth. USF had threatened in the top half of the inning. South Florida pulls out Game 3 (yet again by a 2-1 score) and advances to the WCWS.

Oregon has an early 3-1 lead over Texas, as the Ducks try to even up the series. The Longhorns have taken a 4-3 lead, entering the Oregon (bottom) half of the third inning. Game tied at 4-all heading into the sixth. Oregon takes Game 2, by a 5-4 score, forcing a decisive third game.

In the Oregon-Texas Game 3, the Ducks took a 6-0 lead, but Texas has rallied for 3 runs in the top of the fourth. Any Longhorn momentum in Game 3 has been doused, as Oregon has increased its lead to 10-3. The Ducks hang on to win 10-6, sending UO to its first Women's College World Series since 1989.

LSU leads Missouri 5-1 (and is threatening to do more) in the teams' opening game. LSU takes the opener, 6-1.

Cal has been leading Washington 3-0 for a pretty long time.The Golden Bears take Game 1 over the Huskies, 5-0.

I am continuously updating the super-regional chart I posted on Thursday (see below).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Alabama has become the first team to earn its place in the Women's College World Series, eliminating Michigan. Arizona State is the second team to do so, with two wins Friday night to knock out Louisiana-Lafayette in three games. I am continuously updating the super-regional chart I created in yesterday's posting (immediately below).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Here are the match-ups for the super-regionals, which begin tonight. I will list the winners of each game, as the results come in (bold indicates the clinching of a series; links are to game articles).

Teams Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Washington (16) at Cal (1)*** Cal Cal ---
Michigan at Alabama (2)* Alabama Alabama ---
Louisiana-Laf. at Arizona St. (3)* Lou-Laf Arizona St. Arizona St.
Arizona (13) at Oklahoma (4)** Oklahoma Oklahoma ---
Hofstra at South Florida** Hofstra So. Florida So. Florida
Oregon (11) at Texas (6)** Texas Oregon Oregon
Georgia (10) at Tennessee (7)*** Tennessee Georgia Tennessee
LSU at Missouri (9)*** LSU Missouri LSU
Series begins: *Thursday; **Friday; ***Saturday

Monday, May 21, 2012's Graham Hays looks back at this past weekend's regionals and forward to the super-regionals.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

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. Oregon's regional started a day earlier than the rest and the Ducks wrapped up their bid to the super-regionals Saturday.

Regional Needs 1 win Needs 2 wins Champion
Berkeley, CA Arkansas Cal (1)* Cal
Tuscaloosa, AL Alabama (2) South Alabama Alabama
Tempe, AZ Arizona St. (3) Syracuse* Arizona St.
Norman, OK Oklahoma (4) Oregon St. Oklahoma
Gainesville, FL South Florida Florida (5) South Florida
Austin, TX Northwestern Texas (6)* Texas
Knoxville, TN Virginia Tech Tennessee (7)* Tennessee
College Station, TX LSU Texas A&M (8) LSU
Columbia, MO Missouri (9) Illinois St. Missouri
Athens, GA Georgia (10) North Carolina Georgia
Eugene, OR N/A N/A Oregon
Los Angeles, CA Hofstra San Diego St. Hofstra
Tucson, AZ Arizona (13) Notre Dame Arizona
Lafayette, LA Louisiana-Laf. (14) Stanford Louisiana-Laf.
Louisville, KY Michigan Louisville (15) Michigan
Seattle, WA Washington (16) Harvard Washington

Friday, May 18, 2012

LATE-NIGHT UPDATE:  I don't recall as many seeded teams losing their opening games as happened today:

No. 5 Florida coming up short, 2-1, to Florida Gulf Coast.(It also turns out that three Gator starters were dismissed from the team before the game.)

No. 6 Texas losing, 2-0, to Northwestern.

No. 7 Tennessee falling, 1-0, to Miami of Ohio.

No. 12 UCLA getting pounded, 7-2, by Hofstra.

The regionals round, like all others, is double-elimination. Therefore, today's upset victims still have a chance to advance to the next round.


Play is now underway in the NCAA softball Division I regionals. Here is a link to the NCAA softball page, which includes a scoreboard of all games, brackets, and other information. Select games will be shown on the ESPN family of networks. Because there are so many games, I will typically write only about upsets.

Monday, May 14, 2012

2012 Geospatial Map of NCAA Tournament

Here is my annual geospatial map of the NCAA regional assignments. The official NCAA bracket is listed here.

Each of the 16 regional sites has its own color code. For example, the geographically compact University of Florida region, hosted by the No. 5 seed Gators and also featuring Central Florida, South Florida, and Florida Gulf Coast, depicts the teams in blue boxes with orange letters. Two of the most spread-out regions are:
  •  The one hosted by top-seed Cal, whose visitors include Arkansas, Iona (NY), and Boston University. These teams are shown in dark-blue boxes with yellow lettering.
  • The University of Washington (No. 16 seed) region, whose participants (depicted in purple boxes with yellow letters) include Texas Tech, Maryland, and Harvard.
Overall, the seedings are about what I had expected them to be (other years have presented greater surprises). Conference highlights (and lowlights) include:
  • Of the nine Pac 12 schools that field softball teams, eight got in the tournament (six with top-16 seedings).
  • Of the 11 SEC schools with softball, nine got in. This includes an Arkansas squad that went 7-21 in conference play (27-26 overall). Four of the SEC teams are seeded.
  • Of the nine Big 12 schools with softball, six got in. Four are seeded.
  • The only two seeds from outside the three power conferences were Louisiana-Lafayette (14) and Louisville (15).
  • The Big 10 had a very lean year, getting only two teams in. One was conference champion Michigan (18-5, 39-15). The other was a big surprise, to me at least, namely the co-fourth-place Northwestern (14-10, 27-27). Apparently, the Wildcats' strength of schedule vaulted them over the teams that finished higher in the league standings.
Play gets underway this coming Friday.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cal defeated Arizona State today, for the second straight time, to give the Golden Bears the Pac 12 championship.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cal (19-2 in Pac 12 play) hosts Arizona State (17-2, with two games lost to rain-outs) in a three-game series beginning today for the conference title.

*** reports on Michigan's pursuit of a fifth straight Big 10 title this weekend. The following paragraphs from the article provide a concise summary of the Wolverines' season thus far:

Michigan is 15-5 in conference play, the most Big Ten losses it's had since 2003.

As one of the coach Carol Hutchins' younger teams, this year’s Wolverines have seen some ups-and-downs during the season. After winning nine of its first 10 games, the team currently sits at 36-15 on the year.

With only four seniors and four juniors on the roster, [senior Bree] Evans is still confident the leadership will help with any pressure the underclassmen could be feeling.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Oklahoma State's three-game series at Texas Tech had an unusual Saturday-Sunday-Monday format, but it allowed your humble correspondent to catch the finale this afternoon. After some high scoring in the first two games -- a 5-0 Cowgirl win on Saturday, and an 8-4 Red Raider win on Sunday -- today's contest was a pitcher's duel as Texas Tech's Cara Custer (above, left) bested OSU's Kat Espinosa.

The Raiders scored a run each in the first and second innings, and never really threatened again. As shown below, the Cowgirls threatened in the third inning, but didn't score. OSU got a run in the fifth inning, but that was all the scoring. An article on the game can be found here.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Alabama has jumped out to a 5-0 lead over Florida after two innings in the rubber game of the series (currently airing on ESPN-U). The Gators took the opener, 4-1, whereas the Crimson Tide rebounded in the second game, 9-1 in a run-ruled six innings.

UPDATE: The Tide holds on for a 5-3 win. A three-run fourth inning, in which the Gators hit back-to-back home runs, was the highlight for Florida.

Friday, May 04, 2012

This weekend's top series has No. 6 Florida visiting No. 3 Alabama to battle for the SEC regular-season championship (the conference also has a postseason tournament). Saturday and Sunday's games will air on the ESPN family of networks.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Michigan's Saturday doubleheader loss to Minnesota has tightened things up at the top of the Big 10 standings. The Wolverines did avoid a complete series sweep, however, beating the Gophers on Sunday. At the conclusion of Sunday's play, Michigan is 12-3, Wisconsin is 11-4, and Purdue is 10-4.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Georgia is off to a quick 3-0 lead over No. 2 Alabama in the bottom of the first, on ESPN 2.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Up-and-coming Texas Tech took 2-of-3 at No. 9 Missouri this weekend. The series win comes on the heels of the Red Raiders' midweek win over No. 5 Texas and a 2-1 series loss at No. 6 Oklahoma the previous weekend. That Texas Tech has been holding its own against the Big 12's best has not escaped the attention of softball writer Graham Hays.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Texas Tech has upset the University of Texas tonight in Lubbock, 5-2.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Cal (9-0, with a weekend sweep of Utah) and Arizona State (7-1, which applied the broom to UCLA) are running away with the Pac 12 race. All the other teams are .500 or worse in conference play.

Florida (15-2) and Alabama (14-2) continue to lead the SEC. LSU, which lost two-of-three to Bama this weekend, is at 11-3. The conference website has long provided excellent weekend round-ups; here's the one for today.

The Big 12 has a quartet of teams tightly bunched near the top: Oklahoma (8-2), Missouri (9-3), Texas (6-2), and Texas A&M (7-3).

Michigan (8-1) holds its customary position atop the Big 10 standings, followed closely by Purdue and Nebraska, each at 7-2. The Big 10 website features a softball blog, which provides a nice flow of information on schedules and results.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

In this weekend's marquee series, No. 1 Cal swept three games from No. 3 Washington.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 profiles Tennessee's pitching sisters, Ellen and Ivy Renfroe.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Play began yesterday in the Pac 12 conference, highlighted by defending NCAA champion Arizona State's extra-inning win over intrastate rival University of Arizona. In other action, Cal routed Stanford, and Washington defeated new member Utah. Oregon and Oregon State begin a three-game series today. With the conference now having nine softball-playing members, UCLA was the odd team out this weekend and is facing non-conference opposition. Longtime members USC and Washington State do not field softball teams, nor does newcomer Colorado.

Another conference in transition is the Big 12, which has already lost Colorado and (softball-playing) Nebraska and has Missouri and Texas A&M leaving next season for the SEC. The Tigers and Aggies are actually playing each other this weekend, with A&M having taken yesterday's opener.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No. 1 Alabama split a doubleheader with Tennessee yesterday, marking the Tide's first loss of the season.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Top-ranked and undefeated Alabama hosts No. 12 Tennessee for a doubleheader tonight. It appears that video and radio streams will be available. Click here for further information.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The bulk of the action in the annual Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, California gets underway today. The top teams in the tournament appear to be Washington, Oklahoma, and Arizona State.

Conference play is underway in the SEC. Beginning Friday, No. 1/2 Alabama plays Ole Miss in a weekend series.

California, also with 1 and 2 rankings in the national polls, travels to Hawai'i for a tough tournament. The Golden Bears will face the host Rainbow Wahine in a battle of undefeated squads. Also, Cal will take on Texas (19-1).

Friday, March 02, 2012

There is no major tournament this weekend attracting a large number of the nation's top-ranked teams. Instead, there are a lot of smaller tournaments. One match-up that has great personal interest for me is UCLA vs. Michigan in the Disney/Wide World of Sports tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The Bruins and Wolverines are just getting underway now, late Friday afternoon. UCLA is where I received my bachelor's degree and Michigan, where I obtained my Ph.D. Both teams currently are ranked in the mid-teens nationally, a far cry from 2005 when UCLA and Michigan played a classic three-game final round in the Women's College World Series (won by the Wolverines, thanks to Samantha Findlay's three-run blast in the top of the 10th inning of Game 3).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Here's a summary of some notable team performances in this weekend's Cathedral City (Palm Springs) tournament:

A couple of SEC teams -- No. 1/3 Florida and No. 13 Georgia -- each went 4-1, with each losing only to No. 5/7 Washington. Florida's loss to Washington was the Gators' first setback of the season. Georgia closed out its slate with a win over No. 6 Oklahoma (who finished 3-2).

Washington likewise went 4-1, losing to No. 11 Missouri on a no-hitter by the Tigers' Chelsea Thomas. Mizzou went 3-2 for the tourney.

Another squad to go 4-1 was No. 8 Texas, who lost only to Florida.

Cal, which like Florida was ranked No. 1 in one major national poll and No. 3 in the other, went 4-0 at Cathedral City, but did not play any national "heavy hitters" (the Golden Bears' opponents were Fordham, New Mexico State, Cal Poly, and Cal State Northridge).

No. 15 Arizona went 5-1 (losing to Georgia); U-of-A's highlight win came over No. 21 Oklahoma State.

No. 5 UCLA went an uncharacteristic 1-4.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The annual Cathedral City (Palm Springs) softball tournament gets underway tomorrow, featuring six of the top eight teams in the latest Softball poll (tourney website). These teams include No. 1 Cal, No. 3 Florida, No. 5 UCLA, No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 7 Washington, and No. 8 Texas. In the other major poll, USA Today/NFCA, Florida is No. 1 and Cal No. 3.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Here's a link to the Louisville Slugger/UNLV tournament homepage.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Preseason No. 1 Arizona State's two losses during its own tournament last weekend have dropped the Sun Devils down to No. 5 and 6 in the two major national polls.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The 2012 season gets underway today with a plethora of tournaments around the country. The leading tourney is, of course, the annual Kajikawa Classic at Arizona State (master schedule). The host Sun Devils, who won last year's NCAA championship, are ranked No. 1 in both major national polls (see links section to the right). All of the Pac 12's softball schools are participating in the Kajikawa except UCLA (which hosts its own tournament featuring up-and-coming Kentucky). Cal (3/4) joins ASU as a preseason top 5 team. Top teams in the Kajikawa from outside the Pac 12 include Tennessee (9/14), Texas A&M (15/17), Nebraska (20 tie/21), and Georgia Tech (23/unranked).

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Texas Tech Daily Toreador interviews shortstop Raven Richardson about how personal problems nearly derailed her career a few years ago, before she landed with the Red Raiders.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Defending NCAA champion Arizona State has been picked by Pacific 12 coaches to win the conference. Of the nine coaches (USC, Washington St., and Colorado don't field teams), six voted for ASU, two for Cal, and one for Arizona.

National runner-up Florida is narrowly picked over Tennessee to win the SEC.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 college softball writer Graham Hays is previewing what he considers the top 20 teams of the upcoming season, with a new article in countdown fashion each day. You can click here to see his piece on No. 20 Syracuse. Adjacent to this article, you'll see a box in which you can click links to his articles on the No. 19, No. 18, etc., teams. As of now he is up to the No. 14 team (Michigan).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Missouri, which has one foot out the door en route to the SEC, is a narrow favorite to win this year's Big 12 championship, according to the league's preseason coaches' poll. Oklahoma is only slightly below Mizzou. Here are the full poll results:

Team (first-place votes) Points

1. Missouri (3) 59
2. Oklahoma (4) 56
3. Texas (1) 50
4. Baylor 45
5. Texas A&M 37
6. Oklahoma State 32
7. Texas Tech 22
8. Kansas 13
9. Iowa State 10