Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Game 2 Oklahoma vs. Tennessee Final Series

Game 2 is about to start. Both teams are starting different pitchers tonight -- Ivy Renfroe for Tennessee and Michelle Gascoigne for Oklahoma -- than last night.

The scoring gets underway much earlier tonight. Keilani Ricketts belts three-run homer in top of third to put Sooners on top...Ivy Renfroe yanked in favor of sister Ellen...

A Lauren Chamberlain triple leads to another OU run in the top of the seventh... Vols now down to their final three outs...

Bottom of the seventh for Tennessee goes uneventfully. Sooners win game 4-0 to capture national championship!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Game 1 Tennessee vs. Oklahoma Final Series

Game 1 of the two-out-of-three championship series is underway. OU's Keilani Ricketts has struck out the side in top of the first... Ellen Renfroe is starting in the circle for Tennessee. Ellen pitched the final 2 1/3 innings yesterday in the Vols' win over Texas, taking over for her sister Ivy...

We get the first hit of the game in the bottom of the third, but still no runs. The Sooners' Lauren Chamberlain doubles to the wall in left field with a runner on first and two outs, and OU coach Patty Gasso gives the runner the stop sign. It definitely would have been a close play at the plate...

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That may be what Tennessee is thinking. Ricketts, a power-hitter, bunts for a base hit in the bottom of the fourth. Then she steals second! OU threatening again with runners on first and second and two outs...Tennessee snares a hard liner to third, ending the threat...

Vols draw walk to lead off top of fifth, ending Ricketts's perfect game... Runner picked-off at first... Ricketts walks next two batters, as well. Runners on first and second... OU turns two on grounder to Ricketts, ending Tennessee half of inning...

Hannah Akamine singles for Tennessee to lead off top of sixth, breaking up Ricketts's no-hitter...No scoring for the Vols, though...

Still scoreless as Tennessee comes up in the top of the seventh... Vols done, Sooners coming up with a chance for a walk-off win... Going to extras!

Tennessee gets lead-off hitter on base in top of eighth, as OU shortstop bobbles grounder. Bunted over to second... Next batter walks... After falling behind 3-1 on next batter, Ricketts rebounds to get strikeout... Soft liner to short ends half-inning for the Vols... Good defense across the Tennessee infield retires OU...

Vols go quietly in top of ninth...Lead-off single to left for Sooners in bottom of ninth... Runner bunted to second and throw to first not handled, so OU has first and second with no outs, Ricketts up... Keilani K'd, one out... Wild pitch, runners to second and third... Intentional walk to load bases... Jessica Shults up... First two pitches outside and in the dirt, putting Vols in danger of walking in winning run... Force at home, bases still loaded, two outs... Strikeout to end ninth...

Lead-off batter walks for Vols to open 10th inning...Runner forced out at second on infield grounder; bobble prevents possible double-play for Oklahoma... Tennessee steals second... Grounder to pitcher produces second out, but Vols runner advances to third... OU issues intentional walk to put runners on first and third... Tory Lewis, with two strikeouts already on the evening, comes to bat... Make it three strikeouts, as Tennessee retired... Brianna Turang singles up middle with one out for OU, Chamberlain up... Fly out to shallow left, Turang can't tag up... But she steals second, anyway... Vols can't catch foul pop; will it come back to haunt them... No. Inning ends on infield pop-up...

With one out for Tennessee in 11th, OU can't field a high-bouncer near home, putting a runner on first... Lauren Gibson hits hard shot to center, which Destinee Martinez can't quite catch. Runners on first and second... Three-run homer by Madison Shipman for Tennessee! Sooners come up needing runs... With one out, a dropped pop-up in shallow right puts Ricketts on second... Brittany Williams doubles to right-center-field gap, Ricketts scores, making it 3-1... Ground out to first, runner advances to third, two outs now... Martinez triples over center-fielder's head, making it 3-2... Callie Parsons hits ball to left-center gap, tying game. However, Parsons out trying to stretch double to triple, ending inning...

Vol 12th uneventful... OU coming up... Turang leads off with a bouncer down third-base line that turns into a double... Chamberlain hits game-winning homer over left-field foul pole! 5-3 Sooners.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sunday at the WCWS (2013)

Sunday's action is underway, with Texas leading Florida 3-0 after five innings. The loser is eliminated. The Gators have been getting runners on base, but haven't been able to get the key hit against Blaire Luna... Texas completes the 3-0 victory, eliminating Florida.

Texas moves on to take on Tennessee in the evening session. A Vols win will put them in the championship series, whereas the Longhorns will have to beat the currently undefeated Vols twice (once today and once tomorrow) to advance...

The next game will also pit a pair of one-loss teams -- Washington and Michigan -- against each other... The Huskies take it, 4-1. They'll next face Oklahoma. One win by the Sooners will send them to the championship series, whereas U-Dub would have to beat Oklahoma twice.

A Lauren Gibson blast gives Tennessee a first-inning 1-0 lead over Texas...Vols bring 2-0 lead into bottom of seventh... Texas leads off inning with homer, cutting deficit to 2-1... But that's all the Horns get, as Vols advance to title series.

Next up, Oklahoma vs. Washington... Sooners take 4-0 lead into bottom of fifth, but Huskies score a pair to cut deficit to 4-2. OU now up in the top of the sixth... The Sooners close it out, 6-2...

Oklahoma vs. Tennessee in a two-out-of-three series for the national championship, starting Monday night.

The following chart shows how the teams stand at the moment, with regard to losses. I will update the chart throughout the day. (Teams that have qualified for the championship series are asterisked.)

No LossesOne LossTwo Losses (Gone)
Oklahoma*

Tennessee*


TexasTexas

FloridaFlorida

WashingtonWashington

MichiganMichigan


Nebraska


Arizona State
HTML Tables

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Severe Weather Rearranges Friday/Saturday Schedule

Heavy rains and another round of tornado activity in the Oklahoma City area forced cancellation of Friday night's action at the Women's College World Series. Our thoughts are with the people of the area.

The two winners' bracket games from Friday -- Tennessee vs. Washington and Oklahoma vs. Texas -- have been moved to Saturday afternoon. These games will be followed by two losers' bracket (elimination) games: Florida vs. Nebraska and Arizona State vs. Michigan.

At the end of Saturday's play, therefore, we will have two undefeated teams, four teams with one loss each, and two teams eliminated with two losses. To keep track of all this, I am providing one of my handy-dandy charts below, which I will continually update...

Tennessee has edged Washington 1-0 on a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh. The Vols left 13 runners on base during the game...

Texas scores two on Oklahoma in the top of the third... The Sooners see the Longhorns' two and raise them another four in the bottom half. In other words, it's 6-2 OU. Two defensive miscues hurt the Horns: failure to hold onto the ball on a tag at the plate gives OU its third run, and then a "bunt-homer" when Texas pitcher Kim Bruins throws ball past not only the first-baseperson, but also the right-fielder, gives Sooners three more runs... Texas removal of starter Blaire Luna due to giving up walks inviting a lot of scrutiny... Oklahoma wins via run-rule 10-2.

Nebraska, losing 6-2 after five in an elimination game against Florida, won't go easily. The Cornhuskers have come up with one run in the sixth and three in the seventh to force extra innings... This game will not end! It's 7-7 in the 12th inning... It finally ends, with Florida prevailing 9-8 in 15 innings.

Arizona State and Michigan will be starting their elimination game close to midnight local (Central) time... Sierra Romero two-run homer gives Michigan 2-0 lead in top of third... At 2:30 in the morning Sunday, this amazing day of softball comes to an end. Michigan and ASU put zeroes on the scoreboard the rest of the way, giving the Wolverines the 2-0 victory.

No LossesOne LossTwo Losses (Gone)
Oklahoma

TexasTexas
Tennessee

WashingtonWashington

Florida

NebraskaNebraska

Arizona StateArizona State

Michigan
HTML Tables 
 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 1 Reflections (2013 WCWS)

Oklahoma was just as dominant over Michigan last night as my sabermetric statistical preview of the Women's College World Series suggested the Sooners would be. That makes me happy as a statistician, but sad as a Michigan alum! Keilani Ricketts pitched just as advertised, no-hitting the Wolverines in a 7-1 OU win (and the first WCWS no-hitter in six years). The most you could say for UM is that it managed to avoid being run-ruled.

As I wrote on Wednesday, "even though Florida is the No. 2 seed and Tennessee is No. 7, the Volunteers put up better numbers [during the season] than the Gators in all four [sabermetric] categories (although not necessarily by large margins)." As it turned out, the statistical information was a better predictor than the seeding, as the Volunteers won easily, 9-2.

Texas vs. Arizona State looked to be the most evenly matched contest, both in terms of seeding (No. 4 and 5, respectively) and the teams' sabermetric profiles. However, except for a brief ASU offensive outburst that ended Longhorn pitcher Blaire Luna's streak (over multiple games) of 12 straight no-hit innings, Texas was pretty dominant, winning 6-3.

The one close game on opening day featured Washington and Nebraska, as the Huskies won on an extra-inning walk-off homer, 4-3.

One trend I noticed across the games was all eight teams committed at least one error (Florida committed 2, all the other teams 1 each). The short distance between the bases almost certainly contributes to the error rate in softball, as infielders are going to feel pressure to throw the ball to first base in as little time as possible. Legendary college-basketball coach John Wooden's advice to "Be Quick, But Don't Hurry," may be applicable here.

Tonight, we have two winners' bracket games: Tennessee vs. Washington, and Oklahoma vs. Texas. OU took two of three from Texas during Big 12 conference play this season.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Feature! Softball Sabermetrics of WCWS Teams

As many readers are probably aware, the term "sabermetrics" refers to advanced statistical analysis of baseball, deriving from the initials of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Statistical analyses of other sports such as basketball and football, now becoming more commonplace, are sometimes also referred to as being sabermetric in nature.

Why the need for sabermetrics? It is easy to identify the shortcomings of traditional statistics in baseball and softball. Take batting average, for example, which is a player's number of hits divided by his or her number of official at-bats. One problem is that batting average does not credit players for getting on base through avenues other than hits, such as walks. My favorite scene in the movie Moneyball is when the character of Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, in a conference room filled with old-school scouts, asks, "Do I care if a player gets to first base by a single or by a walk?" (paraphrased). The young statistical hot-shot assistant, played by Jonah Hill, answers "You do not." For this reason, on-base percentage (which includes hits and walks) is considered superior to batting average.

Another limitation of batting average is that it merely counts up hits (before dividing by at-bats), without any distinction between singles, doubles, triples, and home runs. Slugging percentage, which weights each hit for number of bases (1 point for a single, 2 points for a double, etc.), is therefore also considered a better metric than batting average. As it turns out, simply adding on-base percentage and slugging percentage to yield a measure known as OPS (On-base Plus Slugging) provides an even better statistic yet, one that correlates better than other offensive metrics with teams' actual runs scored (the primary objective of the offense in baseball and softball).

With this brief introduction to sabermetrics as a background, I now present four sabermetric statistics at the team level for the eight participating schools in softball's Women's College World Series, which begins tomorrow. Using data from the full season, the following chart ranks the eight teams from best to worst on, from left to right, OPS; a pitching statistic known as WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched); Strikeouts per 7 innings (analogous to baseball's statistic of strikeouts per 9 innings); and Defensive Efficiency, a measure of overall fielding that looks at the percentage of balls hit into play (grounders and fly balls that stay in the park) that the defensive team converts into outs.  Defensive Efficiency is discussed in the 2011 book The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri, which discusses how the Tampa Bay Rays used sabermetrics to complete an extreme makeover from perennial doormat to playoff contender. Here is my chart for the softball World Series...



Not surprisingly, top-seeded Oklahoma dominates the chart, ranking first among the World Series teams in three of the four categories. The Sooners' pitching, led by Keilani Ricketts and Michelle Gascoigne, gives up the fewest walks and hits (lowest WHIP) and strikes out the most batters, each by a large margin over the other WCWS teams. Ricketts's prowess both in the pitching circle and in hitting power led one sportswriter last year to label her the "Babe Ruth of College Softball." Earlier this spring, I caught a game during the Sooners' Big 12 series at Texas Tech; Gascoigne pitched a shut-out and Ricketts socked two homers. First-baseperson Lauren Chamberlain is another reason OU brings the top OPS into the World Series. Several teams rank above the Sooners in Defensive Efficiency, but the differences are not large.

No. 4-seed Texas and No. 5-seed Arizona State look to be Oklahoma's main competition, on paper at least. The Longhorns' strong points are pitching (led by Blaire Luna, who threw a no-hitter to clinch her team's spot in the World Series) and defense. ASU appears to be the most well-rounded team, ranking no lower than third in any category. Interestingly, even though Florida is the No. 2 seed and Tennessee is No. 7, the Volunteers put up better numbers than the Gators in all four categories (although not necessarily by large margins). Again, on paper, it doesn't look very optimistic for Michigan, Washington, or Nebraska. Michigan's OPS does rank in the top half of WCWS teams, however, thanks to senior second-baseperson Ashley Lane, who had clutch hits in both of UM's super-regional wins over Louisiana-Lafayette, and frosh shortstop Sierra Romero.

One reason for caution in interpreting the chart is that the teams didn't necessarily face the same strength of schedule during the season. For the respective pairs of teams in the same conference -- Oklahoma and Texas (Big 12); Florida and Tennessee (SEC); ASU and Washington (Pac 12); and Michigan and Nebraska (Big 10) -- their quality of opposition would have been nearly identical during conference play. However, even for conference mates, their non-league games earlier in the season and their NCAA tournament games may not have been against equally difficult opponents.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Update (2013 Super-Regionals)

Florida has qualified for the Women's College World Series with its second straight one-run victory over Alabama-Birmingham (1-0 today, 4-3 yesterday).  You can scroll down to Thursday's entry on this blog to see my game-by-game super-regional chart.

Nebraska pitcher Tatum Edwards has homered in the bottom of the first to give her team a 1-0 lead over Oregon. Twin sister Taylor Edwards is the catcher for the Huskers, who lead the series 1-0... Oregon has tied the game 1-1 in the top of the second and has a threat going. However, Nebraska gets out of the inning with no more damage... Huskers string together two singles, Duck errors, to go up 3-1. UO now up in top of the fifth... Ducks close to within 3-2, as of top of sixth... Nebraska three outs away from Oklahoma City as Oregon comes up in top of seventh trailing 3-2... Duck lead-off hitter tries surprise bunt, Husker catcher "air-mails" throw to right-field wall. Unclear if a good throw would have gotten runner at first, but runner ends up on third, and scores on middle-infield ground out by next batter. Tied 3-3... Walk and a single give UO runners on first and second with one out, but Huskers complete rare ground-ball double-play to end threat... Oregon wins 4-3 in 11 innings, setting up a decisive Game 3...

...In Game 3, Nebraska and Oregon are tied 2-2 after an inning... Single runs in the third and sixth have given Nebraska a 4-2 lead... For the second time today, the Cornhuskers are three outs away from advancing to the WCWS. This time, however, Nebraska has a two-run cushion, whereas it was only one run in Game 2... UO leads off the bottom of the seventh with a sharp line-drive single to left... One out, as Nebraska gets force out at second on grounder... Another grounder leads to a 5-4-3 double-play... Huskers headed to OKC.

Texas and Florida State are scoreless after an inning and a half. The Longhorns took last night's series opener... A Texas-sized home-run blast by Karina Scott gives the Longhorns a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth... A double to the wall and an FSU error give Texas a second run... Longhorns' lead up to 4-0 in top of the sixth... Texas pitcher Blaire Luna takes no-hitter into bottom of seventh, as Horns seek to close out FSU and make it to WCWS... One out...Two out... Strike-out swinging ends the game... Texas makes first WCWS since 2006 (first time of post-Cat Osterman era).

Arizona State tries to close out Kentucky later this afternoon.... The game is now well underway, with the Sun Devils batting in the top of the third, leading 2-1... ASU finishes off Kentucky 5-2 to advance to the World Series.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday Update (2013 Super-Regionals)

Seven of the eight super-regional series are active today, all except the Washington-Missouri series that was captured by the Huskies last night. I will update this write-up throughout the day. To see game-by-game results at a glance, scroll down to Thursday's entry for my super-regional chart.

Oklahoma is the second team to make the Women's College World Series, defeating Texas A&M in run-rule fashion for the second straight day (10-2 yesterday, 8-0 today).

In other Saturday action...

Louisiana-Lafayette leads Michigan 3-0 in Game 2 of their series, as the Wolverines bat in the top of the sixth. Should the Ragin' Cajuns hold on, the series would go to a decisive Game 3 later today. ULL shortstop Nerissa Myers has just made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch of a ball hit between short and left-field, preventing a Michigan hit... ULL finishes off Michigan 5-0. On to a deciding game...

...And in that deciding game, ULL and Michigan are scoreless after two complete. Louisiana-Lafayette takes a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth...Two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth gives Wolverines a 2-1 lead... Michigan hangs on, becoming the third team to make the WCWS...See below for discussion of an unusual type of out made by ULL in its half of the seventh inning.

UAB leads Florida 1-0 early in Game 1 of that series... The game is now tied 1-1, with the Gators batting in the home half of the fourth inning... This game has seen UAB take leads of 2-1 and 3-2, but Florida has rallied to win 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh.

Alabama, trying to force a decisive game, leads Tennessee 3-0. The Vols are batting in the top of the third... Tennessee gets a run in the top of the third, so it's now 3-1 Bama... Tennessee adds two in the fourth, tying the game. A Vol runner is thrown out at the plate on a single, preventing Tennessee from taking the lead... The Vols now lead 4-3, batting in the top of the sixth... Defending champion Alabama is down to its final three outs, trailing Tennessee 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh...

The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen. Defending champ Alabama is out, and Tennessee become the fourth team to qualify for the Women's College World Series... 

Three series began under the lights Saturday. Nebraska (over Oregon), Texas (over Florida State), and Arizona State (over Kentucky) have all taken 1-0 leads in their respective series.

***

In Game 3 of the ULL-Michigan series, the Cajuns' second out in the top of the seventh occurred in an unusual manner. The batter, a slap hitter, hit a foul ball, but was ruled to have had both of her feet outside the batter's box when contacting the ball. The ESPN replay for the television audience appeared to confirm that the batter had indeed been out of the box. Looking at the online NCAA Softball Rules and Interpretations book, one finds in the definition section:

1.63 Illegally Batted Ball 
A pitch contacted by the batter... 
1.63.3 When one or both feet are on the ground and entirely outside the lines of the batter’s box at the time of bat-ball contact.

A further section of the rule book (11.17) describes the actions an umpire is to take in the event of an illegally batted ball:

EFFECT... The ball is dead. The batter shall be declared out immediately, regardless of whether the ball is fair or foul. Each base runner must return to the base legally occupied at the time of the pitch.

In all my years of watching softball, I had never seen a call like this.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Update (2013 Super-Regionals)

FRIDAY EVENING UPDATE: Washington is the first team to earn a spot in this year's Women's College World Series, with a 1-0 victory over Missouri in Game 2 of the teams' super-regional.... Oklahoma (over Texas A&M) and Tennessee (over Alabama) have assumed 1-0 leads in their respective series... Florida State-Texas is the second series to be postponed a day due to rain.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Wild one in Ann Arbor! Michigan was on the verge of closing out Game 1 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, leading 2-0 in the top of the seventh with two outs for the Ragin' Cajuns. However, a single and home run send game to extra innings... ULL takes 3-2 lead in top of the eighth on another homer... Cajuns threaten to pad lead, but don't... Michigan gets lead-off batter on base in bottom of eighth via hit-by-pitch... ULL drops foul pop, giving batter another chance...  Runner to second on passed ball... Wolverines win on two-run homer.

***

Washington beat Missouri, 2-1, in extra innings, in what turned out to be the only action Thursday night. That's because the Texas A&M at Oklahoma game was rained out; the Aggies and Sooners will begin their series tonight, weather permitting.

Three other series get underway today: Florida State-Texas, Alabama-Tennessee, and Louisiana-Lafayette-Michigan.

Follow the results of all the super-regional series in the big chart in Thursday's entry (below).

Thursday, May 23, 2013

2013 Super-Regionals Get Underway Tonight

The NCAA super-regionals begin tonight. At the bottom of this write-up is a chart of the match-ups, on which I will list the winners of each game.

The SEC is guaranteed a team in the Women's College World Series (the winner of the Alabama vs. Tennessee super-regional), but it is also guaranteed that one of these perennial powers will not be in the WCWS. In fact, the SEC potentially could send five teams to the World Series (the Bama-Tennessee winner, plus Texas A&M, Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri), although some pretty dramatic upsets would have to occur for all these teams to advance.

This year is the first time since the introduction of the super-regional format in 2005 that neither UCLA nor Arizona has made it to this round. The Pac 12 still has a major presence with Oregon, Arizona State, and Washington still alive.

The Big 12 appears positioned to send two to the WCWS, with No. 1 seed Oklahoma facing former conference foe Texas A&M and No. 4 Texas hosting unseeded Florida State.

The switch to the Big 10 appears to have done Nebraska good or maybe it's just coincidence. Still, the Huskers are making their first-ever super-regional appearance. Likewise, the University of Alabama-Birmingham (from Conference USA).

Also from the Big 10, No. 8 seed Michigan takes on unseeded Louisiana-Lafayette. Wolverine frosh Sierra Romero, a slugging shortstop, has been making headlines all season.

USA Today offers a detailed preview of each series, whereas ESPN.com's Graham Hays looks at the Top 5 Questions heading into the supers.

Here's my chart. Team seeds, if applicable, are in parentheses; bold indicates the clinching of a series; and links within the chart are to game articles. Here's a link to the official NCAA bracket, which provides starting times and viewing information.

Teams Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Texas A&M (16) at Oklahoma (1)*+ Oklahoma Oklahoma ---
Alabama-Birmingham at Florida (2)*** Florida Florida ---
Nebraska (14) at Oregon (3)*** Nebraska Oregon Nebraska
Florida State at Texas (4)**+ Texas Texas ---
Kentucky (12) at Arizona State (5)*** ASU ASU ---
Washington (11) at Missouri (6)* Washington Washington ---
Alabama (10) at Tennessee (7)** Tennessee Tennessee ---
Louisiana-Lafayette at Michigan (8)** Michigan ULL Michigan
*Game 1 Thursday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Friday.
**Game 1 Friday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Saturday.
***Game 1 Saturday, Games 2 and (if necessary) 3 on Sunday.
+Delayed one day due to rain-out.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

2013 NCAA Regionals -- Who's Advanced, Who's Still Alive, Who's Been Eliminated

SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE

The regionals are now complete, with the match-ups set for next weekend's super-regionals. Winners of each regional are shown in the table below in bold.

Heading into the final day of a regional, there is always one team per region with a 2-0 record, one with a 2-1 record, and two teams eliminated. The team with the 2-0 record needs only one win to advance to the super-regionals, whereas the team entering the final day at 2-1 must beat the previously undefeated team twice. Five teams that entered Sunday's play with one loss (Hofstra, Virginia Tech, South Alabama, UCLA, and Baylor) won their first games against their respective opponents, but none could do it a second time. Thus, all the teams that entered the final day 2-0 ended up winning their respective regionals.

Two of the regionals had extremely tense finishes. After UCLA had defeated Alabama-Birmingham by a 4-1 score earlier in the day, UAB scored a dramatic win in the rematch, besting the Bruins 3-2 in 13 innings to advance. Florida State had the day's best comeback. FSU fell to South Alabama 3-0 in the teams' opener today. Then, in the rematch, the Seminoles rallied from a 6-1 deficit going into their half (the top) of the seventh, with five runs to tie the game. FSU then won in eight innings, 7-6.

All told, the tournament has gone according to form so far, with 11 of the top 12 seeds moving on, and 13 of the 16 seeds overall.

Region 2-0 2-1 Eliminated Eliminated
Norman OK Oklahoma (1) Arkansas Marist Fordham
Gainesville FL Florida (2) S. Florida Hampton Ga Southern
Eugene OR Oregon (3) Wisconsin N. Carolina BYU
Austin TX Texas (4) S. Carolina Army Houston
Tempe AZ Arizona St. (5) Georgia San Diego St. San Jose St.
Columbia MO Missouri (6) Hofstra* Stony Brook Oregon St.
Knoxville TN Tennessee (7) NC State JMU Longwood
Ann Arbor MI Michigan (8) Cal CMU Valpo
Baton Rouge LA LA-Lafayette LSU (9) NW State C. Conn.
Tuscaloosa AL Alabama (10) W. Kentucky J'ville St. SC Upstate
Seattle WA Washington (11) Hawai'i Minnesota Portland St.
Lexington KY Kentucky (12) Va Tech* Notre Dame Marshall
Mobile AL Florida St. S. Ala (13)* Miss. Valley Miss. St.
Lincoln NE Nebraska (14) Stanford Tulsa N. Iowa
Louisville KY UAB UCLA* IPFW Lou'ville (15)
Coll. Station TX Tex A&M (16) Baylor* Penn Arizona
Oregon region italicized, as it is one day ahead of the other regions.
Winners of each region are highlighted in bold.
*2-1 team has won the first game against the 2-0 team on Sunday, setting up a decisive rematch.

Friday, May 17, 2013

NCAA's Scoreboard Page to Follow Regionals

The NCAA website has a softball scoreboard page to follow the regionals. The bulk of the action gets underway today. The only exception is the Oregon regional, which began yesterday with the host Ducks beating BYU and North Carolina edging Wisconsin. All regionals are double-elimination.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

ESPN.com Previews Four Regionals

ESPN.com's Graham Hays provides in-depth previews of four regionals, those hosted by Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Michigan, and LSU. Television listings are given for those games that will be broadcast (ESPN3 refers to Internet broadcasts available at this site; it only works if your Internet provider is contracted with ESPN).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

2013 Geospatial NCAA Tournament Map

My annual maps of the NCAA regional groupings are shown below, based on the official tournament bracket. In all cases, the four teams sharing the same color and style (based on the host team's school colors) are in the same regional; the seeded team (with number in parentheses) will host. To increase readability, I've done something new this year. I've created two maps, shown below. You may click on the maps to enlarge them.

The top map shows relatively compact regionals, in which three or four of the teams in a given set are geographically close to each other. As an example of four nearby schools, Tennessee, North Carolina State, James Madison, and Longwood (the latter two from Virginia) are all shown in light orange, with light-blue outline and white letters. As an example of three nearby schools with a distant fourth school, LSU, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Northwestern State are all from the state of Louisiana, with Central Connecticut State joining in (all four schools shown in purple, with yellow letters).



The bottom map shows the more "far-flung" regionals. For example, as shown with black rectangles and yellow letters, the Missouri regional brings in Oregon State and two teams from Long Island, New York, Stony Brook and Hofstra. The Oregon regional (green rectangles with yellow letters) brings in BYU from nearby Utah, but also Wisconsin and North Carolina. Note the distinction between two regions with white rectangles: the Oklahoma region (with maroon outline and letters) and the Nebraska region (with black outline and red letters).



I have a few brief thoughts on the substance of the seedings and regional assignments. Texas's No. 4 seed is a little higher than the Longhorns were ranked in recent national polls. Texas has not done much in the tournament in the post-Cat Osterman era, so I'm skeptical that the Horns will perform at a level commensurate with their seeding. As a Michigan alumnus, I'm happy that the Wolverines are a top-8 seed, meaning they would host a super-regional if they advance past the initial round. However, Cal is a very tough team to face in the opening weekend, with star pitcher Jolene Henderson starting to return to form after an injury.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

LSU's Rachele Fico: Then and Now

ESPN.com's Graham Hays has an article today about senior LSU pitcher Rachele Fico and her relationship with her father, who has been fighting cancer for 10 years. I must admit that I follow team performance more than that of individual players, so I'm not up to date on a lot of names. Still, Fico's seemed familiar to me. As it turns out, I posted a brief item on her in 2009. At the time, she had pitched 22 perfect games in her high school career!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Texas Tech Ends Scoring Drought, But Still Loses Sunday Finale to Oklahoma

A quick follow-up to yesterday's posting:

Texas Tech scored today with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning, ending the Red Raiders' offensive scoreless streak at 32 innings. Tech's batters actually went wild for 7 runs on the day; the only problem is that Oklahoma scored 13 (box score and play-by-play sheet).

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Oklahoma Continues to Roll, Texas Tech Still Can't Score


No. 1 Oklahoma is visiting Texas Tech this weekend, so I took in this afternoon's contest. The Red Raiders, who have made the NCAA tournament the past three years, are looking like they won't make it this year. The Sooners, on the other hand, continue to soar.

In today's 6-0 OU win, Michelle Gascoigne was in the circle for the Sooners, so Tech only had to deal with star pitcher Keilani Ricketts as a batter (in the designated-player role). Unfortunately for the Raiders, Ricketts (shown at right walking up to the plate) hit a pair of homers today!

In Friday night's series opener, Ricketts pitched a six-inning (run-ruled) no-hitter over Tech, as the final was 9-0 OU.

Immediately prior to the Oklahoma series, the Raiders had also been no-hit last Sunday (for seven innings) in a 4-0 loss to Kansas. Tech was also shut-out by the Jayhawks 3-0 (seven innings) in the Saturday game of the KU series; the Raiders got four hits in this game, the last with two outs in the fourth, as the final 10 Raiders were retired. In the Friday game of the Kansas series, Tech lost 4-3, but went the final inning and two-thirds without scoring.

The good news for Texas Tech today, if one can call it that, is that the Raiders ended their hitless streak at 18 innings, as Katelyn Williams doubled with two outs in the second inning (bottom photo, on which you may click to enlarge).

However, Tech's streak of innings without scoring a run remains intact at 28 and 2/3. The Raiders should have scored in the fifth inning today, with a runner on third and a deep, potential sacrifice fly-out to left, but the runner appeared to misjudge the situation.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Big 12 Conference Play Really Gets Going This Weekend

The Big 12 is the last of the four major conferences to get going this season. Baylor and Texas played a two-game series last weekend -- swept by the Longhorns -- with the bulk of the teams beginning league play this weekend.

The reason for the late start is that few Big 12 schools field softball teams and, with few teams, it doesn't take that long to play a conference schedule. Even when the conference actually had 12 schools, it was only a 10-team league for softball, as Colorado and Kansas State didn't compete in the sport. The first wave of conference realignment saw two Big 12 teams depart: Nebraska to the Big 10 and Colorado to the Pac 12. The net result was the loss of one Big 12 softball program (Nebraska), bringing the league down to nine teams.

In the next phase of realignment, however, the Big 12 lost two softball programs to the SEC -- and pretty darn good ones, at that. Missouri made the Women's College World Series in 2009, 2010, and 2011, whereas Texas A&M was the national runner-up in 2008 (list of World Series participants). The departure of the Tigers and Aggies brought the Big 12 down to seven softball teams. That is where the number of softball teams remains, as neither of the newest additions to the Big 12, Texas Christian (TCU) and West Virginia, competes in softball.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Garman Classic, Florida-Tennessee Series Top Weekend's Play

The annual Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, California, and the Tennessee-Florida SEC series topped this weekend's play.

First, here are the highlights from the Garman. Led by Keilani Ricketts, top-ranked Oklahoma didn't allow a run all tournament in five games. Admittedly, the Sooners' opponents (Pacific, NC State, Arizona, Penn State, and Cal State Fullerton) were not the best available at the tournament.

Several other teams lost only one game each.

Michigan went 4-1, beating Washington, 6-1, Arizona State, 5-4, Arizona, 9-1, and NC State, 1-0, but losing a 3-2 decision to Virginia Tech.

Arizona State (4-1), along with the loss to Michigan, defeated Fullerton, 9-0, Texas, 3-0, Virginia Tech, 11-0, and Pacific, 5-4.

Texas (4-1) bounced back from its opening loss to ASU by knocking off Penn State, 8-4, Washington, 4-1, NC State, 7-4, and DePaul, 8-3.

In Gainesville, Florida took two out of three from Tennessee, with all three contests going to extra innings. The Gators won today's series-decider, 5-3 in eight innings.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Judi Garman (Fullerton) Classic Gets Undwerway Today

The annual Judi Garman Classic at Cal State Fullerton gets underway today and runs through Sunday. Top teams include three from the Pac 12 (No. 2 Arizona State, No. 14/19 Arizona, and No. 16/18 Washington), along with No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 9/10 Texas, No. 14/15 Michigan, and No. 21-tie/unranked Virginia Tech. Click here for the tournament page.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tide Salvages One of Three at Tennessee

After losing the first two games of a three-game series to Tennessee, No. 1/2 Alabama salvaged one win in the series Sunday, by a 7-1 score. Immediately prior to the Tennessee series, the Crimson Tide had lost to Florida, giving Bama a stunning three-game losing streak.

Oklahoma, also a No. 1 team depending on the poll, swept a pair of games each from Northern Colorado and Drake this weekend. Something I had missed is that the Sooners suffered their first (and thus far only) loss of the season on March 2, to former Big 12 rival Nebraska, 1-0.

There are no longer any undefeated NCAA Division I teams in the nation.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Florida Hands Alabama its First Loss of Season

No. 4 Florida handed No. 1/2 Alabama its first loss of the season last night, 8-4. The game was tight most of the way, until the Gators broke things open late.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Bama Faces Tough Stretch vs. Florida and Tennessee

Alabama (22-0), ranked No. 1 and 2 in the two major national polls, begins a tough stretch of SEC play today. The Tide hosts No. 4 Florida (22-1) tonight at 6:00 Central, then travels to Tennessee for a three-game weekend series against the Vols (No. 8/10, 19-3) beginning Friday.

This Alabama preview refers to the Tide-Gator match-up as a "non-conference affair," even though both schools are in the SEC. My reading of the situation is that, with SEC expansion and the need to keep the conference schedule to a reasonable length, the league opted not to have every team play each other in a three-game series. Alabama-Florida evidently would have been one of those potential match-ups not on the schedule this year. However, given the two teams' success in recent years and the visibility to the sport of having them play, the Tide and Gators thus decided to meet for one game, even though it will not count in the conference standings.

Tennessee's website already has a preview up for the weekend series vs. Alabama.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Citrus Classic Tops This Weekend's Action

This week's top destination appears to be the Citrus Classic in Orlando, Florida. The 26-team field includes six ranked squads: Texas A&M, Texas, LSU, Oregon, Michigan, and Louisville. Spy Softball provides a more detailed preview.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Top Performing Teams at Mary Nutter Classic

Here are some of the top performing teams at this weekend's Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, California, near Palm Springs:
  • No. 1/2 Oklahoma breezed through its five games, shutting out the opponent in four of them. The Sooners' biggest-name opponent was No. 14/19 Arizona.
  • UCLA went 5-0, with wins over No. 4 Tennessee, Maryland, Oklahoma State, No. 10/11 LSU, and Nevada. These wins should catapult the No. 13/16 Bruins into the national Top 10.
  • Unranked Northwestern (5-0), whose victims included Tennessee
  • Oregon State, which went 5-0 (although not against any elite teams) and has now won 11 straight overall. The Beavers are unranked, although they are listed as receiving some votes for the Top 25 in the USA Today/NFCA poll.
  • Cal went 4-0, although the No. 8 Golden Bears did not face elite opposition.
  • No. 7 Missouri went 3-0, edging its new SEC rival, No. 5 Florida 4-3 in 12 innings. The loss was the Gators' only one of the tourney. Separate from the Nutter Classic, Mizzou rounded out its trip to southern California with a doubleheader split at Cal State Fullerton.
  • LSU, which went 4-1, including a win over Arizona.
  • No. 9/11 Oregon, which concluded its play late Sunday afternoon, went 5-0.
  • No. 22 Washington went undefeated (4-0) against collegiate competition, losing only to the USSSA Pride, a professional team with many star players familiar to longtime college-softball fans.
Finally, in terms of individual honors, Stanford frosh Kelsey Stevens pitched a perfect game over Virginia.

Updated late Sunday night.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Newly Renamed Mary Nutter Classic Opens Today in Palm Springs

The annual Cathedral City tournament, in the Palm Springs, California, area, opens today. The event is now named for Mary Nutter, who died last summer. By my count, 37 teams are on hand. These include several highly ranked squads, such as Oklahoma (1/2), Tennessee (4), Florida (5), Missouri (7), Cal (8), LSU (10/11), and Oregon (11/9). The master schedule is available here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Campbell-Cartier Classic (San Diego State) Features Oklahoma, Washington, Kentucky

Oklahoma, ranked No. 1 in one of the major national polls and No. 2 in the other, highlights the field at San Diego State's Campbell-Cartier Classic. Two other nationally ranked teams, Washington and Kentucky, are among the field of seven.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Florida Shines at Kajikawa Classic

The University of Florida, ranked No. 14 and 15 in the two major national preseason polls, pulled two major upsets en route to an undefeated 5-0 performance at the season-opening Kajikawa Classic at Arizona State. Among the Gator victims were three Pac 12 schools: No. 3 Cal (by a score of 7-4), No. 5/6 Oregon (1-0), and No. 13/14 Arizona (14-3). Full results of the tournament are available here.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

2013 Opening Weekend Tournaments

Arizona State's annual Kajikawa Classic, which begins tonight, brings together several of the nation's highest-rated teams in the preseason polls (click here for schedule). In addition to the No. 4-ranked host Sun Devils, the field includes No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Cal, and No. 5/6 Oregon, which was featured in an ESPN.com column yesterday. Links to the two major polls, ESPN/USA Softball and USA Today/NFCA, are available in the right-hand column of this page.

No. 1 Alabama opens its season Friday in a somewhat unusual venue. The UNI-Dome Classic, played on the turf inside Northern Iowa's indoor football stadium, mainly draws other midwestern schools, who can't be expected to play games outdoors in early February. This year, however, the Crimson Tide will be joining the gathering. (Update: Here's an ESPN.com column on Alabama.)

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Last Year's Finalists 'Bama and OU Top Initial 2013 Polls

With the 2013 college softball season starting this coming Thursday, February 7, the major preseason polls are now out.

In the ESPN/USA Softball Poll, defending NCAA champion Alabama is ranked No. 1 and last year's national runner-up Oklahoma is ranked second. Cal, Arizona State, Tennessee, and Oregon round out the top six.

The USA Today/NFCA Poll likewise has 'Bama, OU, Cal, and ASU as the top four. One slight difference is that USAT/NFCA has Oregon No. 5 and Tennessee No. 6.

Interestingly, the two historically dominant programs are not highly ranked this year. Arizona is pegged at No. 13 (USAT/NFCA) and 14 (ESPN/USAS), whereas UCLA is ranked 19th in both polls.

Friday, January 11, 2013

"College Sports Madness" Releases 2013 Softball Preview

College Sports Madness, which appears to be a relatively new site covering college sports, has released its 2013 softball preview. The site is also providing reports on its preseason top 44 teams, one team per day, leading up to opening day. I have added a permanent link to the CSM softball page in the links column to the right.