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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.