Sunday, May 31, 2015

2015 WCWS Day 4

Auburn, having gone 10 innings to beat UCLA yesterday, is working overtime again, today vs. Florida. The Gators are coming up in the bottom of the ninth. The game was tied 2-2 after four innings and it has remained so ever since... A Gator win puts them in the championship series, which begins Monday night, as Auburn already has one loss and would be eliminated if it loses the current game. The Tigers would need to win the current game and beat Florida once more, to make the finals... UF's Nicole DeWitt singles to shallow left, driving in winning run from second with two outs... Gators to championship series!

Michigan and LSU
go scoreless in the first... LSU with a threat in the top of the second, with runners at the corners and one out... Sac-fly, almost to the track in center, brings home first run, 1-0 LSU... Runner on first advances to second on wild pitch... Another wild one advances runner to third... HBP puts runners on corners again... Another shaky start for UM's Megan Betsa, but only one run allowed so far... Betsa gets strikeout to end inning and limit the damage... Wolverines get something going in bottom of second, with runners on first and second and one out... Haylie Wagner, a pitcher starting as designated-player today, at the plate... Wagner hits soft pop-up to second for second out, runner barely gets back... Wild pitch advances runners to second and third... Blanco walks on borderline check-swing call on 3-2 pitch. Bases loaded... Abby Ramirez coming up... Flies to left to end inning... LSU gets two-out rally going in top of third, on ground-ball error (although it would have been tough to get runner even on a cleanly fielded ball) and HBP, putting runners on first and second... Grounder to pitcher ends half-inning... UM's Sierra Romero, who had a quiet offensive night in her previous game, homers off the left-field foul-pole (or, as some say, fair-pole), tying game 1-1, bottom three... Top four, one-out single for LSU puts runners at second and third (batter taking second on throw home to prevent runner scoring from second)... Strikeout for second out... Walk on 3-2 pitch loads bases for Bailey Landry... Landry singles to left on 0-2 pitch, driving in two, Landry to second on throw to third (runner coming from first is safe). Tigers lead 3-1. Wagner coming in to pitch... K to end half-inning... One-out double off left-field wall by Michigan's Lindsay Montemarano... Wagner pops to shortstop in shallow left for second out... Tera Blanco single lands just in front of charging center-fielder, drives home run. Wolverines cut deficit to 3-2... Abby Ramirez singles to put runners on first and second for Sierra Lawrence... Blanco attempts to steal third, throw goes into left-field, allowing her to tie game, 3-3. Ramirez to second... Lawrence walks on four pitches, bringing up Romero with bases loaded... Hard, low chopper to first ends inning... LSU leaves a runner on first in top of fifth, still tied 3-3... Michigan goes quietly in bottom half... LSU leaves a runner in top of sixth. The game has really quieted down offensively! Wolverines put runners on first and second with one out, for Abby Ramirez. According to Beth Mowins, Ramirez has four hits in last five at-bats... Make it five for her last six, on short bloop that falls in. Runners all advance one base, loading them up... Hard shot by Lawrence down left-field line doubles home two (including one on 3B-person obstruction of runner). Ball touched grass before third base, then appeared to bounce over bag, before rolling into foul territory. 5-3 Michigan... Romero hits another infield shot, this time to short, runner thrown out at home for second out, Wolverines with runners on corner for Kelly Christner... Romero appears to intentionally create run-down between first and second, allowing runner to score from third (Romero ends up safe at second). Now, 6-3 Wolverines... Christner strikes out, but damage is done... LSU down to last three outs... Lead-off walk for Bianca Bell on four pitches... UM gets lead runner on Sahvanna Jaquish grounder... Again, Wolverines get lead runner on Kellsi Kloss grounder. Two away... Easy grounder to pitcher ends game, sends Michigan to championship series vs. Florida... Wolverines' 28th straight win!

For what it's worth, Florida has already beaten Michigan twice this season: 2-1 on February 7, and 7-4 on March 5.  Will, as Shakespeare said, the past be prologue?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

2015 WCWS Day 3 (Survival Saturday)

It's called "Survival Saturday," because every game features teams coming in with one loss and thus every game will eliminate someone. The only way to survive is to win. Today's first two games pit against each other teams that lost in Thursday's first round: Auburn vs. Tennessee, and Alabama vs. Oregon. The winners will then take on a team that lost in Friday's second round (LSU or UCLA). Here's a chart to help you follow the proceedings, with my live-blogging of the games below it...

No LossesOne LossTwo Losses (Gone)
Florida

Michigan


Auburn

TennesseeTennessee

AlabamaAlabama

OregonOregon

LSU

UCLAUCLA
HTML Tables 

Unless Tennessee gets something going, it will be the first team to pack its bags, as the Volunteers trail Auburn 4-1, with the Tigers batting in the top of the fifth... Vols cut deficit to 4-2 in bottom of fifth, but leave bases loaded... 4-2 Auburn is how it ends... As pointed out on Auburn's Twitter page, this is the school's first-ever win in WCWS competition... Auburn will face UCLA later today...

Oregon and Alabama have just completed an inning with no score, the final out of the bottom (Tide) half coming on a Chaunsey Bell drive nearly to the wall that the Oregon right-fielder pulls in... Bama's got something going in the bottom of the second, as a Danielle Richard double to the wall in right puts runners on second and third with one out... Two-out single by Chandler Dare, landing just in front of a charging right-fielder, drives in two runs. 2-0 Alabama after two complete... Hard line-drive single to right by Janie Takeda that skims mitt of second-baseperson drives in Oregon run. 2-1 Bama after two-and-a-half... UO with runners on first and second with two outs in top of fourth... HBP loads bases or, to use a phrase, puts "Ducks on the pond"... Ground-out ends threat... Takeda gets one-out bunt single for Oregon in top of fifth, but thrown out stealing after over-sliding bag... Ground-out ends half-inning... Dare with one-out double for Bama in bottom of fifth... Dare a little too "daring," breaking for third on grounder to pitcher, tagged out in run-down; batter gets to second... Intentional walk to Haylie McCleney... Jadyn Spencer strikes out... Still 2-1 Bama after five... UA's Alexis Osorio strikes out the side in top of sixth... Oregon goes 1-2-3 in top of seventh.  Bama wins 2-1, Ducks going home, Tide to face LSU later today...

UCLA-Auburn underway... Bruins get runners on second and third with two out in top of first, but on dribbler toward circle, Auburn pitcher throws runner out at plate. UCLA comes up empty... UCLA goes up 5-0 in top of third, in part from a bases-loaded triple by Gabielle Maurice...  Auburn has come up with three runs so far in its half of the third, with runners at second and third and no outs... Both starting pitchers have been removed... Walk loads the bases again for Auburn... Force at home, bases still loaded, one out... Double to left-field wall by Carlee Wallace clears bases, gives Auburn 6-5 lead. Carda back in to pitch for Bruins... Wallace advances to third during next at-bat (perhaps a pitch got away, I don't know)... Auburn chopper to third leads to Wallace being tagged out trying to return, batter safe on first... Two-out single puts Tigers on first and second... Fly-out to left ends Auburn rally... Double-steal puts Bruins on second and third with one out; sac-fly to left ties score, 6-6... No further scoring for UCLA... Auburn with runners on first and second, none out, bottom four... Three-run blast for Branndi Melero, 9-6 Tigers... No further scoring for Auburn... UCLA gets runners on first and second with no outs, top five... Single to right scores run, runners to second and third on throw home. 9-7 Auburn... After strikeout, walk loads bases for Bruins... Foul pop to catcher, two out... Mysha Sataraka rips liner down third-base line, snared by a leaping Kasey Cooper to end Bruin threat... A two-out UCLA rally loads bases in top of sixth... Fly-out to left ends Bruin threat... Still 9-7 Tigers, as Bruins get last shot in top of seventh... Lead-off single to left... Auburn can't handle infield dribbler; Bruins on first and second with no outs... Runners bunted to second and third; tying runs in scoring position with one out... Maurice out on sharp grounder to first, but run scores, making it 9-8 Tigers, and putting tying run on third with two outs... Maddy Jelenicki coming up... HOMERS... 10-9 UCLA... Grounder to pitcher ends half-inning. Now Auburn down to its final three outs... Lead-off single for Auburn... Wallace doubles to wall, tying game 10-10! Jade Rhodes bunts runner to third... Auburn runs itself out of inning; runner from third out in run-down on infield grounder; batter trying to get to second thrown out... We're going to extras!... Perez line single leading off for UCLA, her fourth hit per ESPN announcer Beth Mowins... Auburn starter Lexi Davis comes back in to pitch... Infield grounder, Tigers get lead runner at second, but batter safe at first on double-play attempt... Miscommunication on infield grounder puts Bruins at first and second... Ally Carda fly out to center doesn't advance runners... Stephany LaRosa grounds into force at third, ending top of eighth with no scoring... One-out HBP gives Auburn a runner... Strikeout for second out... Wild pitch puts runner into scoring position... Walk puts runner on first... Carda had been fooling Tigers with change-ups, but now is getting wild... Morgan Estell up... Also walks, to load bases... Haley Fagan hits towering fly to right... caught by Perez at the wall... On to the ninth... One-out double for UCLA's Maurice... Passed ball sends runner to third... Jelenicki strikes out... Gracie Goulder fouls bunt attempt on first pitch, but not a squeeze because runner on third not coming home... Goulder grounds to first, ending Bruin threat... Carlee Wallace, with two doubles previously, is walked on four pitches... UCLA 3B Sataraka snares hard chopper, gets lead runner at second... Jenna Abbott strikes out... Tiffany Howard comes up... Also strikes out... Bring on the tenth... Two-out botched grounder by shortstop Fagan (a play after she'd make a nice grab of a hard liner for an out) gives Bruins a runner... But next batter grounds to third ending half-inning... Lead-off walk for Auburn... Cooper singles, putting runners on first and second. Melero coming up... Blooper to left just finds grass, bases loaded with no outs... Estell coming up. First pitch way high; Carda needs to watch her control... Next pitch over catcher (ball 2), but ball bounces back off of backstop, runner on third stays put... Change-up perfect, 2-1 count... High, 3-1 count... Next pitch not as high as some others, but still high, for ball 4... Auburn wins 11-10... And there's still one more game to come, between LSU and Alabama! I just made a word cloud by copying and pasting everything I wrote above regarding the Auburn-UCLA game into wordle.net. A word cloud depicts the most frequently used words in large font and less frequently used words smaller. Here it is (you can click on the word cloud to enlarge it)...



Alabama-LSU is underway... The Tide strikes first with a run in the top of the first... LSU answers with three runs in its half. Key play: Kellsi Kloss singles home second Tiger run, then takes second on throw home. Bama throw to second goes somewhere into right-center field, allowing Kloss to score. It's not technically an inside-the-park homer because of the error on the throw to second, but it has the same efffect. LSU leads 3-1... It's now 5-1 LSU after two complete... Same score as Bama comes up in top of sixth. Dropped throw at first base on routine grounder, followed by single, give Tide first and second with no outs... Fly-out to left, runners hold... Ditto of previous at-bat, two outs... Pop-up to short ends half-inning... Bama, down to its final outs in top of seventh, gets infield hits from first two batters... Carley Hoover in to pitch in relief, replacing Allie Walljasper... Strikeout for first out... Wild pitch advances runners... Walk loads bases, brings tying run to plate... Jadyn Spencer up... Fly-out to right for second out, runners advance, making it 5-2 LSU... Marisa Runyon up... Wild pitch scores runner from third, making it 5-3... Grounder to first ends game... LSU advances...

Friday, May 29, 2015

2015 WCWS Day 2

FLORIDA-LSU: Tigers load the bases in the bottom of the first with no out, but can't get ball out of infield on next two at-bats, resulting in force play at home, and double-play (runner from second-to-third tagged out, batter thrown out at first)... Gator pitcher Lauren Haeger hits a two-run, milestone homer in the top of the fifth to break a scoreless tie... UF now leading 4-0 as LSU comes up in bottom of seventh... 4-0 is your final.

UCLA-MICHIGAN: I'm always excited to see my undergraduate (UCLA) and graduate (Michigan) alma maters play each other! It's also a rematch of the epic 2005 final series, in which Michigan became the first school east of the Mississippi River to win the NCAA softball title...

UCLA loads the bases with none out in the bottom of the first... 1-0 Bruins on a sharp single to left with one out... 2-0, as a two-out walk brings in a run... HBP makes it 3-0 Bruins, still bottom of the first... Haylie Wagner coming in to pitch for Megan Betsa... Wagner gets strike-out to end inning...

Wolverines get first two on in top of second... Runners bunted to second and third, one out... Moderately deep fly-out to right, UM runner on third doesn't try to score... Another fly-out to right, Wolverines come up empty... Bruins go quietly in bottom of second...

Michigan again gets first two batters on base (first and second) in top of third. Slugger Sierra Romero surprisingly (to me, at least) bunts. Second and third with one out... Single to right brings in Wolverines' first run; other runner stops at third... Runner on first advances to second on pitch in dirt. Kelsey Susalla deep shot to right-center, nearly a great catch by UCLA's Kylee Perez, drives in two... Susalla to third on errant throw home... Tied 3-3... Walk puts UM runners on corners... Fly-out nearly to warning-track in center brings home go-ahead run for Michigan, 4-3... UCLA wild-pitch advances UM runner to second... Wagner flies out to right-field warning track, ending rally...

UCLA gets first two batters on (first and second) in bottom of third, on HBP and sharp single to left. Runners bunted over to second and third, one out (I feel like I'm writing this scenario a lot!)... Weird play ties score, 4-4, but ends Bruin threat -- ground out to first (for second out), run-down with runner on third trying to score, throw back to third gets away allowing runner to score; other UCLA runner caught between second and third, retired in run-down... Got that?

Tera Blanco leads off top of fourth with single up middle for Michigan... UCLA replaces Ally Carda in circle with Selina Ta'amilo... Michigan bunts runner to second (without waiting to get a second runner on), one out... Sierra Lawrence grounds out, runner held on second... Romero coming up, ESPN announcers expect intentional walk... Looking like an "unannounced" IBB, as no signal from catcher, but pitches nowhere close to strike-zone... Indeed, Romero to first; Kelly Christner up with two outs, Wolverines on first and second... Bloop pop-out to second, a little behind infield dirt... Still 4-4 going to bottom of fourth...

Solid line single to center by Perez with one out in Bruin half of the fourth... Delaney Spaulding fly-out to shallow left... Allexis Bennett grounds out, ending inning... Still 4-4...

Susalla, leading off, now 3-for-3 with line single to right on 3-2 pitch... Lauren Sweet singles. Ball sort of dies upon landing in shallow right, delaying right-fielder in getting to it and allowing Susalla to make it to third... Carda back in to pitch, greeted with sac-fly by Lindsay Montemarano (her third sacrifice fly or bunt of game), now 5-4 Michigan... Wagner ground single to left, UM with first and second, with one out... Blanco grounds into rare 4-6-3 double-play (rare because bases are only 60 feet apart, vs. 90 feet in baseball), ending threat..

Carda leads off bottom of fifth with bloop single to left for Bruins... Bunted to second, one out... Strikeout and grounder to pitcher close down UCLA...

Abby Ramirez leads off sixth with bloop single to left for Wolverines... Lawrence pops out to shortstop... Romero coming up, strikes out (Carda's first of game)... Christner pulls line-shot double to wall in right, scoring Ramirez. Michigan leads 6-4... Susalla makes it 4-for-4 with an RBI single to left, advances to second on throw home. Now 7-4 Wolverines... Sweet walks, first and second, two out for UM... Pop-up ends half-inning...

Maddy Jelenicki leads off bottom of sixth with line single to left for Bruins... Gracie Goulder strikes out... Perez's foul fly to left should have been caught, but dropped; she's retired anyway on grounder to pitcher, runner to second...Michigan CF Sierra Lawrence charges in to make nice catch of Delaney Spaulding fly. Bruins retired...

Blanco and Ramirez get a pair of one-out singles for Michigan in top of seventh... Lawrence makes it three straight; sloppy fielding by UCLA allows run to score easily and runners to end up on second and third. Now 8-4 UM... Romero, with a quiet night thus far, up again... Gets a sac-fly to right, 9-4 Michigan... Christner line single makes it 10-4... Susalla, 4-for-4 so far, looks to stay perfect... Bruins bring in Johanna Grauer to pitch... Susalla walks... Sweet fouls out to left, ending rally...

Bruins down to final three outs... UCLA gets one on via HBP, but liner to left ends it. Michigan wins.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

2015 WCWS Day 1

TENNESSEE-FLORIDA: Gator pitcher Lauren Haeger homers in bottom of the first, her 17th blast of the season, to make it 1-0... Vols avoid further damage, as UF leaves bases loaded... Gators again leave bases loaded in second... UF coming up in the bottom of the sixth, leading 5-2. As the score indicates, Haeger's long shutout-innings streak is over... Final: Florida 7, Tennessee 2.

LSU-AUBURN: The purple-and-gold is off to an early 1-0 lead on a Bianka Bell homer... LSU leads 6-1 as Auburn bats in the bottom of the seventh... Auburn gets its first two batters on base; does it have another comeback a la the super-regional opener vs. Louisiana-Lafayette in store? No. A double-play on a grounder to third and then a strikeout give LSU the easy win.

ALABAMA-MICHIGAN: Kelly Christner homers in the bottom of the first to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead... The Crimson Tide gets a single with one out in the top of the fourth, its first hit of the game... Lauren Sweet belts grand slam to make it 5-0 Wolverines, bottom four...(Many bloggers and tweeters are using the "How Sweet It Is," line, as I initially had. ESPN's Beth Mowins is a little more clever, declaring that the UM catcher had found the "sweet spot" with her bat.)... 5-0 is the final score.

UCLA-OREGON: No score after one complete. The Ducks had a runner thrown out trying to advance to third in the home half. While sitting in the dugout during her team's at-bats, UO pitcher Cheridan Hawkins was hit in the back of the head by a foul ball that ricocheted off the back wall of the dugout, but she comes out to pitch the top of the second.... UCLA gets solo shots by Stephany LaRosa (here and here) and Gabrielle Maurice (here) to go up 2-0, heading to the Duck half of the second...  After a rain/lightning delay, the Bruins win 7-1 to close out a day of all blowouts.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Growing SEC Presence in WCWS

When the 2015 NCAA Women's College World Series begins tomorrow, an inescapable fact will be the presence of five teams from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) within the eight-team field. In the following graph, I've depicted the number of teams the SEC and other major conferences have placed in the WCWS over the past 10 years, based on data from the Wikipedia.


The expanding share of yellow represents SEC teams. And the trend is likely to get even more pronounced. The dashed-yellow slashes across some of the red (Big 12) blocks signify teams that were in the Big 12 at the time of their WCWS appearances, but have since moved to the SEC (Texas A&M and Missouri).

The SEC's rise in softball started slow, but once begun, has been continuous. College softball came under the aegis of the NCAA in 1982, but it wasn't until 1997 that the SEC got a team (South Carolina) into the World Series. It's not that the SEC had a bunch of weak teams in the 1980s and '90s. Many of its top softball schools of today simply did not field a team during this era. To take some examples, Florida's first year competing in softball was 1997, the same year as Alabama. Tennessee first took the field in 1996. LSU had a softball team from 1979-1981, but then dropped the sport until resuming in '97.

Between 1997-2004, the SEC  placed either a single team or no team into each year's World Series. It wasn't until 2005 that the SEC sent multiple teams to Oklahoma City (in this case, Tennessee and Alabama). Tennessee became the conference's first World Series finalist in 2007, and now the SEC has won two of the last three titles (2012 Alabama; 2014 Florida).

Part of the SEC's current dominance appears to have come at the expense of the Pac 12 (formerly Pac 10), although we're dealing with small samples. National championship-caliber programs such as UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, and Washington appear to have lost a step in recent years (although the Bruins are in this year's WCWS), with Oregon becoming the most reliable program in the conference. Counting this year, the Ducks will have appeared in three of the last four World Series.

The Big 12 is now down from its high-water mark of getting four teams (Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Missouri) into the 2011 World Series to none this year. OU, which narrowly lost in last weekend's super-regionals to Alabama, appears to be the most reliable Big 12 contender, having won the 2013 national championship and finished as runner-up in 2012. Baylor may well now be the second-best program in the conference.

As Yogi Berra once supposedly said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." Still, it seems hard to imagine the SEC's current run of success slowing down any time soon.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

2015 Super-Regional Tracker (Sunday)

Florida, leading one game to none in its series vs. Kentucky, also leads by a score of 1-0, as the Wildcats come up in the bottom of the seventh for their last chance to prolong the series... Florida advances on the strength of pitcher Lauren Haeger's 29 straight scoreless innings in the tournament (as pointed out in an ESPN graphic)...

Missouri began the bottom of the first with four straight singles, but only scored one run. UCLA has now taken over the game, leading 6-1 as the Tigers bat in the bottom of the third... Bruins come up in top of seventh, leading 10-5 after Mizzou leaves bases loaded... UCLA 10, Missouri 6 is your final from Los Angeles; Bruins on to 25th WCWS appearance...

I'm sure I speak for everyone in the college-softball community in wishing Missouri pitcher Tori Finucane the best, after she was hit by a line-drive in what looked like the mouth area. Here is a posting from Mizzou's Twitter page... Update from Mizzou Twitter is cautiously positive... Finucane has now been released from UCLA Medical Center.

LSU leads Arizona 4-2 after a pair of innings... Tigers up lead to 6-2 in top of third, but LSU center- and left-fielders get tangled up on deep fly in bottom half of inning, leading to triple; runner later scores, cutting LSU lead to 6-3 after three... LSU adds two in the top of the fourth, making it 8-3... Back-to-back strikeouts by LSU reliever Carley Hoover quells Arizona rally in bottom of fifth, but Wildcats get two, cutting Tiger lead to 8-5... LSU adds two insurance runs in the top of the seventh, making it 10-5. U of A down to its final at-bats... Relatively uneventful bottom of the seventh (one Arizona hit) and LSU is heading to the WCWS.

All of the top eight seeds have made it to OKC! That includes five teams from the SEC.

TeamsGame 1Game 2Game 3
Kentucky at Florida (1)***FloridaFlorida---
 NC State at Oregon (2)**OregonOregon---
Georgia (14) at Michigan (3)*MichiganMichigan---
LA-Lafayette (13) at Auburn (4)**AuburnAuburn---
Arizona (12) at LSU (5)***LSULSU---
Oklahoma (11) at Alabama (6)**OklahomaAlabamaAlabama
Missouri (10) at UCLA (7)***UCLAUCLA---
Florida State (9) at Tennessee (8)*TennesseeFlorida StateTennessee
*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.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

2015 Super-Regional Tracker (Saturday)

The three remaining series get underway today: Florida-Kentucky, LSU-Arizona, and UCLA-Missouri. As always, we have the tracker board below to indicate the status of each series...

Florida has gone up 4-0 on Kentucky, with the Gators batting in the bottom of the second... Final: Florida 7-0.

LSU has quickly taken its opener from Arizona, 8-0 in a five-inning run-rule contest.

UCLA wins opener over Missouri, 7-4.

Auburn and Louisiana-Lafayette are tied 2-2 in Game 2 of their series, with the Tigers batting in the top of the fifth... ULL's erratic performance in the circle continues; illegal pitches and a wild pitch help Auburn take 3-2 lead in top of the sixth... Tigers pulling away, 6-2... ULL has bases loaded with two outs in bottom of sixth... One run walked in, score now 6-3... Fly-out to center ends Cajun threat... No further scoring, as Auburn clinches school's first-ever appearance in WCWS.

Alabama shuts out Oklahoma 2-0 to force a third game, which the Crimson Tide also take, 5-3.

Oregon finishes off NC State, 9-3.

TeamsGame 1Game 2Game 3
Kentucky at Florida (1)***Florida

 NC State at Oregon (2)**OregonOregon---
Georgia (14) at Michigan (3)*MichiganMichigan---
LA-Lafayette (13) at Auburn (4)**AuburnAuburn---
Arizona (12) at LSU (5)***LSU

Oklahoma (11) at Alabama (6)**OklahomaAlabamaAlabama
Missouri (10) at UCLA (7)***UCLA

Florida State (9) at Tennessee (8)*TennesseeFlorida StateTennessee
*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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

2015 Super-Regionals Tracker (Friday)

Below is today's version of the tracker chart that I introduced yesterday.

A wild one featuring Louisiana-Lafayette at Auburn is going to extra innings. The Ragin' Cajuns seemingly had this super-regional opener wrapped up, leading 10-5 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, with Auburn having two runners on. However, four walks, a Tiger runner being awarded first base because a ULL relief pitcher exceeded the legal limit of warm-up pitches, and then another walk have tied the game 10-10. Cajun pitchers weren't just walking batters; they weren't even coming close to home plate on most pitches. An Auburn hitter popped out to end the inning and I'm kind of shocked she swung at all... ULL regains the lead, 11-10, in the top of the eighth on a wild pitch, with runners now at first and second with two outs... The Cajuns are retired with no further scoring... Auburn threatening in the bottom of the eighth with runners on first and second with no out. After a walk, the ULL shortstop makes a nice play to get a glove on an Auburn grounder up the middle, but can't get the runner going to second or the batter going to first... A Tiger double ties the game 11-11, with runners at second and third and no outs... A strikeout for the first out... Runner from third beats the throw home on a grounder to second. Auburn wins 12-11. The throw was high and it appears from the replay that the catcher may have taken her foot off the plate.

Florida State, looking to tie its series with Tennessee at 1-1, leads 5-1 in the bottom (Seminole) half of the fifth... The Seminoles close it out, 6-1, setting up a deciding Game 3.

FSU-Tennessee Game 3: Tennessee shot to the wall drives home baserunner for game's first run... Vols string together another run, in bottom of fourth, increasing their lead to 2-0... Seminoles cut deficit to 2-1 in top of fifth... Same score as FSU up in top of sixth... And that's how it ends, 2-1 Tennessee to send the Vols to the WCWS.

Softballs are flying out of Michigan's Alumni Field. Georgia homered twice in the bottom of the first (the initial one coming after a hit-by-pitch) and the Wolverines have recorded a round-tripper of their own in the top of the second. Bulldogs lead 3-1... Wolverines rally for two runs on three singles and a sac-fly to tie game 3-3 in the top of the third... UM goes up 4-3 in the top of the fourth on (you guessed it) a homer... The Wolverines open up some daylight (without benefit of any home runs), leading 6-3 as the Bulldogs come to bat in the bottom of the fifth... Fast-forwarding to the bottom of the sixth, Georgia gets runners on second and third with no outs, but scores only one run (another runner, trying to score from third on a grounder to the pitcher, is thrown out). Michigan comes up in top of seventh, leading 6-4... Wolverines three outs away from trip to WCWS, leading 7-4... The homer parade isn't over, as Georgia belts a two-out, two-run dinger to center to close within 7-6... Line-drive single to center puts tying run on base... Pitching change for Michigan? You "Betsa," to replace Haylie Wagner... Pop-up to second-baseperson, Michigan to the World Series for the 11th time overall, but only the third time since winning it all in 2005.

Alabama has taken a 1-0 lead over Oklahoma, putting together a pair of doubles in the bottom of the first... A solo homer in the top of the third ups the Tide's lead to 2-0... Top 6: Callie Parsons, leading off, gets Sooners' first hit (a single), then Lauren Chamberlain does what she does best, homering to tie score at 2-2... Walk and beat-out bunt give Sooners two on and still no out... Another bunt advances runners to second and third, batter retired... Deep sac-fly gives OU 3-2 lead, other runner to third... Kady Self whacks one high off the left-field foul-pole (or if you prefer, "fair pole") making it 5-2 Sooners... OU survives a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the seventh to win 5-2.

North Carolina State is making a lead-off homer in the first by Renada Davis hold up, leading Oregon 1-0 in the top of the fourth... NC State nearly escapes bases-loaded, no-out situation in bottom of fourth, getting two harmless outs, but then floodgates open and now it's 4-1 Ducks... Oregon cruises from there to 6-1 victory.

TeamsGame 1Game 2Game 3
Kentucky at Florida (1)***


 NC State at Oregon (2)**Oregon

Georgia (14) at Michigan (3)*MichiganMichigan---
LA-Lafayette (13) at Auburn (4)**Auburn

Arizona (12) at LSU (5)***


Oklahoma (11) at Alabama (6)**Oklahoma

Missouri (10) at UCLA (7)***


Florida State (9) at Tennessee (8)*TennesseeFlorida StateTennessee
*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.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 Super-Regionals Tracker (Thursday)

The following chart will allow you to track the eight super-regional series, the two-out-of-three match-ups that will determine the participants in next week's Women's College World Series. Which super-regional series begin tonight, as opposed to Friday or Saturday? Which teams have captured one win on the road to the WCWS or have clinched a spot with two wins? It's all in the chart (or will be with my frequent updates)!

TeamsGame 1Game 2Game 3
Kentucky at Florida (1)***


 NC State at Oregon (2)**


Georgia (14) at Michigan (3)*Michigan

LA-Lafayette (13) at Auburn (4)**


Arizona (12) at LSU (5)***


Oklahoma (11) at Alabama (6)**


Missouri (10) at UCLA (7)***


Florida State (9) at Tennessee (8)*Tennessee
*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.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Math Formulas for Predicting the Super-Regionals

For the first time, I'm going to apply some established sports-prediction formulas to the NCAA softball super-regionals, which begin Thursday.

The starting point is what's called each team's "Pythagorean" season-long expected win percentage, based on its total runs scored and total runs allowed. The Pythagorean formula was originally developed for Major League Baseball, by Bill James, but has been modified for college softball by researchers at Fastpitch Analytics. As shown in the chart below, for example, Florida would have been expected to win roughly 85% of its regular-season games this past season, based on how many runs the Gators scored and allowed.

The next step is to apply a formula known as "Log5," which gives the probability of one team beating another head-to-head, based on each team's Pythagorean value. The favored team and its Log5 win probability are shown in the last two columns of the following chart.

Home Team
Pythag
Road Team
Pythag
Favorite
Favorite's Win
Probability (Log5)
Florida (1)
.85
Kentucky
.58
Florida
.80
Oregon (2)
.82
NC State
.72
Oregon
.64
Michigan (3)
.89
Georgia (14)
.79
Michigan
.68
Auburn (4)
.76
LA-Lafayette (13)
.87
LA-Lafayette
.68
LSU (5)
.83
Arizona (12)
.71
LSU
.67
Alabama (6)
.85
Oklahoma (11)
.88
Oklahoma
.56
UCLA (7)
.83
Missouri (10)
.71
UCLA
.67
Tennessee (8)
.75
Florida State (9)
.76
Florida State
.51

Not surprisingly, No. 1-seed Florida has the highest Log5 win probability against its opponent, Kentucky, which emerged from the Notre Dame (No. 16-seed) regional.

More interesting is that the Pythagorean and Log5 formulas predict two upsets, No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette over No. 4 Auburn (with 68% likelihood) and No. 11 Oklahoma over No. 6 Alabama (with 56% likelihood). Though No. 9 Florida State has a slightly higher Pythagorean value than No. 8 Tennessee, the series is essentially a 50/50 proposition.

What appears to be holding Auburn back in the Pythagorean calculation is its total runs allowed, rather than its total runs scored. The Tigers scored 460 runs in the regular season, second only to Oklahoma's 462 among ranked teams.  However, Auburn allowed 199 runs, not so great considering that many top teams gave up 115 or fewer.

I don't know how useful these formulas will be for this year's super-regionals, as they don't differentiate the series that much. In five of the eight series, the calculations say the favored team has roughly a two-thirds probability of winning.

For readers interested in such "bread and butter" measures as hitting, pitching, and defense, Fastpitch Analytics evaluates the super-regional teams on additional statistical metrics.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Reflections on the Just-Concluded Regionals (2015)

The results heavily followed the chalk this past weekend, as the top 14 seeded teams all won their respective regionals. Not advancing were the No. 15 (James Madison) and 16 (Notre Dame) seeds, which by definition are the weakest of the seeded teams. North Carolina State won the JMU-hosted regional, whereas Kentucky prevailed in South Bend.

Interestingly, blogger Jon Nachtigal at Fastpitch Analytics wrote rather emphatically right after the 64-team field was announced on Selection Sunday that Kentucky should not have been awarded a bid. Now, Kentucky winning its regional does not necessarily mean that the committee made the proper selections with the information it had at the time. However, the Wildcats' win does seem to show the depth of the SEC, which has eight teams among the 16 in the super-regionals.

Arguably the most exciting Sunday action was nowhere to be found on the ESPN Family of Networks, but only on live streaming video from the University of Arizona athletics website, as the Wildcats and Minnesota battled through two games for a spot in the supers. You had the Gophers hitting dramatic home runs to win Sunday's first game and nearly do the same in the nightcap. You had Arizona putting lots of runners on base in the finale, but Minnesota somehow managing to limit the damage. Ultimately, though, the Gophers' pitching and defense were not quite up to the level needed to beat Arizona at Hillenbrand Stadium, in my view.

The super-regional match-ups are listed at the NCAA site. Teams are paired off based on their seed numbers (or the seed number of the team expected to advance from a given regional) summing to 17 (e.g., 1 vs. 16, 8 vs. 9). Each pair of teams plays a two-out-of-three series, with the eight winners going to OKC for the Women's College World Series. I'll preview the super-regionals later in the week...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

2015 NCAA Regionals -- Who's Advanced, Who's Still Alive, Who's Been Eliminated

The following table shows the status of each regional. The "2-0" and "2-1" column headings reflect teams' records entering Sunday's play (with the exception of the Eugene, Oregon regional, which started a day earlier). Under the double-elimination format, the "2-1" team had to beat the "2-0" team twice on Sunday to advance. Teams in bold (with game-article links) have advanced to the super-regionals.

Region2-02-1EliminatedEliminated
Gainesville, FLFlorida (1)Florida AtlanticHofstraFlorida A&M
Eugene, OROregon (2)N. Dakota St.BYUFresno St.
Ann Arbor, MIMichigan (3)PittCalOakland U.
Auburn, ALAuburn (4)S. AlabamaTennessee TechChattanooga
Baton Rouge, LAArizona St.LSU (5)NebraskaTexas Southern
Tuscaloosa, ALAlabama (6)WashingtonSC-UpstateFairfield
Los Angeles, CAUCLA (7)San Diego St.TexasCS Northridge
Knoxville, TNTennessee (8)UtahLongwoodVirginia Tech
Tallahassee, FLFlorida St. (9)UCFSouth CarolinaDartmouth
Columbia, MOMissouri (10)KansasIndiana StateLouisville
Norman, OKOklahoma (11)Texas A&MLehighC. Arkansas
Tucson, AZArizona (12)Minnesota*NM StateSt. John's
Lafayette, LAULL (13)Baylor*Mississippi St.Weber St
Athens, GAW. KentuckyGeorgia (14)N. CarolinaC. Conn. St.
Harrisonburg, VANC StateFordhamJ. Madison (15)Binghamton
South Bend, INKentuckyNotre Dame (16)Ball St.Northwestern
*Beat the "2-0" team once, but lost rematch.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

2015 NCAA Regionals -- Saturday Updates

Not a good day so far for seeded (and unseeded) SEC teams.

No. 5-seed LSU has fallen to Arizona State, 1-0. After starting off the season 25-0 and holding a 41-5 record as of April 19, the Tigers have stumbled, going 4-6 in their last 10 games before today's loss. Under the regionals' double-elimination format, LSU can still recover, but it won't be easy.

No. 14-seed Georgia is locked in a marathon tussle with Western Kentucky, currently tied 1-1 in the 14th inning, the equivalent of two regulation-length games... ...and the Bulldogs have just lost to the Hilltoppers, 2-1.

Another seed (this time non-SEC) has lost, as NC State shuts out No. 15-seed James Madison, 2-0.

No. 11-seed Oklahoma narrowly escapes Texas A&M, 7-5, scoring three in the bottom of the seventh, including a walk-off two-run homer by Erin Miller.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Don't Trust NCAA Game Trackers! (Regional Update)

We all make mistakes, but some are larger than others. Take today's first game of the Tuscaloosa, Alabama regional between South Carolina-Upstate and Washington. The Game Tracker page on the NCAA softball website (left) tells us that USC-Upstate pulled a 4-1 upset over the 11-time Women's College World Series participant Huskies. In seeking further details on the game, I discovered that -- not so fast -- maybe Upstate didn't win. In fact, the Spartans' Twitter feed (right) says that Washington won 4-1 (my highlighting added). The Huskies' Twitter feed (not shown) also proclaims a U-Dub win, so I'm going to conclude the NCAA site is wrong.


As I write, the erroneous score still has not been corrected. If you want to be confident in the accuracy of a score, I have one piece of advice: Independently verify!

***

Here's an actual upset: No. 16 seed Notre Dame falls at home to Ball State, 6-3.

Monday, May 11, 2015

2015 Geospatial Map of NCAA Tournament

My annual maps, visualizing the NCAA softball brackets geographically, are here. There are 16 seeded teams (with seed number in parentheses) in the 64-team field. The key thing to remember is that each set of four schools with the same color and design (based on the seeded team's school colors) are playing in the same regional. To minimize clutter, I have once again divided the regionals into those I consider relatively compact and those I consider scattered. Relatively compact means that all four teams in a regional are geographically close together, or three teams are close together and one distant team is being brought in. These regionals are shown in the following map, which you may click to enlarge.


The Auburn (No. 4 seed) regional, for example, includes teams only from the adjacent states of Alabama and Tennesee. The UCLA (No. 7 seed) regional contains three teams from southern California, plus the University of Texas.

The next map shows the scattered regionals, which to varying degrees bring together teams from different parts of the country.


The Alabama (No. 6 seed) region includes one other southern school, South Carolina-Upstate, but also brings in the University of Washington from the far northwestern U.S., and Fairfield (Connecticut) from the far northeast. Washington and Fairfield will really build up traveler miles for their programs!

The SEC is clearly the dominant conference with 11 teams selected in all, with seven seeded teams: 1 (Florida), 4 (Auburn), 5 (LSU), 6 (Alabama), 8 (Tennessee), 10 (Missouri), and 14 (Georgia). The other four participating SEC teams are Kentucky, Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Texas A&M. Vanderbilt does not field a softball squad, meaning that Ole Miss and Arkansas were the only excluded SEC teams. The Pac 12 (which only has nine softball schools) and ACC (which has 11) each had seven schools selected. This NCAA summary article lists all automatic-bid and at-large qualifiers, by conference, at the bottom of the report.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Miscellaneous Updates Leading Up to Selection Sunday

Here are some miscellaneous items, leading into the revealing of the NCAA-tournament brackets on Selection Sunday...

Auburn continues to swing a hot bat, leading Alabama 5-1 in the bottom (Auburn-half) of the third in one SEC semifinal (scoreboard). In the other semi, Florida will take on Tennessee, which yesterday bounced host LSU. [Update: Auburn wins 7-1 and will face Tennessee, a 2-1 winner over Florida, in Saturday's championship game.]

Michigan coach Carol Hutchins discusses in this article how star shortstop-turned-second-baseperson Sierra Romero doesn't need to improve her playing skill-set so much as, "She needs to make her teammates better. She needs to start imparting her wisdom on them..." The Wolverines easily won their game today in the B1G tourney, a run-rule 16-1 rout over Penn State.

Another B1G team piling up runs is tourney host Ohio State. The Buckeyes ripped Indiana 24-1 (run-ruled) yesterday, scoring 12 in the bottom of the first.

One school whose name won't be called Sunday night is Texas Tech, which finished with an overall record of 25-26. However, the Red Raiders, under first-year coach Adrian Gregory, can consider the season a success, of sorts (full disclosure: I'm on the faculty there). After losing nonconference games to schools such as UT-San Antonio, Grand Canyon, Drake, McNeese State, Utah Valley, and Tennessee-Martin, and then starting off Big-12 play with an 0-6 record (having faced the conference's two best teams in Oklahoma and Baylor), Tech turned things around to finish at .500 (9-9) in league play (schedule/results page). The Raiders' rebound consisted of taking two-of-three against each of Kansas, Texas, and Iowa State, and sweeping Oklahoma State.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Final Regular-Season Weekend for Many Conferences

For many conferences, this weekend was the last one of regular-season play, with conference tournaments taking place next weekend. These leagues include:
Major circuits without a conference tourney include:
  • The Pac 12, whose title will come down to Oregon (19-2) and UCLA (18-3 17-3, with the Bruins finishing up this weekend's series with Arizona tonight in a rare Sunday-evening contest). Next weekend, Oregon plays three at Arizona, while UCLA does the same at ASU. The Ducks have won 14 in a row, the Bruins, 13 straight 12.
  • The Big 12, in which first-place Oklahoma (14-2) has clinched at least a tie for the regular-season crown. Baylor (11-4) is the only team that conceivably could catch the Sooners. OU has a pair of games remaining against "Bedlam" rival Oklahoma State (the teams already met once this season). Should the Sooners lose twice to the last-place Cowgirls (an unlikely proposition), Baylor could tie OU for the title by sweeping Texas in an unusual Wednesday-Saturday-Sunday series (with the first game in Waco and the remaining two in Austin).

Friday, May 01, 2015

Chamberlain Hits Record-Setting 91st Career Homer

Oklahoma's Lauren Chamberlain hit the 91st home run of her collegiate career yesterday in a game against North Texas, giving her the NCAA record for career round-trips. ESPN-W puts the record in historical context, observing among other things that:

Even more impressive than the record itself is the fact she has broke the mark in 52 fewer games. Chamberlain has played 212 games in her career, while former record-holder Stacey Nuveman played 264.