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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...