Monday, May 22, 2017

NCAA 2017 Regionals -- Monday Status

Two games are being played today, to finish off the regionals (scroll down to yesterday's entry and see chart).

Oklahoma leads Tulsa 2-0 in today's winner-take-all game, with the Sooners batting in the top of the sixth... OU staged a dramatic comeback against the Golden Hurricane yesterday to force today's decisive game... Make that 3-0 Oklahoma (Monday gametracker)... 3-0 is the final score as OU moves on to the super-regionals...

In action late Sunday night, LSU defeated McNeese State and then Louisiana-Lafayette to force a decisive rematch today between LSU and ULL... ULL leads today's rematch 1-0, with the Rajin' Cajuns batting in the top of the third (Monday gametracker)... LSU roars back to win 5-1 and advance to the supers...

When all is said and done, all 16 national seeds advance, the first time this has happened in the 13 years the super-regional format has been in effect.

FLO Softball has a nice overview of the recently concluded regionals.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

NCAA 2017 Regionals -- Sunday Status

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 Salt Lake City 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.

Gainesville, FL
Oklahoma St.*
Florida IntlFlorida A&M
Tucson, AZArizona (2)S. CarolinaSt. FrancisNM State
Eugene, OROregon (3)WisconsinMizzouIllinois-Chi.
Tallahassee, FLFlorida St. (4)GeorgiaJacksonville St.Princeton
Los Angeles, CAUCLA (5)CS FullertonSan Jose St.Lehigh
Seattle, WAWash. (6)MichiganFresno St.Montana
Auburn, ALAuburn (7)CalNotre DameE. Tenn. St.
Knoxville, TN LongwoodOhio St.SC-Upstate
Coll. Station, TX TexasTexas St.Texas Southern
Norman, OK
Okla. (10)*N. Dakota St.Arkansas
Salt Lake City, UT BYUMississippi St.Fordham
Oxford, MS N. CarolinaArizona St.S. Illinois
Baton Rouge, LA
LSU (13)*McNeese St.Fairfield
Lexington, KY IllinoisMarshallDePaul
Waco, TXBaylor (15)J. MadisonOregon St.Kent St.
Tuscaloosa, ALAlabama (16)
*Beat the "2-0" team to set up a winner-take-all game. (Winner-take-all games between Oklahoma-Tulsa and LSU-ULL being played on Monday.)

Running commentary during the day: 

Oklahoma State, trying to force "if necessary" rematch with Florida, scores game's first run in bottom of sixth, leaving Gators with just three outs left... UF lead-off walk in top of seventh... Bunted to second... Fly-out to center, two outs for Gators... Fly-out deep to left, Cowgirls win 1-0, forcing winner-take-all game later today... UF takes 2-0 lead in bottom of first on home-run blast... Gators win 5-0 to advance...

Florida State survives a late rally by Georgia for an 8-5 victory and trip to the super-regionals...

Oklahoma, looking to stay alive, is off to a quick start in rematch with North Dakota State, scoring four in top of first (including three-run homer by Shay Knighten)... Sooners need to win this game, and then beat Tulsa twice...

Minnesota, fighting for its tournament life, is in extra innings with Louisiana Tech... Gophers batting in top of ninth of 2-2 game, threatening with runners on the corners with one out... No one covering first on infield grounder, so Gophers load bases... Kendyl Lindaman singles in two, putting Minnesota up 4-2... Gophers prevail 5-3 over LA Tech, now must beat Alabama twice...

Alabama, needing just one win, leads Minnesota 1-0, as Gophers come up in bottom of fourth (gametracker)... That's the final, 1-0... Minnesota fails to score in two games vs. Crimson Tide (16 innings total: seven innings today, nine yesterday)...

Tulsa, needing just one win to advance, off to 1-0 lead on Oklahoma as routine throw from catcher to pitcher returning ball gets away... Tulsa and OU tied 2-2, Sooners batting in bottom of sixth (gametracker)... Going extras, as Golden Hurricane bat in top of eighth... Tulsa scores two in top of 10th, OU counters with four on pair of two-run homers, first by Caleigh Clifton, second by Sydney Romero... Sooners win, forcing decisive game tomorrow...

Baylor's Gia Rodoni pitches two no-hitters in regionals to lead Bears to supers...

West Coast games now underway: Oregon 4-0 over Wisconsin, Ducks batting in bottom of second; Michigan 1-0 over Washington, two complete; Arizona and South Carolina scoreless, two complete...

'Zona goes up 2-0 on SC in top of third (gametracker)... 9-0 is the final...

U-Dub takes 2-1 lead over Michigan in top of third (gametracker). Huskies threatening more, with bases loaded, two out... Nice catch of blooper by Wolverine 2B limits damage... Michigan ties game 2-2 in bottom of fourth... Two-out, two-run double gives Huskies 4-2 lead in top of sixth... That's how it ends... Very subpar season for Michigan ends early...

Oregon finishes off Wisconsin, 9-0, to advance...

UCLA scores two in top of first, Fullerton scores one in bottom half. Still 2-1 in top of third (gametracker)... Bruins close it out, 9-1...

LSU site continues to look gloomy with rain... McNeese and LSU are now playing, scoreless in the bottom of the second, around 8:30 pm Central...

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Saturday Updates (2017 NCAA Regionals)

Although Minnesota received many statements of support after being omitted from the group of 16 nationally seeded teams, I felt there was also considerable pressure on the Gophers to prove the NCAA tournament committee wrong. Whatever pressure there was before has been increased tremendously, as the Gophers' vaunted offense was stymied in a 1-0 nine-inning loss to No. 16 seed Alabama... Minnesota will need to sweep three games (including two over Alabama) or its season is over!

No. 10 seed Oklahoma looked to be in a bit of danger, trailing North Dakota State 2-0 after five innings. However, The Sooners scored a pair in the bottom of the sixth to tie things up (gametracker)... Bison and Sooners will be going extras, as OU retired in the bottom of the seventh when batter thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double... NDSU scores in top of ninth, then, aided by this catch in the bottom half, closes out Oklahoma, 3-2.

Oregon survives by the skin of its teeth against Wisconsin, while Washington eviscerates Michigan.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Interview on Iowa Radio Show

I had the pleasure Tuesday morning of chatting with radio host Derek Martin of Iowa radio station KMA about the upcoming NCAA women's softball tournament. A recording of my segment, running about 10 minutes, is available at this link.

The big topic in the interview, as indeed it is among college-softball observers nationwide, was the NCAA's exclusion of Minnesota among the 16 nationally seeded teams, forcing the Gophers to face a daunting road to the Women's College World Series. As I alluded to in the interview, not long after the NCAA's snub, the Gophers were announced as the No. 1 team in the nation in the weekly NFCA/USA Today poll. Criticism of the NCAA's seedings continues to roll in.

Toward the end of the interview, Derek pointed out that Minnesota frosh catcher Kendyl Lindaman is from Ankeny, Iowa and he told some interesting stories about her power-hitting prowess in high school. Now, at the NCAA level, Lindaman has a slugging percentage of .942, third-highest in the nation.

Other players we discussed were Florida pitchers Kelly Barnhill and Delanie Gourley, both of whom have Earned Run Averages below 1.00; Arizona's Katiyana Mauga, who has 89 career homers and needs six more to tie the NCAA record of 95 by former Oklahoma Sooner Lauren Chamberlain; and Lindaman's battery-mate at Minnesota, Sara Groenewegen, who sports a 0.59 ERA.

It turns out that -- going from memory -- I misspoke slightly about two of the regional lineups during the interview. I said that a Florida regional contained teams exclusively from the Sunshine State, but that regional actually contains only three Florida teams (UF, Florida A&M, and Florida International, plus Oklahoma State). It is actually a regional in Texas that is entirely intrastate (UT-Austin, Texas A&M, Texas State, and Texas Southern). Also, in describing the Oregon regional, which brings in three teams from the Midwest, I listed DePaul as one of the teams, when it is really Illinois-Chicago. The brackets are available here.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

2017 NCAA Softball Tournament Geospatial Map

We're back once again with our annual geospatial map of where the 64 teams have been sent for regional play in the first weekend. This map allows you to see the extent to which the NCAA has kept regionals compact to save on travel costs, as opposed to sending teams across the country. For the last couple of years, I have used the Batch Geo website, which allows one to import an Excel list of schools (with addresses) and then generates a color-coded map, grouping schools by regional.

There are 16 regional sites, each containing four schools, which would probably create too much clutter for most readers' tastes, so I have broken the regionals up into three graphs, one with six regionals and the other two with five each. The regional hosts are identified in a black horizontal bar at the bottom of each graph.

"Balloons" of the same color within the same graph represent schools playing in the same regional. You can "hover" the cursor over a given balloon and the school's name will appear. There are additional tools on the graphs, allowing you to manipulate them in various ways.

View 2017 NCAA Softball Regions 1 in a full screen map

View 2017 NCAA Softball Regions 2 in a full screen map

View 2017 NCAA Softball Regions 3 in a full screen map

Getting to the substance of the NCAA committee's decisions, the biggest shocker of the evening is that Minnesota, ranked No. 2/3 in the final national polls and sporting a 54-3 record, did not receive one of the 16 national seeds. As a result, the Gophers will have to travel to 16-seed Alabama for regional play (see Map 1 above). As noted on ESPN's Tournament Selection Show, Minnesota was ranked No. 12 in the RPI, but had only two wins all year over teams ranked in the Top 25 (but not the Top 10) when they faced the Gophers, LSU and Cal. Minnesota did not play traditional B1G power Michigan (No. 17 in both polls) this season, as not everybody can play each other in a 14-team league; also, the Wolverines bowed out of the conference tourney before they could face Minnesota. Playing -- and beating -- Michigan might have gotten Minnesota a national seed, but we'll never know.

Also of note, the SEC got all 13 of its softball-playing schools into the tournament. According to the SEC website:

The SEC earned eight national seeds, as SEC regular season champion Florida (50-6) earned the national No. 1 seed for the third straight year. Auburn (46-10) earned the No. 7 seed, while Tennessee (44-10) was awarded the No. 8 seed. Texas A&M (42-10) is the No. 9 seed, and SEC Tournament Champion Ole Miss (40-18) is the No. 12 national seed. LSU (41-18) is the No. 13 seed, and Kentucky (36-17) was tabbed the No. 14 seed. Alabama (42-16) rounds out the list as the No. 16 seed.

Arizona seemed to stumble a little bit down the stretch, going a combined 6-6 in series vs. Utah, Oregon, ASU, and UCLA (including two shutout losses to the Bruins). However, that didn't stop U of A from getting the No. 2 national seed. 

Rounding out the top six national seeds are (in order) Oregon, Florida State, UCLA, and Washington, giving the Pac 12 four of the six highest seeds. In addition, eight of the Pac 12's nine softball-playing schools made the NCAA field (Stanford was left out).

Friday, May 12, 2017

Conference Tourney Updates (2017)

Quarterfinal play in the SEC featured three upsets out of the four games (see bracket):

  • Eighth-seeded Mississippi shutout No. 1 Florida, 2-0.
  • Sixth-seeded LSU took care of No. 3 Tennessee, 6-2.
  • Fifth-seeded Alabama edged No. 4 Texas A&M, 2-1.
Only second-seeded Auburn held form, blanking No. 7 Kentucky, 2-0.

In Friday's opening quarterfinal of the B1G tourney, top-seeded Minnesota dismissed No. 8 Northwestern, 5-1. Currently, fourth-seeded Illinois bats in the bottom of the second, leading No. 12 Penn State, 2-0... Illinois wins 3-0.... Third-seeded Ohio State beat No. 6 Wisconsin, 3-2... Finally, seventh-seeded Michigan State ousted intrastate rival and No. 2 seed University of Michigan, 5-4.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Catching Up with Florida State

No. 2 Florida State's past week of play had its ups and downs, which I completely blanked on. Most hardcore college softball fans already know about the Seminoles' week, but to preserve this blog's historical record, I would still like to summarize what happened.

A week ago, on Wednesday, May 3, Alex Powers powered FSU to an 11-inning walk-off win over No. 1 Florida, with a two-run homer. The Seminoles' jubilation would be short-lived, however.

With your friendly blogger concentrating on key conference series such as Arizona-UCLA last weekend, I did not know that FSU was playing a non-conference series at No. 5 Oregon simultaneously. As it turned out, the Ducks swept three games from the Seminoles, the finale going nine innings.  

These results, along with Arizona dropping two games (both shutouts) out of three to UCLA, really have shaken things up at the top of the national polls.

Florida is now No. 1 in both major national polls. The Softball poll has Oregon at No. 2 and Minnesota at No. 3, whereas the USA Today/NFCA poll transposes the Gophers and Ducks.

Coming up are conference tournaments in the SEC (starting today), ACC (starting tomorrow), B1G (starting tomorrow), and Big 12 (starting Friday). The Pac 12 doesn't have a tournament and will have regular series going on.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Arizona, Scoreless vs. UCLA on Friday and Saturday, Salvages Sunday Contest

After getting shut out by UCLA on Friday and Saturday, Arizona rebounded for a 7-2 win over the Bruins on Sunday. The win gave the Wildcats the conference championship.

Friday, May 05, 2017

UCLA Routs Arizona in Series Opener

UCLA scored an 8-0, run-rule, victory over Arizona in the opener of the teams' three-game series in Los Angeles. Saturday's (6:00 pm Pacific) and Sunday's (1:00 pm Pacific) games will be televised on ESPN 2. As the above-linked article notes, the Bruins have now won nine straight games. Six wins during this stretch were over the Pac 12's two weakest teams, Cal and Stanford, but UCLA's win over Arizona suggests the Bruins really may be getting hot with the postseason approaching.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Oklahoma Wins Big 12 Regular-Season Title

With a 3-0 win tonight over Oklahoma State, OU has clinched its sixth straight conference title.

This year, for the first time in seven years, the Big 12 will also play a conference tournament.