Action Sets Sail
By Anthony Bronson
Sixty-four teams from across the nation have been funneled into postseason action. With only 16 spots to advance to super regional play, now is the time for each team to make their statement.
TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA—In the first of 16 postseason regionals, the number one seeded Alabama Crimson Tide (52-10) was set to square off with Lipscomb (50-12), UAB (37-21) and Alcorn St. (24-25) at the Alabama Softball Complex. Proving they were deserving of the number one seed honor, the Crimson Tide knocked down Alcorn St. in a 9-0 run-rule shutout in the fifth inning. After ousting Lipscomb in the second day of the regional 5-2 and then again in the third with a 6-0 shutout, Alabama punched their ticket to super regional action. The Crimson Tide outscored their opponents 20-2 and outhit their opponents 19-9.
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA—After their outstanding performance in 2009, the Stanford Cardinals (37-18) have struggled this year and their regional was no different. The Cardinals took on Hawaii (50-15), Texas Tech (38-17), and UC Davis (26-28) at the Smith Family Stadium. As the only seeded team in the tournament, Hawaii made quick work of UC Davis in a dominating 10-2 victory while Stanford knocked down Texas Tech in a narrow 5-4 win. When Hawaii and Stanford clashed, Hawaii came out on top in a 6-3 victory and advanced to defeat Texas Tech 7-1 in the final game of the regional. Hawaii put up a whopping 23 points in the Stanford regional and held their opponents to just six runs.
COLUMBIA, MISSOURI—At University field in Columbia, the ninth seeded Missouri Tigers (51-12) barely escaped with a pass to the super regionals over Illinois (45-7), DePaul (39-17) and Creighton (37-22). Despite a seeded team being present in the regional, Illinois was actually looking like the team to watch. They were putting up outstanding numbers and had actually outscored Missouri against their opponents. But when it came down to business, the Tigers continued their consistency scoring four runs by the third inning. A late game run by Illinois was not enough and the Tigers moved on to super regional action. The Tigers were actually outscored by Illinois 16-10, but Missouri scored them when it counted.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA—The Atlanta regional was host to the number 8 seeded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (51-10), the Oregon Ducks (36-20), Auburn (31-25) and Jacksonville St. (30-18) More often than not, the seeded teams are expected to move on in postseason action, but this was not the case. The Ducks and the Yellow Jackets met in the final game of the regional after the Ducks had dominated Georgia Tech in an earlier game 11-2. With that in the back of their minds, Georgia tech knew they needed to step up their game in order move on. In a tight game that was tied right down to the wire, Oregon pulled the upset in the eighth inning and advanced to super regional action.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA—At the home of the UCLA Bruins (50-11), Easton Stadium, Bruins fans gathered to watch their team put on an outstanding performance just as they have all year. Facing Fresno St. (41-20), San Diego St. Aztecs (34-15) and St. Mary’s (30-22) in this round of pool play, UCLA put on an absolutely dominating performance. Although they barely squeaked by the Aztecs in a 4-3 game that came right down to the wire, the Bruins banished Fresno St. in the final elimination game in classic ground-and-pound fashion 7-2. The Bruins outscored their opponents 23-9 to move on to super regional action.
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA—Out of all of the regionals, no other regional got off to more of an explosive start than the Baton Rouge regional. The twelfth seeded LSU Tigers (45-15) took on La.-Lafayette (45-17), Texas A&M (44-15) and McNeese St. (38-26) at Tiger Park. In their first games, LSU and La.-Lafayette shut out their opponents, which made it look like there was going to be a clear cut final game for the regional between the two teams, but LSU fell just short of the finish line as they were shut out in their next two consecutive games. This was exactly what La.-Lafayette wanted to see and it also set the final regional game up to be a relentless beating. Almost every game in this regional was a shut out, which is a perfect demonstration of the great defense of these teams.
AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS—If the walls could talk, the UMass Softball Complex would say that every team in this regional had some hot bats. With a total of 49 runs scored in six games, Arizona St. (44-16), Long Island (39-17), Boston University (35-21) and Massachusetts (42-9-1) put on a great show for the fans. It was smooth sailing for the thirteen seed as the Sun Devils advanced through the regional. As Boston University began to ramp up their efforts on the second day with a big 10-4 win over Massachusetts, they were later silenced by Long Island 5-4. The final game to advance was a run-rule victory for the Sun Devils as they beat down Long Island in a 9-1 victory.
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA—The Florida Gators (49-9) have been a silent performer in 2010. After Staci Nelson led the team to a runner-up finish in the 2009 Women’s College World Series, the Gators have been just as good this year, but little would know. At Pressly Stadium, the Gators faced FIU (38-20), UCF (36-22) and Bethune-Cookman (32-23). This was a regional where the winners of every game won in a dominating fashion and often times in shutouts. The number four seeded Florida Gators faced little resistance as they punched their ticket to the super regionals. They outscored their opponents 25-3, including defeating FIU in their final regional game 13-3.
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—The Seattle regional at Husky Softball Stadium was perhaps the lowest scoring of the 16 regionals with 15 total runs scored between the three-seeded Washington Huskies (50-8), North Carolina (42-19), Nebraska (30-28) and North Dakota St. (33-24) With all eyes on the Huskies as they looked to repeat as NCAA national champions, they just barely squeaked by and went on to advance to super regional play. Winning their last regional game against North Carolina 2-1, the Huskies only scored 6 runs throughout the regional, which was perhaps a sign of things to come later.
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND—The come-from-behind Oklahoma Sooners (47-11) came out with a bang in the College Park regional against Fordham (49-11), Maryland (34-23) and Syracuse (32-25) at Robert E. Taylor Stadium. The Sooners sent booms through the regional pool with their dominating 10-0 shutout victory over Syracuse. For the rest of the regional, Sooners lefty pitcher Keilani Ricketts was too much to handle as the Sooners kept all three of their regional opposition from scoring any runs at all. Fordham lost to Oklahoma in the final regional game after being shut down on day two of pool play and the Sooners were back on track in their typical come-from-behind fashion.
COLUMBUS, OHIO—The eleven-seeded California Golden Bears (44-18) made quick work of their competition at Buckeye Field in the Columbus regional where they faced the Ohio St. Buckeyes (39-13), Kentucky (32-26) and Bucknell (28-19-1). While allowing zero runs throughout regional pool play, the Bears defeated Bucknell in a booming 10-0 shutout victory in five innings, Kentucky 1-0 and Ohio St. 7-0. The Golden Bears were quick to strike in every one of their games in this pool. They scored all of their runs within the first three innings, stunning their opponents, and never looked back as they got the go-ahead into super regional action.
ATHENS, GEORGIA—At UGA Stadium in Athens, the Bulldogs (50-12) took advantage of the fact that they were on their home turf where they were matched up with Radford (38-16), Florida St. Seminoles (44-17) and Elon (38-20). Right off of the bat, there seemed to be two clear-cut contenders who were going to battle it out for the rights to advance to the super regionals—Florida St. and Georgia. They both put up 10 runs in their first games and it looked as if the final game of the pool was going to be a hitfest, but one of the two didn’t make it all the way to the end. Florida St. ran into some trouble against the Bulldogs in a 5-2 and then against Radford 3-2 where they were eliminated. The six-seeded Bulldogs continued with their hot bats and advanced to super regional action.
AUSTIN, TEXAS—The Austin Regional set the stage for a massive upset as the seven-seeded Texas Longhorns (43-14) squared off against BYU (46-12), East Carolina (44-17) and Iona (28-25). BYU was really the shining star as they were able to overcome the pool favorite Longhorns in a 9-8 victory that was competitive enough to be a super regional deciding game. In reality, it was. After the Longhorns fell to BYU, there was no real competition for the girls from Utah as they knocked down East Carolina in the deciding game 8-3 to move on to the next stage of postseason play.
TUCSON, ARIZONA—The Tuscon Regional was a battle to the death between the ten-seeded Arizona Wildcats (52-13) and Hofstra (45-11) at Hillenbrand Stadium. After being defeated in an earlier pool game by the Wildcats, Hofstra came back with a vengeance and took Arizona on a 12-inning ride that resulted in the Wildcats scoring six runs in the twelfth inning after Lini Koria hit a grand slam to seal the deal. The Wildcats outscored their opponents 25-6 to advance to the next tier of postseason action.
KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE—Sherri Parker Lee Stadium saw the Tennessee Volunteers (49-14) take on Louisville (41-18), Virginia (43-22) and Ball St. (43-15) in the Knoxville Regional. As really the only team to turn on their offensive game and really put some points on the board, Tennessee scored more runs in their three games than any of the other teams in the pool. Nineteen total runs jumped the Volunteers past Ball St. 5-0, Virgina 11-2 and Louisville 3-1 in nine innings to advance to super regional action.
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN—Perhaps the biggest performance for NCAA softball fans came at the Ann Arbor Regional at Alumni Field where the Michigan Wolverines (49-7) took on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (47-11), Wright St. (31-29-1) and Illinois St. (32-19) The Wolverines put up more points in their regional than any other team with 31 runs scored, which demonstrated their power and perhaps was a precursor for things to come. The second-seeded ladies from Michigan knocked down Wright St. 11-2, and Notre Dame in two games 8-0 and 12-2 to advance to the next plateau of NCAA postseason competition with high hopes to win the national title.