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Tennessee is on Fire at WCWS

Washington Faces Elimination, UCLA Wins

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT


OKLAHOMA CITY – Competition at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium reaches a fever pitch today as the 2010 Women’s College World Series continues.


Tennessee is on fire right now. The team lives in the shadow of its superstar former pitcher, Olympic silver medalist Monica Abbott. But this is a different team with its own dreams. The Lady Vols are now one win away from the championship round of the Women's College World Series. They will face either Arizona, Washington or Hawaii on Sunday at 2:30 PM.


And speaking of Washington, the heavily favored defending national champs are facing elimination today against Arizona at 1:30 PM. The Huskies dropped into the Losers Bracket after falling to the Georgia Bulldogs 6-3 on Thursday. Can Washington's ace Danielle Lawrie orchestrate yet another comeback for her ballclub? Stay tuned.


The winner of that game will face Hawaii, the Cinderella team of the tournament, at 8:30 PM. The Rainbow Wahine lost a tough game yesterday against UCLA, sending them into the Losers Bracket.


Meanwhile 4th-seeded Florida meets 9th-seeded Missouri at 11 AM today, with the loser packing for home. The winner meets 6th-seeded Georgia at 6 PM in another do-or-die game. Georgia was upset 7-5 yesterday by Tennessee in front of a single-session WCWS record crowd of 8,694.


The UCLA Bruins will play either Missouri, Florida or Georgia at noon on Sunday. Read more.

 

Amazing Opening Day for WCWS

Hawaii, UCLA, Tennessee & Georgia Win

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT


OKLAHOMA CITY Expectations were high that the 2010 version of the Women’s College World Series would be one of the most exciting in history, and opening action yesterday did not disappoint.


The University of Hawaii arrived in Oklahoma City as this year’s Cinderella team, and it lived up to its billing with what has become all too familiar for the Rainbow Wahine: last-inning heroics. On the heels of knocking off #1-seeded Alabama with a walk-off home run to make it to their first-ever WCWS, Hawaii captured its opening game of the tournament against Missouri in dramatic fashion.


Trailing 2-1 going into the top of the 7th, Traci Yoshigawa blasted a two-run homer over the left-center field fence to propel the Wahine to a 3-2 victory. Stephanie Ricketts pitched 7 and struck out 6, Kelly Majam got 2 hits and Alexander Aguirre also hit a home run.


Not to be outdone, Game Two featured UCLA completely dismantling Florida 16-3 in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.


In the night pair, both Tennessee and Georgia advanced with Day One wins. Read more.

 

Hawaii Soars into WCWS with Walk-off Homer

Rainbow Wahini Shock #1-Seeded Crimson Tide

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT


TUSCALOOSA If the NCAA Sweet 16 tournament lost a Cinderella story with BYU’s exit two days ago, it more than made up for it yesterday. Upstart Hawaii is going to the Women’s College World Series, beating mighty Alabama in the seventh inning of the last game of its three-game set with the #1-seeded team.


If it was a Hollywood script, it might be rejected as too improbable.


Hawaii has been on the road over three weeks prior to travelling to Alabama. Having lost its first contest in an embarrassing fashion 8-0 in a game shortened by the mercy rule, the Rainbow Wahini needed back-to-back wins to stay alive. Down one run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning of the elimination game, junior Jenna Rodriguez blasted a two-run, walk-off home run, knocking Alabama out of the tournament with a 5-4 win.


The Crimson Tide’s home crowd of more than 3,000 fans looked on in stunned disbelief as Rodriguez’s rocket carried to the right of the left-field line pole at the Alabama Softball Complex.


Screams from the Hawaii squad and a handful of Rainbow Wahine fans that had made the long trip from the Pacific island paradise broke the silence. It was fitting Hawaii won the game on a home run, having shattered the NCAA single-season home run record in 2010.


Three years ago the team came within a win of the Women's College World Series, but its dreams were derailed by superstar pitcher Monica Abbott and Tennessee. That heartbreaking loss has fueled the team’s determination to make it this time around.


The Rainbow Wahini now travel to Oklahoma City to, hopefully, add a fairy tale ending to their amazing season. Read more.

 

2010 NCAA Title Prediction: Huskies Will Win

Washington Favored to Repeat as WCWS Champs

By TSC Analyst/Contributor DANIEL URBAN


OKLAHOMA CITY This year's Super Regional was one of the most exciting in NCAA history. From the #1 and #2 seeds both being upset to the Pac-10 only going .500 and the defending champion Huskies facing elimination after the first game.   But the best is yet to come!


With the crop of WCWS teams set it is now time to see if we can separate the contenders from the pretenders.  Nostradamus died in 1566, and since then no one has been able to predict the future, but there are a few themes from the past few WCWS winners that we can use to try and separate out who has a chance at the trophy. This much we do know: NCAA softball is a pitcher's game, and winning pitchers in the WCWS usually fit a particular script: one upperclassmen pitcher pitches catches fire, pitches every inning for her team, and leads her team to the title.


All pitchers from recent memory fit this script; UCLA’s Keira Goerl in 2004, Michigan’s Jennie Ritter in 2005, Arizona’s Alicia Hollowell in 2006, Taryne Mowatt in 2007, Arizona State’s Katie Burkhart in 2008, and Washington's Danielle Lawrie to name a few. What really separates these pitchers from the rest is their ability to consistently throw strike-outs. Throwing strike-outs greatly assists your team because the more strike-outs a pitcher throws the fewer runners on the base paths and the fewer potential for errors in the field. Being an upperclassmen is equally beneficial because it helps to deal with the mental pressures of NCAA softball's biggest stage. The equation to succeed in the WCWS can be distilled as follows: to win the WCWS your ace pitcher needs to be an upperclassmen who has a regular season strikeout per inning ratio greater than 1.0.


UCLA - Contender
UCLA seemed to fly a bit under the radar this year thanks to the press focus on Danielle Lawrie and the Washington Huskies. But UCLA quietly put up excellent stats all season. UCLA has 5 players with double digit home runs, and a bona-fide ace in junior pitcher Donna Kerr. This season Kerr put up 147.2 innings pitched and struck out 181. Kerr's strike-out ratio of 1.23 is well above the 1.0 threshold, and Kerr is an upperclassman. This alone should be enough to make UCLA a contender for the title. However, UCLA seemed to suffer from an embarrassment of riches this year—the team spread innings amongst a stable of 5 pitchers rather than giving the vast majority of the innings to one pitcher as Washington does to Lawrie. Additionally, UCLA only allowed Kerr to pitch 2.1 innings in UCLA's 2 games of the Super Regional. I can't understand why UCLA used their ace so sparingly; either they are saving her or she is injured.  In any event UCLA's strategy worked; they swept Louisiana Lafayette in dramatic fashion with 10-1 and 10-2 wins. I will be very curious to see who starts game 1 of the WCWS for UCLA. Hopefully they let Kerr pitch from here on out—no team in recent memory has won using 2 or more pitchers to pitch in the WCWS.  But UCLA is ultimately a contender because it has a pitcher who throws enough strike-outs and is an upperclassman.


Florida - Pretender
Florida has a super-ace in the making with freshman Stephanie Brombacher. This young star had a 34-6 record, 1.89 ERA, 211 innings pitched and 228 strike outs this season. Her overall strikeout per inning ratio is 1.08, which is above the WCWS threshold, but Brombacher is an underclassmen. Freshmen don't seem to be mentally ready to lead their team to the championship. All of the past pitchers to win the WCWS have been upperclassmen, and though Brombacher's numbers are excellent I don't expect her to be the first one to do it.  Niehter Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman, Monica Abbott, or any other pitcher of statistical significance took their team to the WCWS final in their freshman year.


Missouri - Pretender
Missouri does not keep season statistics for its softball team. I have never seen a team that doesn't keep stats. Get with the the program! But from the box scores of the Super Regional I see that sophomore Kristin Nottleman is the team's ace. I was able to see from her player bio and from her performance during the Super Regional that she is not a strike-out pitcher, and as such is not likely to take her team to the title. On Nottleman's 2009 player bio on the Missouri website the writer commends her for every pitching stat except strike-outs; a glaring omission that means the number probably isn't that impressive.  During the Super Regional Nottleman pitched 14 innings and only struck out 7. Because Nottleman is an underclassman and likely does not meet the 1.0 strike-out per inning threshold, she is not the type of pitcher who normally leads her team to the title. As such, Missouri is merely a pretender.


Hawaii - Contender
Hawaii is the underdog team with a fairy tale entry into the WCWS that everyone is rooting for. But can Hawaii go all the way? Hawaii's ace pitcher is Stephanie Ricketts, a sophomore who pitched 226 innings, had a 2.54 ERA, and 153 strikeouts this season. Rickett's strikeouts per inning ratio is 0.68, which is below the 1.0 threshold. Unfortunately, the Rainbow Wahine have an underclassmen pitcher that does not throw enough strikeouts to win the WCWS.


However, if ever there was one team who might be able to bust the mold it is this team. Hawaii's lineup is so dangerous that it has the ability to win any game. Only 1 player in the lineup doesn't have double digit home-runs this season, and home run leader Kelly Majam as 30! More importantly, Hawaii has kept up its power against superior pitching in the Super Regional—the team hit 5 in 2 games. Because Hawaii's offense is so deep and so powerful I cannot say this team is a pretender.


Arizona - Pretender
Arizona suffers from a similar problem as Florida. Arizona has a super-ace in the making with Kenzie Fowler, a freshmen who earned a 31-6 record, 1.25 ERA, 218.1 innings pitched, and 286 strike-outs this season.  Fowler's 1.31 strike-out per inning is the second best of all the teams currently in the WCWS, but Fowler's underclassmen status likely puts the title out of reach. The champion pitchers of the past several years have all been strike-out artists AND upperclassmen. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Fowler only meets one of those criteria.  With an underclassmen ace Arizona is only a pretender.


Tennessee - Pretender
Tennessee's rounds out the 3 team brat-pack in this years WCWS with another freshman phenom pitcher. Ivy Renfroe, a Tennessee native, blew away coaches this year with a 29-4 record, 2.22 ERA, 211.2 innings pitched, and 208 strikeouts. Unfortunately Renfroe's 0.98 strike-out per inning ratio is slightly below the 1.0 threshold, and her underclassmen status makes a double-whammy of obstacles to Tennessee winning the title.  It will be very interesting to see how Florida's Brombacher, Arizona's Fowler, and Tennessee's Renfroe develop over their college careers, and I'm sure we'll see these 3 teams in the WCWS for the next several years, but for now they are all only pretenders.


Georgia - Pretender
Georgia dominated California during the Super Regionals, but does the team have championship potential? Georgia's ace pitcher is sophomore Erin Arevalo, a pitcher who earned an 18-6 record, 2.49 ERA, 157.2 innings pitched, and 158 strike-outs this season. Arevalo has the stuff to lead her team to a WCWS championship with her 1.0 strikeout per inning ratio, but she is an underclassmen and therefore does not fit the championship mold. Oddly enough, Georgia seems to have changed horses for the post season. The Bulldogs gave the ball exclusively to junior Sara McCloud in the Super Regionals. McCloud compiled a 13-1 record, 2.47 ERA, 110.1 innings pitched, and 80 strike-outs this season, but McCloud's 0.73 strikeouts per inning ratio is well below the 1.0 threshold. Georgia has two pitchers that meet one of the criteria, but because neither one meets both criteria Georgia is merely a pretender.


Washington - Super-Contender
Washington is the ultimate contender because Washington has the ultimate pitcher. Danielle Lawrie picked up right where she left off last year with a 35-2 record, 247.1 innings pitched, 407 strikeouts, and a 0.99 ERA this season. Lawrie either leads the NCAA or is near the top in every major pitching category, and her 1.65 strike-out per inning ratio is well above the 1.0 threshold. Lawrie is also an upperclassmen, so she fully meets the test to fit the WCWS champion mold.  Furthermore, the loss to Oklahoma in the opening game of the Super Regionals seems to have lit a fire under her. Lawrie threw 27 strike-outs in 14 straight shut out innings in the two games following that loss. In those 2 games Lawrie's strike-out per inning ration was almost 2.0!  Not only is Lawrie on fire right now, she also doesn't have to face a pitcher as skilled as her as she did last year against Stacey Nelson. With Lawrie on a different plane than any of the other pitchers in the WCWS the title is Washington's to lose.


Prediction:
UCLA vs. Washington in the final. Washington will win the final. Read more.

 

Arizona Sweeps BYU, Advances to WCWS

Cougars Finally Run Out of Magic in NCAA Super Regionals

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT


TUCSON If there was a Cinderella story going into the NCAA Super Regionals, it was Brigham Young.


The Cougars finished the regular season as Mountain West Conference champs, compiled a program-best 46-13 record, and were making the school’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA Super Regionals.


But BYU’s postseason dreams came to an abrupt end yesterday as Arizona swept the team in its best-of-three series, including a convincing 10-2 victory in the elimination game that was shortened to five innings due to the mercy rule.


The Wildcats scored nine runs in the third and fourth innings and remain undefeated in NCAA play through five games.


Arizona (48-11) advances to the Women’s College World Series—hardly anything new for the perennial softball powerhouse which is making its 22nd appearance. The Cats have played in every WCWS since 1988 except the 2004 season.


UA will face off against Tennessee in the first round of the WCWS next Thursday. Read more.

 
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