Category archive: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State hits the books

December, 2, 2010
12/02/10
8:35
PM ET

Editor's note: ESPNU.com is taking you inside the women's College Cup. Follow us on Twitter (@ESPNUcom) and on Facebook (search "ESPNU.com"). And check this blog regularly, as Ohio State junior defender Liz Sullivan takes us inside the Buckeyes program.

We woke up early today because we had the early time slot for practice. I woke up around 7:40 this morning to get taped, eat breakfast and then off to the practice fields. Our coaches have a pretty standard "day before the game" practice, so we weren't too surprised by the selection of activities.

After practice we were able to walk around the game field, which was what we really needed for everything to set in. The field looked beautiful, and seeing "Ohio State" painted on the grass made everyone smile.

Currently, our entire team is locked in their rooms for mandatory study time (you can see how I'm spending mine). Hopefully, getting some schoolwork done will reduce any stress of exams, so we can all focus on what needs to get done tomorrow! Tonight we have the College Cup banquet, which we are all looking forward to.

Thanks for reading and we'll keep you updated!

CARY, N.C. -- Familiarity comes in more than one shape at the 2010 Women's College Cup.

Both Notre Dame and Stanford are led by upperclassmen who played a 2008 semifinal against each other at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., experience that hardly rates a surprise, considering Notre Dame has been to the past five College Cups and Stanford the past three. Boston College is making its first trip to the final weekend, but the Eagles aren't exactly unfamiliar with their surroundings in Cary. They play here each year in the ACC tournament and were more than happy to again book rooms at their favorite local hotel, knowing both the full offerings at the nearby mall and how the pitch plays at WakeMed.

Ohio State, alone, arrives with little sense of its surroundings. Good thing the Buckeyes know where they're from.

"We're a Midwest team," Ohio State coach Lori Walker said. "We're going to battle in the air, we're going to be fit, we're going to grind and we're going to play as good of soccer as we're capable of playing. We like to say of ourselves that we are a team that plays with Big Ten mentality and ACC flair because that's the conference we're always battling up against."

Midwest may describe their style, but the Buckeyes' roots can be pinpointed with even greater cartographical precision. They are truly Ohio's state team. There are 15 Ohio natives on the roster, more in-state talent than any of the other three teams here (Stanford has 12 players from California, Boston College has seven from Massachusetts and Notre Dame two from Indiana). For a program not yet two decades old, the first trip to this stage of the postseason has special meaning for players who were born before there was an Ohio State women's soccer team.

"We were talking about that on our way here, how growing up, a lot of players went away and out of Ohio because Ohio State wasn't thought of as good enough," junior Danielle Scoliere said. "So it's very special to be a part of this team and be a part of the reason we're here. I think think it has some special meaning -- I grew up 20 minutes from Ohio State, so it has special meaning, growing up an Ohio State fan and being able to represent them here."

Of course, goals and good fortune, not mailing addresses, will have the greatest say about whether this collection of players becomes the first to play for a national championship in women's soccer after Friday's game against Notre Dame. Unity, motivation and all those things only go so far once the whistle blows. But if you buy the premise that the final product can only be as good as the ingredients, going local may prove the best way for Ohio State to take a Midwestern style to the season's final game.

"The players that do well in our system are right in Ohio," Wilson said. "I think that we have done a nice job to keep some of these players home; all of them have had opportunities to go wherever they wanted, so maintaining them as Buckeyes has been a really big and important part. But we just try to be who we are and not be anybody else."

Ohio State touches down in Cary

December, 2, 2010
12/02/10
12:38
PM ET

Editor's note: ESPNU.com is taking you inside the women's College Cup. Follow us on Twitter (@ESPNUcom) and on Facebook (search "ESPNU.com"). And check this blog regularly, as Ohio State junior defender Liz Sullivan takes us inside the Buckeyes program.

Buckeyes begin road to College Cup

December, 1, 2010
12/01/10
3:02
PM ET

Editor's note: ESPNU.com is taking you inside the women's College Cup. Follow us on Twitter (@ESPNUcom) and on Facebook (search "ESPNU.com"). And check this blog regularly, as Ohio State junior defender Liz Sullivan takes us inside the Buckeyes program.

I woke up this morning with the trip to the College Cup still feeling a bit surreal. I knew that it would take arriving in North Carolina for it to really hit me. Our entire team met this morning at Biggs Athletics Training Facility to pack up our uniforms and get on the road. We were all extremely surprised to find a group of people cheering for us, and sending us on our way as we began our journey to Cary.

The bus took us to a different airport than we usually go to, and we boarded our plane for a short trip to Raleigh. We were all so excited to have chartered a plane because our entire team was able to stick together, as well as having a little extra leg room to get comfortable on the flight. The energy of our team is extremely positive; however, I think most of us just wish that it was Friday already! Currently, we are on our way to training, and then hopefully the coaches will organize a delicious carb-filled meal for us afterward.

Tonight we will watch a little bit of film, and then most of the girls have some homework to do. My plan is to get it all done ahead of time because I'll be more and more wound up as it gets closer to Friday. I am looking forward to our match against Notre Dame, and speaking for the rest of the team, I think we all feel well-prepared. Now it's time to go kick a few soccer balls. We'll keep you updated along the way!
CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. -- Will one of softball's best-kept pitching secrets once again call the Atlantic 10 home?

Brandice Balschmiter has moved on after a standout career at Massachusetts (although sophomore Sara Plourde is off to a strong start in her place for the Minutewomen), but the A-10 still had strong representation in Cathedral City. In what might have been the best pitching performance of the tournament, Fordham sophomore Jen Mineau opened her team's five-game run by striking out 15 in a shutout win against Texas A&M.

The Rams also beat Oregon State and UNLV to leave the weekend with three wins and a 6-3 record overall. In the three wins in California, Mineau struck out 39 batters in 21 innings and surrendered just 11 hits and one earned run (she also pitched limited innings in losses against Cal and San Diego State, with only the Bears doing much damage). For the season, she has 75 strikeouts in just 39 innings.

So outstanding though the Texas A&M performance was, it was also business as usual in some ways. And while she's not Balschmiter just yet, Mineau is on the rise.

"Pretty much this season, that's just how she's been," Fordham coach Bridget Orchard said, noting the work Mineau had put in during conditioning and weight training. "We kind of knew that coming in -- when she was working out in our offseason, she was throwing like that. Her ball's really just been hopping and moving. So we really kind of expected it almost out her. We weren't surprised. I think a lot of people of were surprised at a lot of her strikeouts, but that's the way she's been throwing. This season she's really been able to get the ball moving and keep batters off balance."

Mineau should get a couple of more shots at big-time offenses, most notably against George Tech next weekend but also against Florida Gulf Coast this weekend. And with Massachusetts scheduled to come to Fordham the first weekend in April (the conference tournament will be in Amherst, Mass. this season), the A-10 race should have more drama than it did during most of Balschmiter's reign.

One key will be what kind of run support the Rams can provide for Mineau. Given the quality of competition, scoring 14 runs in five games in Cathedral City isn't bad. But the only team in the A-10 other than Massachusetts to slug better than .400 last season. Fordham still finished a distant second to the Minutewomen in the category.

Even there, Mineau's improvement from good to ace might have some spillover effect.

"We play great behind her as well," Orchard said. "And I think we hit when she's pitching -- we hit a lot better because I think we know if we can get her a run, one or two runs, we're going to win a ball game."

  • I didn't see perhaps the most dramatic moment of the Cathedral City Classic, but even from two fields over, I heard the reaction.

    With Ohio State trailing 7-3 with two outs in the top of the seventh inning against Oregon State (the Buckeyes had trailed 7-2 to begin the inning), sophomore Alicia Herron tied the game with a grand slam that elicited a roar heard around the complex. An inning later, Leah Ledford's RBI single provided the eventual winning margin.

    That comeback, coincidentally against the only team Ohio State played all weekend that hadn't received votes in the previous week's Top 25, seemed to provide a pivot point for the Buckeyes. Instead of standing at 1-2 in their first three games and winless for the day after an earlier loss to Tennessee, they took the momentum and closed their stay in the desert by beating Cal State Fullerton and UCLA the next day.

    If the previous week's three losses against Alabama suggested Ohio State had some work to do to recapture the magic of last year's run to within two games of the Women's College World Series, the games in Cathedral City suggested it can be done.

    It's all part of the juggling act for a team looking to build on last season's success without living in it.

    "That's so tough because every season is its own season; it's a whole new world," Ohio State coach Linda Kalafatis said. "And yet you want to take in the lessons that you learned, the experiences that you learned. We're old enough, we've got enough returners, that we can use [the super regional appearance], I think, in a positive way without comparing."

    While Ohio State is battling some injury issues at the moment, knee injuries have affected pitchers Melanie Nichols and Lindsay Bodeker, there's a lot to like about a team that returned nine position players who started at least 35 games last season.

    Graham Hays covers softball for ESPN.com. E-mail him at Graham.Hays@espn3.com.

  • Defense is key for Georgia softball

    May, 23, 2009
    05/23/09
    4:00
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    Georgia's offense lived up to the advance billing in rallying past Ohio State twice in the Athens super regional with the kind of big innings teams can string together with a lineup that collectively slugs close to .600 with an on-base percentage better than .400. But it wasn't the most impressive part of the team's repertoire against the Buckeyes.

    Not when Alisa Goler times a leap perfectly, grabs a high infield chopper at its peak and throws to first in one smooth motion to beat a speedy runner by half a step.

    Not when Megan Wiggins charges a flare to short left and makes a diving, sprawling catch -- one that wasn't necessitated, as is so often the case, by a poor route to the ball.

    Not when Kristin Schnake all but throws up barbed wire and sentry posts to keep any ball hit on the ground in about a 45-degree range from getting through the infield.

    The Bulldogs are headed to Oklahoma City for the first time because they can hit, but also because even without a pitching ace, they make it difficult for opponents to hit.

    Georgia didn't commit an error in two games against Ohio State. It didn't commit an error in three games in the Chapel Hill regional. It's no coincidence that North Carolina and Ohio State, two teams with the kind of raw talent that seemed to make them even matches for Georgia, combined for seven errors in four losses the past two weeks.

    The No. 6 seed has committed just 28 errors in more than 340 innings this season, earning a .980 fielding percentage, which leads the nation.

    But even that ranking doesn't do this defense complete justice. It's not just leading the nation; it's lapping the field.

    Defensive efficiency, as explained by Baseball Prospectus, is "the rate at which balls put into play are converted into outs by a team's defense." In approximated form, it's essentially the flip side of batting average on balls in play.

    Fielding percentage is a measure of how effectively a team handles the balls it reaches. That's useful, but a sure-handed team with great range is more valuable than a sure-handed team with average range.

    Georgia's sure hands come with the range of a camel crossing the desert.

    And behind a pitching staff that simply doesn't strike out batters at anything close to a high rate, it's a defense that is phenomenal at getting to balls and turning them into outs.

    In the last statistical release from the NCAA, the top 10 in fielding percentage were separated by almost nothing (Georgia led at .979, while Creighton rounded out the top 10 at .975). But consider the defensive efficiency ratings for those same teams.

    1. Georgia: .789
    2. UCLA: .778
    3. Florida: .773
    4. Tennessee: .752
    5. East Carolina: .754
    6. Mississippi State: .703
    7. Georgia Tech: .748
    8. North Dakota State: .745
    9. Baylor: .703
    10. Creighton: .769

    If you want to get to the World Series with a pitching staff that will arrive in Oklahoma City with fewer combined strikeouts than most of the aces from the other teams, it helps to have hitters like Alisa Goler, Taylor Schlopy, Megan Wiggins and Kristin Schnake. It also helps to have fielders like them.

    Choosing right from wrong: to walk or not?

    May, 21, 2009
    05/21/09
    11:49
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    ANN ARBOR -- To get from Bristol to Ann Arbor, Mich., you can make an almost immediate left turn upon leaving Connecticut and head south through New Jersey before heading west across Pennsylvania, or you can wait to cut south and head through Scranton-Wilkes Barre. The latter is always a headache because of perpetual construction around Dunder Mifflin's home city. The former is equally unappealing, because, well, it involves spending time in New Jersey.

    There is no good option; you just flip the proverbial coin and hope it's not too bad.

    Aside from a little self-therapy, the point is that sometimes hindsight makes it too easy to assume there was ever a "right" choice. And when you're talking about lineups that include hitters like Ohio State's Sam Marder and Georgia's Alisa Goler, there are no good routes around them.

    Watching the super regional on TV as Georgia coach Lu Harris-Champer intentionally walked Marder with a runner on first and one out in the top of the first inning Thursday, last season's Women's College World Series was the first thing that came to mind. Both UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez and especially Alabama coach Pat Murphy took a lot of heat for intentionally walking Arizona State slugger Kaitlin Cochran in some unconventional settings (as Northwestern coach Kate Drohan had done the previous week in super regionals).

    As was the case then, the move seemed to backfire for Georgia against Ohio State. The Buckeyes eventually scored in the first inning after an illegal pitch with the bases loaded brought home a run. And after the Bulldogs intentionally walked Marder to lead off the third inning, Courtney Pruner made them pay with a three-run home run to extend the lead to 4-0.

    Obviously, Harris-Champer blundered by showing Marder too much respect, right?

    If so, it would be hypocritical to second-guess Ohio State coach Linda Kalafatis. Six outs from victory, the Buckeyes pitched to Goler to lead off the bottom of the sixth. When she slammed a home run off the right-field foul pole, a team stuck in neutral grabbed the momentum and reeled off five runs in the inning to seize a lead and eventually the game.

    Had Goler merely been on first base courtesy of an intentional walk, perhaps a Georgia team already frustrated by an inability to do anything with runners on base against Kim Reeder might not have come up with the hits it did after Goler's blast.

    Michele Smith on the broadcast and Cat Osterman on Twitter made good points about what the intentional walk might do to the psyche of a pitcher like Georgia starter Christie Hamilton, who lasted just a third of an inning. I'd rather cede that ground to two of the best to ever stand in the circle than argue against them.

    But in addition to understanding the intangibles involved, it's worth looking at the tangibles.

    Going back through the play-by-play records, I found 12 of the 13 intentional walks Marder earned in Big Ten play. Obviously, this represents such a small sample size as to be of somewhat dubious utility. But it's at least anecdotally interesting that despite a lot of walks in situations as atypical as Thursday's game, the Buckeyes managed to score in just three of the 12 innings in which teams handed Marder first base.

    March 21, vs. Michigan State
    Bottom of the sixth, 4-0
    Situation: One out, runner on first
    Result: Four runs score after walk

    March 28, vs. Iowa
    Bottom of the first, 0-0
    Situation: None out, none on
    Result: No runs after walk

    Bottom of the third, 0-0
    Situation: None out, none on
    Result: No runs after walk

    Bottom of the fifth, 0-0
    Situation: One out, none on
    Result: No runs after walk

    Bottom of the sixth, 3-0
    Situation: Two outs, runner at first
    Result: No runs after walk

    March 29, vs. Iowa
    Bottom of the first, 0-0
    Situation: No outs, none on
    Result: No runs after walk

    Bottom of the second, 1-6
    Situation: No outs, runners first and third
    Result: One run after walk

    Bottom of the fourth, 2-10
    Situation: No outs, none on
    Result: No runs after walk

    Bottom of the sixth, 4-12
    Situation: No outs, none on
    Result: No runs after walk

    May 2, at Northwestern
    Top of third, 0-0
    Situation: Two outs, runners second and third
    Result: Three runs score after walk

    May 6, at Michigan
    Top of the third, 1-3
    Situation: Two outs, none on
    Result: No runs after walk

    May 6, at Michigan
    Top of the fifth, 1-3
    Situation: Two outs, runners first and second
    Result: No runs after walk

    As it stands, Marder entered the game averaging 0.83 bases per official at-bat; Goler averaged 1.03. And that's with teams pitching around them. If teams challenged them on a regular basis, it seems safe to assume both numbers would be significantly higher. So do you give them the base they average when they're pitched to, or do you gamble on getting an out at the risk of the ball bouncing off the wall or sailing over the fence?

    Perhaps the only certainty is that when it comes to Goler and Marder, just because one move didn't work, it doesn't necessarily mean the other option was right.

    North Dakota State brings allure to tourney

    May, 17, 2009
    05/17/09
    12:11
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    AMHERST, Mass. -- As one of the early hitchhikers on the South Dakota State bandwagon in women's basketball, I'll admit there's a certain allure to the idea of North Dakota State potentially playing on the biggest of softball stages at the Women's College World Series.

    There's just something fun about getting the Dakotas involved in the sporting scene (other than ice hockey, of course). It's like watching the Olympic skier from Azerbaijan or the Faroe Islands' World Cup qualifying entry -- only with the added bonus that the underdog might win.

    Then again, for all the hand wringing about when Oklahoma will get back to the event that takes place just a few miles up the road from its campus, it might be equally fun to cover one of the Sooner State's other teams making the trip to Hall of Fame Stadium.

    The short of it is that either North Dakota State or Tulsa will be playing in a super regional next week, and that's the kind of thing that makes May worth the effort.

    And strange as the words are to type, North Dakota State is in full control of its postseason destiny after finishing off an upset win against Oklahoma on Saturday morning and rallying to beat Tulsa later in the day. Win once more against Tulsa on Sunday and it's on to a super regional.

    A shining example of why it's more useful to lose some games early in the season than run through a schedule devoid of postseason material, the Bison played Arizona three times, Kansas twice, Nebraska twice, Creighton twice and Jacksonville State once before opening up in the Summit League. It won only two of those games (one each against Kansas and Creighton), but that's from a program that was playing Bemidji State and New York Tech in Division II as recently as 2004.

    And the credit goes to Andi Padilla for the current run. With 125 strikeouts and 110 walks in 232.1 innings this season, Padilla's numbers don't jump off the stat sheet. But the senior, who hadn't pitched more than 52 innings in any of her first three seasons, provided all the quality innings you could hope for in the Norman Regional.

    There are still a few games remaining tonight, but since the Courtyard Marriott folks casting curious glances my way may at some point catch on to the fact that I'm not actually staying at their hotel, I'm going to hit a few big Saturday performances and hit the road.

    Lisa Sweeney, Lehigh
    Trying to get two wins in one day against Florida is less an uphill climb than a 90-degree incline, but Sweeney and Lehigh deserve credit for earning the right to try. For the second time in four years, Fran Troyan's program will play on a regional Sunday with a chance to advance to a super regional. Sweeney drove in a run in a win early Saturday against Florida A&M and then pitched a complete game to beat Texas A&M in the nightcap.

    Stacie Chambers, Arizona
    At first glance, it seemed perhaps Chambers had finally figured out how to hit the elusive five-run home run in an 18-4 win against Louisville. She's hit every other kind of home run enough times this season to presumably unlock any hidden Easter eggs. As it turned out, her nine RBIs on two hits actually came from mere mortal means, courtesy of two home runs, a sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded walk.

    Anna Cahn, Cal Poly
    Cahn opened the day by not only shutting out Portland State but outhitting them, picking up three hits to the two she allowed in the circle in a 5-0 win. She turned things over to Helen Pena in the day's second elimination game against Nevada. Pena tossed a complete game, allowing just four hits and one earned run in a 6-1 win.

    Lisa Jansen, Mississippi Valley State
    Courtesy of the delays that pushed back the schedule in the Tuscaloosa Regional, Mississippi Valley State gets a night to savor the program's first NCAA tournament win since 2004 before squaring off against Texas in an elimination game Sunday morning. Jansen made the one run her team scored stand up, beating Chattanooga with a two-hit shutout. (For more on the game, check out Tommy Deas' coverage of the regional for the Tuscaloosa News).

    With Ohio State joining Georgia in the super regionals, it seems a good time to throw out a link to the softball coverage over at allbigten.com, where Andrew Linnehan correctly predicted the Buckeyes would survive.

    Lack of conference tourneys is a shame

    May, 1, 2009
    05/01/09
    3:37
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    When I played softball at Northwestern ('07), there was nothing like Big Ten competition. Sure, I loved playing the Pac-10 and SEC teams, but when it came time to play league ball, that was when we got down to business.

    The Big Ten now has changed the format of its schedule, playing doubleheaders on Wednesdays (yes, Wednesdays … don't even get me started on that travesty) three or four times in a season and one game on Saturdays and Sundays. Because of this change, the Big Ten has eliminated the conference tournament.

    Economic factors usually are the excuse for getting rid of these postseason tournaments, but it doesn't seem like the economy was a main factor in the Big Ten's decision. Illinois coach Terri Sullivan told IlliniHQ.com in November that the decision was not monetary: "The main reason we dropped it was to make what we feel is a better overall conference schedule for the student-athletes."

    The Big Ten changed the format to extend the season and so teams could focus more on the next opponent, since teams wouldn't be playing as many games per week and travel would be easier. With that said, I'm still not sure about the purpose or whether there was something wrong with the old format, in which games were played Fridays and Saturdays with a doubleheader on Sundays.

    Those were the good ol' days -- simple, intense and competitive. All the coaches' concerns -- being tired, getting rundown and missing class -- are not the things I remember most from my time in the Big Ten. The Big Ten tournaments, however, I remember vividly.

    What a shame it is that the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big West, to name a few, have decided to forgo conference tournaments. Conference tournament games are the best games of the season. How anticlimactic Big Ten league play must be now. Who doesn't want another shot at beating rivals such as Michigan or Ohio State?

    I know I did.

    The Big Ten tournament also was our last hoorah before NCAA regionals because otherwise, many teams would not have played tournament games since the preseason. And the tournament made for higher stakes, just like in the playoffs -- if you lose, you're in trouble. We needed the games to stay competitive.

    Look at the SEC right now. Alabama has played 51 games and Florida 52. The ACC's North Carolina played 54. Northwestern has played 40 games, Michigan 45 and Ohio State 47. Because Big 10 teams play fewer games during the regular season, it would make sense to have a tournament to gain some additional experience going into the playoffs.

    The league tournament also gave teams an opportunity to make the postseason when they otherwise might not have. One such case was in 2004, when Michigan State was the No. 8 seed going into the tournament. The Spartans won the whole thing and earned a berth to regionals.

    I have never played in this new format, so maybe without the tournament, these teams will be just as prepared for regionals. But I know one thing for sure: None of these players will be wearing a Big Ten tournament ring.

    Take five on the weekend

    April, 19, 2009
    04/19/09
    10:00
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    Five results that matter from the weekend that was.

    Ohio State 6, Wisconsin 5 (11 innings)
    The Buckeyes rolled to a 10-0 run-rule win in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader on the road, but they trailed 5-1 in the top of the seventh of the nightcap. Then Courtney Pruner's two-run home run cut the deficit to 5-3, and after hits from Rebecca Schultz and Leah Ledford, a two-out wild pitch eventually brought home the tying run.

    Aside from good drama, the win, which came via another RBI from Schultz, set the running order as the Big Ten makes the turn for home. The Buckeyes aren't free and clear on the rail, beginning a tough closing stretch with a doubleheader at home against Purdue on Wednesday before trips to Northwestern and Michigan, but they control their own fate. Sweep Purdue and Penn State at home and split with the preseason favorites on the road, and the worst that could happen would be a tie atop the standings at 17-3.

    Washington 7, Oregon State 1
    Despite going 3-for-3 on the road against Oregon and Oregon State, the most important win of the weekend from Washington's perspective probably came just up the road from Corvallis and Eugene in Portland. But we'll get to that in a minute.

    This result mattered because it capped off a winless weekend for the Beavers and dropped them to 22-22 overall with 11 games to play. Given the relatively soft state of the NCAA tournament bubble this season, Oregon State probably can count on an at-large bid if it comes up with a 28-27 record. But even if it gets two wins at UC Davis in Thursday's doubleheader -- no given -- that still would necessitate getting four more wins against the top six teams in the Pac-10. A task that got tougher with this weekend's lost homestand.

    Portland State 4, Sacramento State 2
    The third win of the weekend at home against Sacramento State, combined with Loyola Marymount's rough weekend against San Diego, put Portland State a game in front of the Lions in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference race. That's great news in Portland (perhaps not good enough to erase the sting of Yao Ming against the Trail Blazers), but it's also good news for folks a few hours north on Interstate 5.

    If Portland State makes the NCAA tournament, it puts a non-Pac-10 team in the field that's within driving range of the University of Washington. And assuming the Huskies submit a bid to host regionals, that makes it far more likely they could advance to Oklahoma City without leaving Seattle to do it.

    Hawaii 6, San Jose State 5
    After dropping the opener of a three-game series at San Jose State, the visiting Rainbow Wahine held on for a one-run win in the second game and clinched the series with an 11-4 win in the finale. The weekend leaves Hawaii tied with Fresno State for second in the WAC, half a game behind league leader Nevada, and able to close out the conference regular season with six games at home. At 22-21 and with a chance to earn the top seed in the conference tournament, it's a big climb for a team that opened the season 3-11.

    Watching Bob Coolen's team beat Ohio State and push Alabama to the wire at the Cathedral City Classic, it was easy to come away impressed in spite of the rough early record. Even now, there are a handful of numbers that jump out -- mostly Amanda Tauali'i's .770 slugging percentage and freshman Stephanie Ricketts' 1.99 ERA -- but this remains a team whose accomplishments are more than the sum of its numbers.

    Hofstra 6, Georgia State 1
    Sunday's win gave the Pride the best-of-three series against Georgia State and sole possession of first place in the Colonial Athletic Association. With just two three-game series remaining for each of the league's teams, that puts the Pride in position to potentially host the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed (they travel to Drexel next weekend and host Delaware to close the regular season).

    That's a big deal for a team that has owned this conference over the years but has been pushed by new arrival Georgia State in recent years. Hofstra is 91-9 in its past 100 home games against conference teams. There's also some relevance in the present to accompany that historical dominance; senior ace Kayleigh Lotti is 38-1 in her past 39 starts against Colonial opponents. The one loss? Georgia State last year, of course.

    File the Panthers and Pride rivalry under "to be continued." But if it turns out that it's continued on Long Island instead of in Georgia, it's advantage Hofstra.

    Seeing Crimson

    You know you had a good weekend when you threw seven innings of four-hit ball, striking out nine without allowing a walk or an earned run, and it's not the eye-catching part of your series line. Alabama's Charlotte Morgan put up that effort Saturday against Arkansas, earning win No. 11 in the circle (she got No. 12 Sunday in relief), but it was what she did to pitchers that might earn her national player of the week accolades. Morgan hit a pair of home runs in three games against the Razorbacks and finished the series 7-for-9 with seven RBIs.

    The only catch, no pun intended, is Morgan might get a challenge from teammate Ashley Holcombe on a weekend in which Alabama's bats came alive. Always worth the price of admission for her defense behind the plate, Holcombe added eight RBIs on six hits.