Chat with Garland Cooper and Graham Hays!
A three-time Big Ten Player of the Year winner and ESPN.com All-American during her career at Northwestern, Cooper is now the voice of prep softball for ESPN RISE. She has also played professional softball in Japan the past two years. Hays covers college softball, women's college basketball and women's college soccer for ESPN.com.
With the postseason approaching and trips to Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series on the line, now is the time to talk softball. Stop by to share your opinion or drop in a question for Garland or Graham at 2 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Graham Hays (2:00 PM)
Welcome to our first college softball chat of the season. Hopefully we'll do a few of these on the road to Oklahoma City. Garland Cooper will be here in about 15 minutes, but for now, you're stuck with me. What's up?
Elizabeth (Gainesville, FL)
Who will be each of the 16 seeded teams in this year's NCAA tournament (assuming the favorites win their conference tournaments)? Also, who will make it to Oklahoma City?
Graham Hays (2:03 PM)
Nice, diving in the deep end, I like it. I guess every season is tough, but it feels like this year, picking out those 16 is an especially tough chore. Partly, that's because there is so much up in the air with the Pac-10 and Big Ten without conference tourneys. But just based on what my gut says about how things may unfold this week, I'd say: 1-Florida, 2-Alabama, 3-Washington. 4-UCLA, 5-Stanford, 6-Arizona. 7-Michigan, 8-Oklahoma. 9-Georgia, 10-Arizona State, 11-Ohio State, 12-Northwestern, 13-California, 14-Missouri, 15-Florida State/Georgia Tech, 16-Louisville/DePaul
Chris (Atlanta, GA)
If FSU wins the ACC tournament will they host a regional?
Graham Hays (2:05 PM)
Just looking at the geography, I don't see a good way for that to happen. We can assume Florida will host, and if that takes the likes of Florida A&M (if it wins the MEAC) and South Florida (if it finds a way in) out of play, there just aren't going to be enough teams down there to make two host sites reasonable. I think for both Florida State and Georgia Tech, the goal is win the ACC tourney, get a national seed and avoid any possibility of a regional at Florida or Georgia. Maybe they go somewhere like UMass.
Kristin (Los Angeles, CA)
I'm thinking Kelly Inouye-Perez won't get the respect she deserves unless she wins a national championship... and SOON. Is this fair?
Graham Hays (2:08 PM)
Fair? Yes and no. In this day and age, it's probably not fair for any program to be judged primarily by championships every year. At the same time. you know what you're getting into at a place with a history like UCLA, and you get to reap the benefits of dropping that name on the recruiting trail. I don't think you'll hear Inouye-Perez complaining; she knows the deal in Westwood.
Graham: Thanks for showing Hawai'i some love. Do you think we have any shot of getting in?
Graham Hays (2:11 PM)
All I know is I'll be very interested to see how that unfolds. There's a bit of bias in my perspective, I imagine, because I saw Hawai'i take Alabama and Tennessee to the wire in Palm Springs and beat Ohio State. And there's the anecdotal side, which can't figure in the selection process, of how this team bounced back without Justine Smethurst for a second consecutive season. But from an objective standpoint, the team's RPI and what it has done on the field just don't mesh. I'm not a math whiz, but there are probably at least 10 teams in the 40-60 RPI range that didn't play as tough a schedule as Hawai'i.
Frank (Gainesville, FL)
Who will win Player of the Year?
Graham Hays (2:14 PM)
I'll be interested to get Garland's take on this, especially as a former hitter, but I think Stacey Nelson and Danielle Lawrie have separated themselves from the pitching pack to such a degree that one of them will end up winning it. You have to consider Katie Cochran, Stacie Chambers, Tammy Williams and a few other hitters, but Lawrie and Nelson have been so dominant. Between the two, it's a coin-flip for me right now. Both have faced great schedules, Nelson has slightly better overall numbers, Lawrie has more strikeouts and had to carry more of a load. I need another week or two to decide on that one.
Graham Hays (2:14 PM)
All right, with that, I'm going to turn it over to Garland Cooper. Thanks all!
Garland you played in Japan, do you think Japanese players will ever starting coming to college in the U.S. and how do you think they would do?
Garland Cooper (2:18 PM)
The difference between the U.S. and Japan in that regard is that many of the players out there begin to play professionally straight out of high school. There is less focus on education and college than there is out here. I doubt that Japanese players will start coming out here to play in college. Also, the U.S.has so many great players and is still strides ahead of Japan so it would be extremely difficult for many of them to come out here and succeed.
Dan D AZ
What do you think about a coach teaching a girl to bat left handed. How much of an advantage is there?
Garland Cooper (2:21 PM)
Of course I am biased when it comes to this! However, I'm a natural righty and my dad turned me around when I first started playing and I am thankful that he did that. Even though it is not secret I'm not a speedster, that one step closer to first still makes a difference. Also, when facing a right-handed pitcher, the curve ball moves much more than a screw ball. In my experience, pitchers are more hesitant to throw that breaking inside pitch and I saw many more outside screw balls that didn't move as much. These are just a couple of benefits from my experience, but there are many others...I could talk about it all day!
so how about it garland? graham said he couldn't decide between the pitchers. who is your player of the year?
Garland Cooper (2:23 PM)
Ha ha, Graham put me on the spot there didn't he? I have always been biased towards the hitters and I think Katie Cochran is amazing and can straight hit. I think she should take the POY. If not her, then I think I would go with Stacey Nelson at Florida. Like Graham said, there is still a couple weeks left that might change my mind.
Garland - What's wrong with Lauren Delaney recently? Can she get things turned around in time for the tournament?
Garland Cooper (2:25 PM)
Of course I always believe in Northwestern because I know the coaches and many of the players there. However, Delaney is really struggling right now and there really isn't anyone behind her to pick her up. I think she will have a tough time going into regionals. She will have to let go of the past few outings and prepare herself mentally for the upcoming challenges. If she can't strengthen her mentality, which I believe to be the main problem, NU will be in trouble.
Garland, What do you think of Alabama's chance of winning it all?
Garland Cooper (2:28 PM)
Personally, I love Bama and I never count them out. I think they have a real shot this year. They have strength in the circle with Kelsi Dunne and they have some exceptional offense with Morgan and Rogers. I'd say watch out for Bama, they always turn things up a notch going into playoffs.
What was your favorite place to play in college, other than at home? Who had the best crowds?
Garland Cooper (2:32 PM)
There is nothing that even comes close to the WCWS in Okla. City. It was the time of my life and the best experience. I was totally in awe of the whole thing and love every minute of it! I mean, there were people rooting for us who didn't go to our school and who didn't know us. We had little girls asking for our autographs, and I remember when I was that little girl, so it was just such a blast. Other than that I would say Michigan during the Big Ten because they were a rival of ours and everyone in that stadium wants to see you fail...it was always fun to play in a loud, packed stadium like that!
Cat Fan (Evanston)
How impressed have you been with Adrienne Monka? How does Northwestern keep getting these freshmen sluggers like you, Tammy and now Monka?
Garland Cooper (2:35 PM)
Honestly, I have to hand it to NU's coaching. Their staff is amazing and Caryl, who does the majority of the hitting, really knows how to connect with the hitters and teach them in a way that makes them comfortable. I think a lot of it has to do with her coaching and the coaching of the other staff members. I think it helps that Monka and Williams are both freaks and came in incredibly athletic! I saw Monka play many times in high school and I always knew she would be amazing in college.
Rich (Windsor, CT)
So can we expect Rachelle Fico to come in and dominate the SEC next season? She seems good, but it's not like Connecticut is great softball.
Garland Cooper (2:36 PM)
You're right, competition in Connecticut is not as good as the competition in other states, but she is legit. She also played for the Gold Coast Hurricanes who won ASA Nationals last year at the Gold level. I'd definitely keep an eye on her, she is mentally strong, confident, and the girl can throw!
Garland Cooper (2:37 PM)
Alright everyone, that's it for me! Thanks so much!
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