Chat with Graham Hays
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com women's college sports writer Graham Hays will be here to chat about the Women's College World Series. Arizona State and Florida will meet in the best-of-three championship series in Oklahoma City. Game 1 is Monday night on ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET.
Hays contributes to ESPN.com's women's basketball, softball and soccer coverage. He began with ESPN in 1999.
Send your questions now and join Hays Monday at 4 p.m. ET!
Graham Hays (4:02 PM)
Hello from Oklahoma City, where it's hot. Really, really hot. But also where Arizona State and Florida are about to play for a championship.
Which Freshman pitcher will have more pressure on them to pitch well for their team, Dallas Escobedo or Hannah Rogers and how many games do you think the series will go 2 or 3?
Graham Hays (4:07 PM)
I probably would have said three games no matter which teams got here, just because it feels like we're due for some Wednesday softball after a stretch of sweeps in recent years. But this matchup lends itself to that, as well. I don't think the first game was a fluke, these teams are really evenly matched. As for the freshmen, have to go with Escobedo, if only because she doesn't have Stephanie Brombacher alongside her. ASU has some pitching options behind Escobedo, but it might be tough to throw someone in now after not getting the ball to this point. Like we saw in the first game, there is a good chance Florida is going to get to her at some point, whether for an inning or an entire game -- because Florida seems capable of getting to anyone right now. So does Escobedo bounce back quickly if that happens? It seems like she has all season, but that's the question.
Chelsea's Arm (Columbia, MO)
After what I did almost 300 times Saturday night/Sunday morning, best single-day performance you've seen?
Graham Hays (4:09 PM)
Well, I wasn't here to see Kristin Schmidt in person in 2004, but if we're just talking about seeing in any capacity, that one is hard to top for me, in terms of endurance. But Thomas was impressive. It was striking when Ehren Earleywine talked before the series about past teams of his lacking courage in OKC. That's a strong statement, but certainly, nobody can question Thomas' toughness after doing what she did Saturday (into Sunday).
Does Baylor remind you of Texas with Cat? Top-notch pitching, sub par offense.
Graham Hays (4:14 PM)
Not that much. Baylor's offense obviously came up a little short here, minus the two big walk-off home runs, but it's a program with an offensive plan and a core philosophy there. If they add even one or two top-half-of-the-order bats, with the young hitters they have, I feel like the talent is there to create enough offense with the speed/short game. Washington's offense in 2007 was probably better (I need to look at it), but off the top of my head, that's sort of what Baylor feels like to me right now.
A10SoftballBlog (A10 Country)
Can we get a live chat before the season starts next year? And could you see Michelle Moultrie getting WCWS MVP in a losing effort?
Graham Hays (4:17 PM)
Hey, if people out there are interested in one, I'd love to. I don't see Moultrie winning it if Florida doesn't win, if only because if she keeps up anything close to this pace and the Gators don't win, that suggests someone from ASU is going to have to come up with some equally impressive performances (Urfer, Escobedo and Boyd already have a good start from that dugout, it seems). But that takes nothing away from Moultrie, who has been absolutely sensational. Her home run against Alabama might be the biggest hit of the WCWS.
Alex (Columbia, MO)
Howdy, thanks for doing this. Who do you think has the potential to be most effective against the ASU lineup: Brombacher or Rogers? Also, on the off chance that offense goes crazy for UF, do you think we'll ever see anyone besides Escobedo?
Graham Hays (4:21 PM)
Thanks for stopping in. Not to dodge the question, but I do believe three games is the most likely way for this to play out, so I'd say the Gators need both of them. The eight walks last time notwithstanding, I guess I would lean toward Rogers being a slightly better bet. She's not a pitcher who needs to fan a lot of batters to be successful (although neither is Brombacher, really), so it's not going to fluster her pitching to contact against an ASU team that simply doesn't strike out.
It is hot here too. I like the Devils to sweep.
Graham Hays (4:21 PM)
Duly noted, Sparky.
Dina J. (Charlottesville)
Who do you think were the top 3 teams that DID NOT reach the WCWS this year?
Graham Hays (4:23 PM)
Hmm, tough one because it's easy to forget the other 56 teams by the time we get to OKC. I'd go Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, if we're talking the most overall talent that didn't get here.
Kyle Clarkton (Eugene, OR)
For those of us who can't be in OKC, what is the general feeling there after Oklahoma and OK State were the first teams eliminated? Was it deflating for the locals? Or did they just seem happy that both teams made it to the final 8?
Graham Hays (4:26 PM)
Good question. Other than a brief surge for OSU early in its elimination game against Cal, neither of the local teams were really able to get their fans going in the first place, so I wouldn't say the place lost any energy. The crowds have been fantastic, and I believe I'm right in saying four of the first six sessions set records. I definitely think both sides, particularly OSU, were happy to finally get back here, although the Sooners probably hoped they could ride Ricketts to at least a win or two.
Tim (Memphis, TN)
The SEC is due for a national title, I feel like this UF team is very capable of taken down the Pac10. The SEC has been knocking on the door for some time. What are your feelings?
Graham Hays (4:29 PM)
Oh sure, the talent in the leagues is way too close for the SEC not to win at least one title. That wouldn't mean the SEC is better than the Pac-10, or even necessarily equal to the Pac-10, if there were any objective way of measuring conference against conference (and there isn't). Mostly, it's just something for people to argue about, which isn't a bad thing if it gets them fired up for softball.
I was shocked to see 'Bama get beat like that twice. I thought their pitching would just dominate Florida's offense. Is it really just a question of the Gators preparing better on offense? I really didn't think Florida had the pitching to get this far. I still think ASU will dominate in this final.
Graham Hays (4:33 PM)
Absolutely, I think everyone outside of the Florida dugout and the Florida team section in the stands was stunned to see that scale of domination. And in their heart of hearts, even though expected to win, even the Gators might have been a little surprised at how out of hand it got. As far as explaining it, I think you probably have to throw a bunch of things in the pot and stir them together. Some of it is preparation, which the Gators do as well as any of it. Some of it is familiarity, and the success they had in the past against Dunne. And some of it is just a really bad day for Alabama colliding with a really good day for Florida. When you're talking 25-4 between teams that equal on paper, there's no one, single reason.
Stacy (Farmville, VA)
What do you think of the possibility of having an NIT (similar to basketball) for the sport of college softball? Say an 8-team tournament to be held the week prior to the WCWS also in Oklahoma City. I think there are at least another 8 teams that could have made the field of 64 and done very well.
Graham Hays (4:36 PM)
I'm not a big believer in the NIT/WNIT, so I may not be the easiest sell. In terms of helping the sport or being a showcase, anything like that would be dwarfed by the super regionals. If you're just talking about a chance for kids to get some more games, without any aspirations for exposure, I wouldn't try and shout it down.
Osmond (Salt Lake)
Hey Graham,How come all these California girls are playing for Southern Schools?
Graham Hays (4:39 PM)
Same reason there are a lot of Texas and Florida kids on football rosters all over the country. California/Arizona is a huge talent base. Some SEC schools, like Alabama and Kentucky, stick pretty close to home, but others will go out and bring in talent from the West Coast. When you look at homegrown kids like Brombacher, Rogers, Moultrie, Fagan, DeFelice, etc., Florida seems to strike a balance.
Brita James (New York City)
Now that we know the final two teams, what were your biggest surprises in the WCWS? Biggest disappointments? GREATEST upsets?
Graham Hays (4:43 PM)
It was disappointing in some respects that a potentially great duel between rivals like Alabama and Florida on Sunday turned out to be so one-sided, but at the same time, the Gators put on one of the more memorable one-team displays in a long time. The lack of success for OU/OSU was a disappointment, if not a huge surprise. I thought this might be Missouri's year, so that might fall in there, although the way they acquitted themselves in both games Saturday was much to their credit. (The wireless provided the media has been a mammoth disappointment, but who wants to hear me whine about that).
PAC-10 Powers (California)
Was Arizona's and UCLA's absence this year an aberration or something likely to repeat itself again next season?
Graham Hays (4:46 PM)
There's no doubt it's going to be tougher to just assume both will get there every year. There's just too much competition, both from within their own conference and outside. But given some of the talent in place, whether it's Kenzie Fowler or UCLA's freshman class, it would surprise me if at least one of them doesn't bounce back next season and get to OKC.
Kelcie (Oregon, Ohio)
We saw Florida hitters dominate with the bat early in games giving their pitching staff staff the comfort of a lead but also Arizona State consistently scoring runs providing Escobedo with the confidence that her team has her back and will score runs even when down late in the game. After a long weekend of some great softball for both teams in the final which team do you think may have the psychological edge coming into the series?
Graham Hays (4:50 PM)
I'd rate that a coin flip. ASU has the experience with the senior class that won a title in 2008, but Florida has a lot of kids who surely took lessons from losing the championship series in 2009. Pretty much every Sun Devils team I can think of under Clint Myers has been a confident group with a lot of swagger -- cheerfully confident, but confident nonetheless. That's no different with this group. One thing that struck me about Florida to this point is just how relaxed they seem. Focused but relaxed. I'm not sure that was as much the case in 2009, as great as that team was.
Mark (Tempe AZ)
What are your thoughts on Clint Meyers using a power hitter in the lead-off spot (Boyd has 18 homers this season)? It seemed to work for them with Cochran in 2008, will this catch on around the country?
Graham Hays (4:54 PM)
Well, I'll go so far as to say any program that has hitters at the bottom of the order with .400-plus on-base percentages might want to consider it. You see it occasionally with a hitter like Boyd, who has the on-base percentage and speed to go with power like that, but it does help that ASU's lineup doesn't really have any holes. When you've got people like Haro and Alix Johnson at the bottom of the order, you aren't really costing Boyd that many at-bats with runners on base.
Graham Hays (4:55 PM)
All right, I've got to run, but thanks for all the questions. Enjoy the game tonight on ESPN2.
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