WCWS DAY ONE ANALYSIS
June 4 2010
FOUR UPSETS: WERE THEY SURPRISING?
Using comparative NCAA rankings, yes. The top seeds looked invincible.
All of the Super Regional winners were 3-0 in Regionals. Hawaii and Washington won Super Regionals in three games, the other six all won in two.
But, there were some indicators which perhaps could have given clues.
Tennessee 9, Arizona 0 (5)
Arizona which narrowly edged BYU 2-1 in one SR game, yet won 10-2 in the other, has now lost five consecutive WCWS games since winning the title three years ago, and have been shutout in their last three WCWS games. Candrea concedes lack of consistency in hitting – 12-7 in games before the NCAA tournament. Despite successive injuries, ace Kenzie Fowler, is one of the most formidable pitchers in the game, and, until the Tennessee game, had not been called for illegal pitches. More, their top three in the lineup – Lastrapes (403), Schutzler (405) and Arredondo (383) – have proven to be a deadly combination in scoring early runs – backed up by HR hitter Chambers (365). Against Tennessee, the four were 1-for-6. Did the barrage of illegal pitch calls (eight) affect the team? As Fowler said afterward, “it it hard to recover from something that just totally ruins your rhythm” Even with Fowler struggling, why couldn’t the Wildcats hit Renfro? Arredondo said, “She threw a little bit faster than we’ve seen the last few weeks, and we just weren’t getting it on time. She was just throwing it by us; I don’t think we made the adjustments.” They promised to make those adjustments in the next 48 hours.
Tennessee demonstrated shutdown power in eliminating Michigan 5-0 and 4-2, surviving bases-loaded situations against good Wolverine hitters. They compiled a string of 22-6, primarily against SEC opponents, leading up to the tournament, including wins over LSU, Florida and Alabama, all much higher ranked. Freshman Renfro has developed markedly over the season, with a .2.22 ERA. Coach Weekly’s strategy worked in Ann Arbor and it worked in HofF: take their best hitters deep in the count, and make pitchers like Fowler throw a lot of pitches. The Vols were never the top SEC team but not worse than fifth in a conference many rate as tops.
Hawaii 3, Missouri 2
Hawaii. The Rainbow Wahine not only set an NCAA record for home runs with 154 this season, eight hitters each have more than 10 runs. Their never-say-die attitude was confirmed in Alabama where they pulled the upset of Super Regionals with Jenna Rodriguez’ walkoff home run. Stephanie Ricketts may not be quite as heralded as little (?) sister Keilani, but she finished their 49-14 season with a 2.54 ERA. More, they play solid defense. And, as home run hitters Aguirre and Yoshikawa said, they saw that the Missouri pitcher Nottlemann was staying outside and adjusted.
Missouri compiled a 51-11 record, defeating a very good Oregon team in SR 1-0, 7-2. They prevailed despite the loss of ace pitcher Chelsea Thomas in mid-season. The Tigers had a roster in which 12 players hit under 300, including five (mostly subs) under 200. The key to playing Missouri is in the lineup, where the four best hitters are 1-2-3-4. More, they held homer-hitting Hawaii down after Aguirre’s homer I the 2nd, and led 2-1 after six – Yoshikawa hit her 2-run blast top 7th. Still, reporters were surprised at how negative coach Earleywine was in the post-game press conference; most losing coaches praise their teams, he bitterly expressed his disappointment in the Tigers.. At best, a Las Vegas bookie would have parlayed them even, although the Tigers were higher-ranked.
UCLA 16, Florida 3
Florida was usually top 5 in national polls from Week One. The Gators ran off a string of 27-5, mostly against tough SEC competition in the weeks before the tournament. Their power has been well demonstrated; Enea set an SEC career mark for homers. Bruder, Bush, Moultrie, Horton, DeFelice and Schutte all left their marks on SEC foes. Brombacher was 34-6, and a widely-applauded All American. But, she was also the team’s Achilles heel. Early in the season, and again in the SEC conference championship, Brombacher was called for illegal pitches. The word from Gainesville is that Stephanie had worked hard to overcome the “foot” problem which led to the calls. But, four IPs were called on her against UCLA, two more against reliever Ensely Gammel. Did the calls throw off the hitters? Opinions vary. After UCLA took a 3-0 lead in the 1st, the Gators racked three hits off starter Aleah Macon and tied the score. But, in the next five innings, they took just four hits off Langenfeld. As Coach Walton said, “I think anybody can argue about the illegal pitches…but you still have a team which beat another team…UCLA played a heck of a game…and they were hitting Stephanie pretty good. Give them credit.” Brombacher may have been vulnerable, depending on the umpiring crew, but the Gator hitters were almost always able to offset any perceived liability. They racked 130 runs in their 12 pre-WCWS games. Their bats went cold against perhaps the fastest improving team in college ball.
UCLA improved to 86-29 all-time in the WCWS; its 16 runs were the most ever scored in a post-season game, and 13-runs is the second largest margin of victory ever. Ranked behind Washington and Michigan in national polls all season, with late season losses to Arizona, Arizona State, Washington and California, the Bruins have proven fence-busters like DiSalvatore, Camuso, the two Harrisons, Burney, Yudin and, importantly Langenfeld who is hitting .500 (4-4 with 4 rbi last night) while maintaining s 1.25 ERA as the closest thing to a Rivera-type closer we have in softball. Florida’s pitching problems aside, the Bruins were the better hitting team last night, just like they were in run-ruling ULL twice in Super Regionals. The combo of pitching, hitting and fielding has put them in position to win their 11th title. But, first, they have to silence the thunder bats from the islands.
Georgia 6, Washington 3
Washington. The conventional wisdom all season has been that, if your batters laid off rise balls thrown by Player of the Year Danielle Lawrie, and avoided stuff off the black, you could make her come inside and beat her. Oklahoma proved that in the Sooners 6-1 win in Super Regionals, where DL was tagged for five homers. The other lesson from that SR is that Lawrie and the Huskies regroup sharply, taking the next two games from Oklahoma in 3-0 and 4-0 shutouts. Williams, Pohlman, Salling and Lawrie are formidable hitters. Indeed, the game looked won until the Dawgs found Lawrie. Washington and Florida are perhaps best situated to climb out of the cellar.
Georgia. “Grim resolve” is a favorite descriptor in novels about war, and gritty performances of any kind – which could be applied to several Georgia victories. Schlopy, Sandberg, Wiggins and Goler can go yard against most pitchers. McCloud, Arevalo, Owen aren’t going to make anyone forget Lisa Fernandez but they are all good mechanics who make few mistakes, and seldom seen fazed by the score or scoring. They proved last night they have staying power.