Thursday, May 22, 2014

Regionals Recap + Supers Projections and PICKS

Tuesday evening, I (Justin) got to do something that is very rare for me to get to do... I actually got to sit down and talk softball with somebody WHO ACTUALLY KNEW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT. Even via video chat, trust me when I tell you that actually using my voice and talking about softball was AWESOME.

Former Houston Cougars pitcher Bailey Watts and I chatted for more than an hour about all things Regionals and made our picks for the Supers. We expressed surprise; bragged about predictions coming true; noted players that did better than we expected; players and teams both that stepped up to the plate; and much more.

I broke our commentary down into handy-dandy notes, designated for the relevant Regional. (Notes on Oregon are in the Eugene regional section, etc.). It's a little out of my usual style, but hopefully our Supers recap will be able to be recorded video. At the bottom of this page, you'll find both Bailey's and my picks for who will advance to the Women's College World Series.

Eugene Regional:
Oregon's victory was pretty much given to both of us. Fair competition, but nothing that would stop the #1 team in the nation. I think they should be looking out for a trap game this weekend against Minnesota.

Tuscaloosa Regional:
Even with the #2 seed hosting, this was one regional that I thought would be anything but a walk in the park. It ended up being easier than I expected for the Tide to make it through. Geography was not a benefit to either Hannah Campbell or Anna Miller, but the Tide should be on a high after making it out of that Regional without a scratch.

Los Angeles Regional:
When we discussed LA and UCLA's utter dominance, we talked about power hitters. Bailey made a great point - UCLA is swinging from their heels constantly and they're succeeding like no one should ever be able to do. The Bruins are consistent and powerful. I asked Bailey if she thought there was anything that the Bruins can NOT do. Her response: "Nope". I think that about sums it up.

Athens Regional:
Georgia didn't make it through completely unscatched, sustaining a loss to NC State in the Winner's Bracket game, but after winning two on Sunday, showed that their SEC tournament victory wasn't a fluke. Chelsea Wilkinson was back on her A-game and the Bulldogs are movin' on up, hosting Baylor this weekend.

Lafayette Regional:
The pitching duo of Christina Hamilton and Jordan Wallace has been incredible this year, especially the emergence of Hamilton. As a former pitcher herself, I wanted to get Bailey's thoughts on this regional especially: "That really is a different breed of softball at UL, in and of itself. The game they play is legitimately different. They don’t play like anybody else. They don’t do anything like anybody else. And I think that’s why they’ve been such a powerhouse for the last five, six years. They hit bombs like I’ve never seen. They give pitchers whiplash on the daily. It’s bad. And I’ve been a victim of it before so I can say that. But hats off. Wallace has the dirtiest I don’t even know what it is – change-up, drop, knuckle, curve, it does so many things in one pitch. Their bad day is a lot of people’s good day."

Norman Regional:
A&M's collapse in the Winner's bracket game surprised us both. Bailey put it far more succinctly than I could: "It went from OK to "Oh, crap". OU showed that they're still a team to be reckoned with, which should make for a fun series against Tennessee this weekend.

Tempe Regional:
Michigan played like they had a chip on their shoulder. Romero, oh my goodness. Plays the game how it should be played. She had bombs that series, she did everything. And I think that she is a lot of their team, the heart of their team. (BW)

Tucson Regional:
Arizona won the regional and did an excellent, excelling job in the process of doing so, but Bailey, ever the pitching-nut, was impressed with the efforts of LSU's freshman hurler Bailey Corbello. "Corbello has pitched her butt off. Lights out, she’s good. Nothing to lose. That’s how you’re supposed to play. They didn’t play like they were missing a starter."

Waco Regional:
This was the first regional we talked about during our chat, as well as the one we talked about the longest. Both Bailey and I agreed that the pitching of Aimee Creger and Whitney Canion made this quartet of teams one of the best all of last weekend. Ultimately, Canion's Baylor Bears pulled it out. The regional also included Bailey's alma mater, the Houston Cougars. I knew we couldn't just scoot over her ex-teammates, nor should we have, and she related back to her own experiences when offering a word on her former team. "'Either buckle down and figure it out or we know our fate.' They had the right mindset going into it. But I do feel for them. I’ve been there."

Columbia Regional:
If you didn't pay attention to the games in this regional, I can sum up Nebraska's barely-surprising upset in two very simple words. Hailey Decker. The sophomore second-sacker had a tremendous weekend at the plate to the tune of a .500 average and eight extra base hits, five of them home runs. In the words of my well-spoken co-host, Nebraska didn't just beat Missouri, they whooped them. I expected the outcome to be the same, but I certainly did not expect Mizzou to be outscored 19-5 in two games on a day when just one win would have gotten them to the next round.

Minneapolis Regional:
The lowest-seeded host still presented a riveting set of games. The Auburn Tigers gave the Gophers a run for the money before the home team ultimately prevailed. If y'all will recall my preseason predictions, Auburn did not appear in any of them. I've eaten some crow on that one, but Bailey and I agree that Coach Clint Myers is one of the best in the business. He's got every aspect of a coach that is knowledgeable and understanding of the game, and that you would need to be successful. And for him to go from ASU and then to turn around Auburn and get AU that close to a Super so soon? It's unbelievable. (Those comments came from both Bailey and myself).

And now for picks:
Oregon vs. Minnesota
Florida St. vs. Michigan
Florida State
Florida vs. Washington
Georgia vs. Baylor
UCLA vs. Kentucky
LA-Lafayette vs. Arizona
Oklahoma vs. Tennessee
Alabama vs. Nebraska

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