Thursday, May 26, 2016

Super Regional Primer

What's on tap?
Eight Super Regionals, hosted by the top eight seeds of the tournament: Florida; Michigan; Oklahoma; Auburn; Oregon; Alabama; James Madison; and Florida State.

Every seeded team advanced to the Super Regional round, with the exception of Kentucky and Tennessee, the #9 and #13 seeds, respectively. 

Six teams from the SEC and five from the PAC-12 remain, while five other conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, CAA, and Sun Belt) are represented by one remaining team a piece.

The Gainesville (Florida/Georgia) and Norman (Oklahoma/Louisiana-Lafayette) Super Regionals kick off on Thursday. Harrisonburg (James Madison/LSU), Tuscaloosa (Alabama/Washington), and Tallahassee (Florida State/Utah) begin on Friday. The Super Regionals in Ann Arbor (Michigan/Missouri), Auburn (Auburn/Arizona), and Eugene (Oregon/UCLA) begin on Saturday. 

All Supers go over a span of two days, with a single game being played on the beginning day and a second game followed by an "if necessary" game to determine the winner to be played day #2.

Where to Watch:
ESPN's family of networks will carry all eight Super Regionals.

The first two games of the Gainesville super will be seen on ESPN2, with the "if necessary" game being played on ESPNU. The same set-up goes for the games from Norman, with Oklahoma's games immediately following the Gators each night.

The pitching-heavy James Madison/LSU matchup will be seen on ESPNU for game 1, switch to ESPN for the second game, and move back to ESPNU for the "if necessary" game 3.

Friday's game 1 of Alabama/Washington from Tuscaloosa will be seen on ESPN2, while Saturday's game 2 will be on ESPN and game 3 on ESPN2.

Florida State hosts the surprising-upset entry Utah on ESPNU for game 1, ESPN2 for game 2, and ESPN for game 3, if it becomes necessary.

The first two games of the Michigan-hosted Super will be seen on ESPN on Saturday, while game 3 would be seen on ESPNU.

Auburn/Arizona could end up being seen on all three major networks, with game 1 on ESPN2, game 2 on ESPN, and game 3, if it is played, rounding out the trifecta on ESPNU.

The matchup of all-PAC-12 teams kicks off on ESPN Saturday evening and continues on ESPNU for the remaining games, both in a late-evening start in the Eastern time zone.

Expert Pick 'em
Our expert panel is back this way to pick the winners again, with some new faces and fresh takes. Let's see how their picks match up.

The Panel:
Justin McLeod, JWOS head writer
Lee Dobbins, JWOS staff writer/fmr. D1 head coach
Kristina Thorson, three-time all-American
Brittany Fowler, 2013 Sun Belt Player of the Year
Jeff Franquet, former collegiate & professional head coach
Michael Steuerwald, head coach, Chicago Bandits
Eric Lopez, 'In the Circle' podcast host
Ivy Renfroe, four-time all-SEC selection
Courtney Albritton, 4-time D2 all-American
WNY Softball, founder of MAAC Softball blog

The Picks:
Gainesville Super Regional:
JM: Florida
LD: Florida
KT: Florida
BF: Florida
JF: Florida
MS: Florida
EL: Florida
IR: Florida
CA: Florida
WNY: Florida

Ann Arbor Super Regional:
JM: Michigan
LD: Missouri
KT: Michigan
BF: Missouri
JF: Michigan
MS: Missouri
EL: Michigan
IR: Michigan
CA: Michigan
WNY: Michigan

Norman Super Regional:
JM: Oklahoma
LD: Oklahoma
KT: Oklahoma
BF: Louisiana-Lafayette
JF: Louisiana-Lafayette
MS: Louisiana-Lafayette
EL: Oklahoma
IR: Oklahoma
CA: Louisiana-Lafayette
WNY: Louisiana-Lafayette

Auburn Super Regional:
JM: Arizona
LD: Arizona
KT: Arizona
BF: Auburn
JF: Auburn
MS: Auburn
EL: Auburn
IR: Auburn
CA: Auburn
WNY: Auburn

Eugene Super Regional:
JM: Oregon
LD: Oregon
KT: Oregon
BF: Oregon
JF: Oregon
MS: Oregon
EL: Oregon
IR: Oregon
CA: Oregon
WNY: Oregon

Tuscaloosa Super Regional:
JM: Alabama
LD: Alabama
KT: Washington
BF: Alabama
JF: Alabama
MS: Alabama
EL: Alabama
IR: Washington
CA: Alabama
WNY: Alabama

Harrisonburg Super Regional:
JM: James Madison
LD: James Madison
MS: James Madison

Tallahassee Super Regional:
JM: Florida State
LD: Florida State
KT: Florida State
BF: Utah
JF: Florida State
MS: Florida State
EL: Florida State
IR: Utah
CA: Florida State
WNY: Utah

Matchups to Watch:
James Madison pitching vs. LSU pitching
     >>> Both teams are made and broken on the backs of their pitching staffs, and the work from the circle should be the highlight of the weekend in Harrisonburg. For JMU, senior Jailyn Ford and sophomore Megan Good combine for a 0.89 ERA coming in. While Good has shouldered a bit more work than her veteran counterpart, the duo make a deadly 1-2 punch for the Dukes and, even against an SEC opponent with bats like the Tigers', they're far from pushovers. Opponents - including three early-season SEC teams and seventeen Power Five teams overall - have collectively hit just .152 against the pair and .161 against the Dukes staff as a whole. On the Tigers' part, their three-headed beast is led by the fiery Carley Hoover. Statistically, though, Hoover's allowance of 2.25 runs per game ranks third on her squad, a mark far more to the credit of the staff's viability and dominance than anything else. Freshman Sydney Smith boasts a 0.92 mark, while sophomore Allie Walljasper checks in a 1.89. The group, along with seldom-used but equally-gifted Baylee Corbello, can brag of an even 400 strikeouts thus-far on the year, while opponents have hit sub-.220 against the quartet. Hitting coaches may not want to watch too much of this Super regional pairing.

Delanie Gourley vs. Tina Iosefa
     >>> The newest addition to the USA Elite Team's circle will have her hands full with a familiar Bulldog lineup. Iosefa is coming off of a Regional final performance where she set the SEC's single-season RBI record and catapulted the Dawgs into the Supers thanks to her bat. Gourley, the latest in a long recent line of Gator aces, boasts a 0.70 ERA in more than 150 innings this year, allowing more than a single just five times and more than three runs just once. Gourley boasts all of two innings of work against the Dawgs in her career, with four strikeouts, no runs, and just one hit allowed in those brief appearances. She has never faced Iosefa, so the first-ever meeting of this power pitcher and power hitter should be an interesting one.

Danielle O'Toole vs. Auburn offense
     >>> After dispensing with one SEC team in the Regional round, Mike Candrea's club has their sights set on besting another to reach Oklahoma City. The Cats' run thus-far can be attributed to a lot of things, but one need look no further than the circle to find one of the biggest reasons for the squad's success. Riding the arm of the SDSU transfer O'Toole, the Cats will now face an offense that ranked #13 in the nation in batting average and hit seventy-nine home runs. O'Toole vs. Kasey Cooper will itself be riveting viewing, but thanks to the protection Clint Myers has around his Player of the Year finalist & star slugger, O'Toole will catch no breaks in the Tigers lineup. For the Tigers' part, three players continue to boast .400+ batting averages and Emily Carosone deserves nearly as much applause as Cooper for her work at the plate, and in the field. Speedsters Tiffany Howard and the surprisingly-great Victoria Draper give the Tigers the whole offensive package.

JWOS Bracket Challenge Standings
Nine individuals are tied atop the Justin’s World of Softball Bracket Challenge standings after the Regional round – with twenty-eight points a piece, tied for the lead are: Jason W., Emily R., Bob P., Willie S., Sarah W., Brent B., Melinda B., Chris D., and Kevin M.

Just two points behind and tied for tenth are six others, namely Don M., Marcie B., Scott R., Andy G., Nate M., and Karalee M.

With twenty-four points are Brian S., Kathy M., and Hannah L.  Heidi B., Chad B., and Tex G. all have twenty-two. Farrah S. has twenty points, while Rommel B. (the only one to pick the surprising Utah upset over Kentucky) and CA S. are at eighteen.

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