Monday, May 30, 2016

Super Regionals Recap

Myers Wins the Rematch
There was more than a Super regional taking place in Auburn this weekend - the showdown between the Tigers and the Wildcats of Arizona also served as the renewing of an old rivalry. When Clint Myers still served as head coach of Arizona State (the job he left to take the reins at Auburn), the rivalry between the Sun Devils and the Wildcats' respective softball clubs was at its peak.

They traded wins, traded losses... both were perennial contenders for conference championships, World Series berths, and national titles.

This weekend was the rekindling of that rivalry between the coaches - though Myers may have worn navy & orange instead of maroon & gold, both legendary coaches wanted to head to the World Series at the other's expense.

Auburn emerged victorious, thanks to back-to-back victories on the second day of the series after Arizona came out on top in Game 1. Candrea's Wildcats headed home and Myers' Tigers boarded a plane bound for Oklahoma.

Harrisonburg, Virginia - The Next Softball Hotspot?
Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Alumni Field in Michigan. Tiger Park in Baton Rouge. Easton Stadium in Los Angeles. Lamson Park in Lafayette. All are major softball venues famous for their raucous environments that are difficult for even the best opponents.

We may soon have to add Harrisonburg, Virginia to that list. The home of the James Madison Dukes, tickets to the Super regional sold out in MINUTES after being posted. The school, having added extra seating for the Regional round, then had to add even MORE seating... which also sold out in the span of just minutes.

The crowd was raucous and loud for their team, and while the Dukes didn't emerge successful, there's no reason to believe this was a one-time affair. Head coach Mickey Dean in a place primed for success and, as the movie saying goes, 'if you build it, they will come'. Dean has built a stellar program - and the fans are coming.

Upset of the Decade?
Coming into their hosted Super regional, the Florida Gators remained the favorite to take home the national title. Playing #16-seeded Georgia, they were widely picked to sweep through the Super Regional round to Oklahoma City with ease. Not so fast said the Bulldogs.

In the Super regional's leadoff game, Bulldogs ace Chelsea Wilkinson held the Gators to just three hits and shut out one of the nation's leading offenses. The Dawgs, for their part, scored three runs off of Gators star hurler Delanie Gourley and put nine runners on base.

The Gators would have had to win two back-to-back games on the Supers' second day, and looked like they were headed to  the winner-take-all game three with a one-run lead headed to the bottom of the 7th inning. With Aleshia Ocasio, the Player of the Year finalist and Gators ace, in the circle, the reigning national champions looked good and set for the winner-take-all matchup.

Enter pinch hitter Kaylee Puailoa. A senior coming off the bench, Puailoa stepped in with a runner on and proceeded to knock a no-doubter over the fence for the game-winning and Super-ending home run.

For the Gators, this will be the first year since 2012 that they aren't in Oklahoma City. The first time for the Class of 2016 that their season hasn't ended amongst the final eight. The first time for the Gator class of '17 that they'll watch the World Series from their couch.

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