Softball Games of the Week (2/7 - 2/10)
The 2013 Season opens with some exciting matchups in week one. The Kijikawa Classic, as usual, has seven of the top teams in the country to include: Oklahoma, Stanford, Oregon, Florida, Arizona, Arizona State and Cal. There are four Pac-12/SEC confrontations, three including Florida. OU and their new lineup face off twice against the Pac-12. Should be a fan friendly weekend of softball to kick off the road to OKC.
The 2012 National Runners Up will unveil their unbelievable lineup against Pac-12 opponent Stanford, who will be playing their second contest. OU features last season’s USA National Player of the Year, Keilani Ricketts, and two NFCA All-Americans, Jessica Shults and Lauren Chamberlain. The surprising addition of Arizona infield transfer Shelby Pendley gives NFCA HOF Coach Patty Gasso what can only be described as a scary lineup. Stanford joins the Sooners as one of the five schools with three players on the 2013 USA Top 50 Collegiate Watch List. The Cardinal selectees are senior pitcher Teagan Gerhart, senior Jenna Rich and sophomore Hanna Winter. Interestingly, the Cardinal and Gerhart silenced the OU bats early in 2012, shutting them out 5-0 at Cathedral City. This will be a fantastic early season matchup for fans.
The Bruins come off what for them was another uncharacteristic season, finishing fourth in the Pac-12 and falling short of the Super-Regionals for the second straight year. Offensively, the Bruins were a juggernaut in 2012, ranking among the best in the country statistically in several categories, including slugging (1st), average (4th), home runs per game (4th), doubles per game (3rd) and scoring (7th). Head Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez’s team could score, but the team’s pitching and defense were near the bottom of the conference last year, eighth in ERA and seventh in fielding percentage. The 2013 Bruins will have eight new faces in the lineup, losing five starters, four seniors (three who were All-Americans) and the starting short stop, Kellie Fox, who transferred to Arizona. Texas A&M begins their first campaign in the gauntlet that is the SEC. The Ags bring back 15 letter winners and five starters from a club that finished 2012 with an RPI rank of 10, was 8th in home runs per game and 17th in slugging nationally. Senior All-American Mel Dumezich leads Coach Evan’s bunch in the circle and at the plate. A&M was 2-2 against Pac-12 competition in 2012. It is great to see these early season Pac-12 versus SEC tilts. This will be a solid test for both teams to begin the season.
Oregon comes off their first WCWS appearance with high hopes for 2013. The Ducks return seniors Jessica Moore and Samantha Pappas who were recently named to the 2013 USA Top 50 Collegiate Watch List. Oregon had the school’s best season on many levels and were ranked nationally in scoring (13th, 5.76 runs/game), 13th in slugging (.487) and 16th in doubles per game (1.43). Oregon posted all-time team highs in slugging (.487), RBI (335) and runs (363). The team delivered the school’s second best ever batting average (.308) and total bases (824) and third highest hits (520), doubles (90), homers (66) and walks (207). With the return of Moore in the circle and most of the defense and batting order coming back from the 2012 World Series squad, Coach White’s team should continue to stay at the very top of the college game. Florida heads into 2013 with a young but athletic squad. Solid in the circle with the return of two-time All-American Hannah Rogers and sophomore Lauren Haeger, Coach Walton’s crew will certainly be able to compete with the country’s best. The last meeting between these two was the 2011 Super-Regional in Gainesville, where the Gators swept the Ducks. This will be a great measuring stick for both squads early.
In just her first year at the helm of the LSU Tigers, Coach Beth Torina led them to their third College World Series. The 2012 version of the Tigers had its offensive challenges, but in the circle was among the tops in the country with the 12th ranked ERA (1.58) nationally and second in the SEC. The 1-2 punch of Rachele Fico and Brittany Mack collected 36 of LSU’s 40 wins last season. LSU was an upperclassman heavy club in 2012, but does return 13 letter winners. North Carolina won the ACC Regular Season title last season behind the junior pitcher Lori Spingola. She had a 1.87 ERA with 13 shutouts in 2012 and was the ACC Pitcher of the Year. Both teams are deep in the circle. Expect both games to be low scoring affairs and hope one of them gets us a Fico v. Spingola matchup.
This is an early season matchup of 2012 WCWS teams. Both came up short to Alabama, OU finishing second and the Ducks falling in the semi-final to the Tide. If Oregon can get to Ricketts early and Oregon’s Moore can pitch around the heart of the Sooner order, which is no easy feat, then the Ducks have a chance.
South Florida earned its first trip to the WCWS in 2012 after going 50-14 behind the left arm of Sara Nevins. Nevins 1.12 ERA and 336 strikeouts helped her break onto the national scene. Coach Ken Eriksen will look to repeat his team’s unprecedented success. Coach Carol Hutchins’ Michigan team has been steady for her 29 years at the helm. They have won five straight Big Ten Titles. In 2012 they fell to eventual Champ Alabama in the Tuscaloosa Super-Regional. The Wolverines will return 15 letter winners, including their two best pitchers Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga. A pitchers’ duel is likely.
This game is another Pac-12 / SEC matchup at the Kijikawa Classic. The Cal Bears come off a third place finish at the WCWS and their 25th trip to the post season. Coach Ninemire’s crew will be led in the circle and at the plate by senior two-time All-American Jolene Henderson. Cheyenne Cordes, Danielle Henderson and Breana Kostreba return after being All-Freshmen team in the Pac-12 in 2012. Cal has been a perennial power for many years and 2013 should be no different. Florida won the last matchup 5-2 in the 2011 WCWS on their way to losing in the Championship Series.
Much like UCLA, the Arizona Wildcats have had a few uncharacteristic seasons, missing the WCWS for two straight years. Mike Candrea’s 2012 squad had great power at the plate, sixth in HR’s per game and 12th in slugging nationally. The abrupt transfer of Shelby Pendley will certainly challenge Arizona offensively and defensively in 2013. Senior third baseman Brigette Del Pointe will need to lead the Wildcats at the plate. The loss of pitcher Kenzie Fowler for at least the first part of the season to back surgery will give freshman Nancy Bowling a chance to help out Shelby Babcock in the circle. The Gators bats may test them both in this early season matchup.