Category archive: Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Here are five teams that had an impact in NCAA softball last week.

[+] Enlarge
Samantha Cobb
Walt Beazley/The University of TulsaTulsa's Samantha Cobb has 12 homeruns thus far this season.

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricanes lost a chance for a marquee midweek win in a 3-1 defeat at home against Oklahoma State, but got the wins they truly needed Saturday. Down 3-0 after one inning in the series opener against Houston, Tulsa rallied for an 8-4 win in that game and claimed a 7-1 win in the nightcap (Sunday's finale was rained out).

Tulsa opened last week No. 68 in the RPI and in the middle of the pack in Conference USA. It woke up Monday second in the conference heading into a road trip to fourth-place Central Florida, and it makes a strong case for at-large consideration for the NCAA tournament.

Despite the loss against Oklahoma State on Wednesday, Tulsa is 8-5 against RPI top-50 teams, including an earlier win against the Cowgirls in Stillwater.

The wins against Houston even came largely without the services of de facto ace Jackie Lawrence, who coach John Bargfeldt told announcers during Saturday's game had been hit in the head during batting practice. She didn't pitch again after three up-and-down innings in the first game, but freshman Kalynn Schrock came on in relief in both games and walked just three in 8.2 innings (she has a great strikeout rate but had walked 32 in 70.2 innings entering the series).

Shortstop Samantha Cobb, another freshman, had the big hit with a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth in the first game to break a 4-4 tie. With 12 home runs on the season, she's providing good protection for All-America hopeful Lauren Lindsay.

[+] Enlarge
Kalynn Schrock
Walt Beazley for ESPN.comFreshman Kalynn Schrock came on in relief for Tulsa in both weekend victories against Houston.

Virginia: The only women's team at Virginia that has never advanced to an NCAA tournament, the Cavaliers bounced back from a bruising trip to Georgia Tech the previous week with four wins, including two to clinch a weekend series at home against fellow postseason hopeful NC State.

Freshman ace Melanie Mitchell went the distance in Saturday's 4-1 win in 10 innings and again in Sunday's 1-0 clincher in regulation. Mitchell is now 21-13 with 235 strikeouts in 214.1 innings. She may be a work in progress, but she gives Virginia the commodity every program needs to turn the corner: a workhorse ace in the circle.

"She's good now, but I don't even think she's really even -- she's going to be so much better in another year or two years, when she gets in the weight room, gets stronger and gets smarter," Virginia coach Eileen Schmidt said during last week's Georgia Tech series in which Mitchell started all three games. "She didn't really come in as high-profile as some of the other [freshmen pitchers] around the country, but she's worked her tail off. She's an engineering major; she's a smart kid."

If the Cavaliers can avoid a disaster at Boston College on Saturday and Sunday, they should be in the NCAA tournament; they already have wins against Michigan, Arizona and Louisiana-Lafayette, plus a top-30 RPI.

[+] Enlarge
Melanie Mitchell
Virginia Athletics Virginia's Melanie Mitchell is a workhorse ace in the circle.

Cal Poly: By the close of business Sunday, not a single team in the Big West was more than a game above .500, the product of brutal early schedules across the board and balanced competition within the league. But even if there's a lot of the regular season left to play without a conference tournament to eat up the final week, Cal Poly helped its cause immensely with three wins against Cal State Fullerton.

The Broncos -- who went 0-10 out of conference against Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford and Oregon, and are now 18-7 against everyone else -- claimed sole possession of first place with the sweep. First baseman Krysten Cary, outfielder Dana Perez and catcher Stephanie Correia each had at least one hit in all three games, and freshman pitcher Rebecca Patton won two starts to continue a recent hot streak.

The defending conference champions aren't even halfway home in the league yet, but despite five new starters in the lineup this season, the results look familiar.

Oregon: Hopefully I'll have more on Oregon later this week or soon thereafter, but coming off a sweep of Cal over the weekend, the Ducks defended their home turf as well as any team can reasonably hope to with one win in three starts against Washington's Danielle Lawrie.

It doesn't get any easier, with road trips looming to Arizona State, UCLA and Stanford, as well as a home series against Arizona, but even a hard-earned 4-8 record in those games would give the Ducks double-digit conference wins. First-year coach Mike White has to rank near the top of the list for coach-of-the-year honors for the turnaround he's engineered with a young roster. Freshman Jessica Moore closed out the win against Washington and remains fantastic, but full credit goes to sophomore Samantha Skillingstad for five shutout innings to start that game.

Florida State: Sometimes you move the needle in the wrong direction. Already on the fringes of the debate for an NCAA tournament seed, Florida State dropped two of three games at Virginia Tech and needed Sunday's 3-1 win to snap a five-game losing skid.

The Seminoles scored 14 runs in three games against the Hokies, their most in an ACC series not involving Boston College. But the generally stellar pitching duo of Sarah Hamilton and Terese Gober faltered during a week that also included a pair of losses at home against Florida. Opportunities remain with a home series against Georgia Tech and a trip to Virginia, in addition to the ACC tournament, but it looks more and more like Florida State will have to go the unseeded route in the NCAA tournament, possibly through an SEC landing spot like Gainesville, Fla. or Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Graham Hays covers softball for E-mail him at

North Dakota State brings allure to tourney

May, 17, 2009
AMHERST, Mass. -- As one of the early hitchhikers on the South Dakota State bandwagon in women's basketball, I'll admit there's a certain allure to the idea of North Dakota State potentially playing on the biggest of softball stages at the Women's College World Series.

There's just something fun about getting the Dakotas involved in the sporting scene (other than ice hockey, of course). It's like watching the Olympic skier from Azerbaijan or the Faroe Islands' World Cup qualifying entry -- only with the added bonus that the underdog might win.

Then again, for all the hand wringing about when Oklahoma will get back to the event that takes place just a few miles up the road from its campus, it might be equally fun to cover one of the Sooner State's other teams making the trip to Hall of Fame Stadium.

The short of it is that either North Dakota State or Tulsa will be playing in a super regional next week, and that's the kind of thing that makes May worth the effort.

And strange as the words are to type, North Dakota State is in full control of its postseason destiny after finishing off an upset win against Oklahoma on Saturday morning and rallying to beat Tulsa later in the day. Win once more against Tulsa on Sunday and it's on to a super regional.

A shining example of why it's more useful to lose some games early in the season than run through a schedule devoid of postseason material, the Bison played Arizona three times, Kansas twice, Nebraska twice, Creighton twice and Jacksonville State once before opening up in the Summit League. It won only two of those games (one each against Kansas and Creighton), but that's from a program that was playing Bemidji State and New York Tech in Division II as recently as 2004.

And the credit goes to Andi Padilla for the current run. With 125 strikeouts and 110 walks in 232.1 innings this season, Padilla's numbers don't jump off the stat sheet. But the senior, who hadn't pitched more than 52 innings in any of her first three seasons, provided all the quality innings you could hope for in the Norman Regional.

There are still a few games remaining tonight, but since the Courtyard Marriott folks casting curious glances my way may at some point catch on to the fact that I'm not actually staying at their hotel, I'm going to hit a few big Saturday performances and hit the road.

Lisa Sweeney, Lehigh
Trying to get two wins in one day against Florida is less an uphill climb than a 90-degree incline, but Sweeney and Lehigh deserve credit for earning the right to try. For the second time in four years, Fran Troyan's program will play on a regional Sunday with a chance to advance to a super regional. Sweeney drove in a run in a win early Saturday against Florida A&M and then pitched a complete game to beat Texas A&M in the nightcap.

Stacie Chambers, Arizona
At first glance, it seemed perhaps Chambers had finally figured out how to hit the elusive five-run home run in an 18-4 win against Louisville. She's hit every other kind of home run enough times this season to presumably unlock any hidden Easter eggs. As it turned out, her nine RBIs on two hits actually came from mere mortal means, courtesy of two home runs, a sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded walk.

Anna Cahn, Cal Poly
Cahn opened the day by not only shutting out Portland State but outhitting them, picking up three hits to the two she allowed in the circle in a 5-0 win. She turned things over to Helen Pena in the day's second elimination game against Nevada. Pena tossed a complete game, allowing just four hits and one earned run in a 6-1 win.

Lisa Jansen, Mississippi Valley State
Courtesy of the delays that pushed back the schedule in the Tuscaloosa Regional, Mississippi Valley State gets a night to savor the program's first NCAA tournament win since 2004 before squaring off against Texas in an elimination game Sunday morning. Jansen made the one run her team scored stand up, beating Chattanooga with a two-hit shutout. (For more on the game, check out Tommy Deas' coverage of the regional for the Tuscaloosa News).

With Ohio State joining Georgia in the super regionals, it seems a good time to throw out a link to the softball coverage over at, where Andrew Linnehan correctly predicted the Buckeyes would survive.

Following up on Sunday's bracketology, and since my opinion is just that, check out another take with the projections over at Ultimate College Softball.

Now on to a quick look at eight intriguing conference tournaments.

Host: NC State
Top seed: Georgia Tech
Top challenger: Florida State

Georgia Tech in Twitter length
It's a rare combination, but Georgia Tech is both a great power-hitting team and one of the surest fielding teams in the nation.

Sleeper: North Carolina
No real sleepers, only a sub-favorite. And speaking of defense, the Tar Heels had eight errors in six games against Florida State and Georgia Tech. They had 30 errors in their 48 other games.

NCAA spin
Georgia Tech, Florida State and North Carolina are safe, but there could be at least one NCAA seed on the line. With the weakest RPI of the three, Georgia Tech may need to win both the regular season and conference tournament to be among the top 16 in the national bracket.

Host: Stony Brook
Top seed: Stony Brook
Top challenger: Boston University

Stony Brook in Twitter length
Stony Brook led the league in slugging, on-base percentage and ERA, and was second in fielding. It was also last in vulnerabilities.

Sleeper: Albany
Leah McIntosh threw four perfect games this season. Considering she has allowed just 77 hits and 17 walks in 149.1 innings, she also threw a lot of near-perfect games.

NCAA spin
It's a deep, balanced field of contenders, but this remains a one-bid league.

Host: Stetson
Top seed: Campbell
Top challenger: Lipscomb

Campbell in Twitter length
Silenced against North Carolina and East Carolina, the offense put up 27 runs in six games against Lipscomb, Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast.

Sleeper: Mercer
The offense hasn't always been there, but with two of the league's top pitchers in Jenni Holtz and Lacey Richardson, the Bears are built to cause postseason headaches.

NCAA spin
Your guess is as good as mine. All three of the top teams are within a few places of each other in the 50-60 RPI range. Any team that doesn't get to the final is probably out. If two of the three make it to the final, the loser has to hope RPI counts.

Big 12 BIG 12
Host: Neutral (Oklahoma City)
Top seed: Oklahoma
Top challenger: Missouri

Oklahoma in Twitter length
Although it came in limited at-bats, Krystle Huey's .400-plus on-base percentage in Big 12 play added another layer to a potent offense.

Sleeper: Texas
Texas and Oklahoma may have been separated by a full three wins in conference play, but they were also separated by all of about nine singles across the statistical spectrum. On paper, Texas is a team with upside.

NCAA spin
Oklahoma State needs at least a win to shore up its case. Everyone else looks safe, but a title for Oklahoma might help it host any potential super regional.

Host: UTEP
Top seed: Tulsa
Top challenger: East Carolina

Tulsa in Twitter length
Tulsa had the best on-base percentage in Conference USA, but in losing two of three at East Carolina, it walked just twice.

Sleeper: Central Florida
Throw out a loss at Florida (and at 3-0, it wasn't a bad loss in its own right) and UCF was 10-5 in its past 15 games. There's no Allison Kime around this season, but junior Ashleigh Cole has allowed just eight earned runs in her past 37.1 innings (1.50 ERA).

NCAA spin
If Tulsa and East Carolina get to the final, whichever team loses would have a very strong case for an at-large bid. The math may not be as kind to Marshall and Houston, but reaching the final is probably their only hope of at-large consideration.

Host: Butler (neutral field)
Top seed: Illinois-Chicago
Top challenger: Cleveland State

Illinois-Chicago in Twitter length
The Flames came alive at the plate after a tough early schedule. They don't hit for power, but they draw walks and move runners over.

Sleeper: Wright State
Without a senior on the roster, Wright State may just be setting the stage for next season, but behind Justine Shilt and Jamie Perkins, the Raiders hit the ball hard and field it well.

NCAA spin
Only the automatic bid will make it, which is why it's intriguing with so many contenders.

Host: Tennessee
Top seed: Florida
Top challenger: Alabama

Florida in Twitter length
The Gators averaged more than six runs per game in the regular season. Their opponents averaged fewer than six runners per game.

Sleeper: Tennessee
Not exactly going out on a limb with the home team, but the Lady Vols -- fourth in OPS, fifth in ERA and third in fielding percentage -- have the best balance outside of the big three.

NCAA spin
Auburn and Arkansas would cement their profiles with monumental upsets, but getting here was probably enough for both. A win against Alabama in a potential semifinal would solidify Georgia's case for a top-eight national seed.

Host: McNeese State
Top seed: Texas State
Top challenger: McNeese State

Texas State in Twitter length
Texas State went 23-6 during the marathon conference season, losing just one series at home along the way -- against McNeese State.

Sleeper: Nicholls State
Only one pitcher worked more innings in conference play than Nicholls State junior Lacey Gros, who struck out 147 batters in 132 innings.

NCAA spin
Texas State has an at-large case if it doesn't win, but as it learned last season, that's a route that often leads to disappointment for mid-majors.

Georgia's solid weekend adds depth to SEC

March, 8, 2009
What happens when a game of chess breaks out at a softball tournament? Witness the Easton Challenge in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where No. 1 Washington and No. 3 Alabama split a pair of games with identical 6-0 scores that resolved little in the race to the Women's College World Series.

Other than, perhaps, showing that the SEC may be one group of Bulldogs deeper than anticipated.

Washington's Danielle Lawrie and Alabama's Kelsi Dunne both pitched shutouts against the other's team, which means, of course, they didn't get a chance to throw against each other in two games between the Huskies and Crimson Tide. Even against a lineup like Alabama's, Lawrie's four-hit shutout isn't entirely surprising. So perhaps the slight edge in "statements" goes to Dunne, who beat the Huskies with a two-hitter Friday and looks increasingly like a title-caliber ace.

Then again, should the teams meet again in a few months, Dunne will have to figure out what to do with Jenn Salling, who it turns out will be eligible for the Huskies shortly.

Salling's bat may be a welcome addition for Washington, whose offense this season falls closer to timely than prolific. I'd work out exactly how much closer, but the Huskies have disappointingly joined Oklahoma in going behind the veil of secrecy when it comes to posting statistics on their Web site. Suffice to say, take out some offensive explosions against lower-tier teams in Utah State, Portland State and Seattle University, and the Huskies are averaging 4.3 runs per game. That's still championship material, no mistake about it, but it's not quite the run-scoring juggernaut we saw with Arizona State last season (the Sun Devils topped that average in Pac-10 play alone last season).

Meanwhile, while Lawrie held serve in her turn against the Tide, she suffered her first loss of the season in a 2-0 setback against Georgia. That was the Bulldogs' second win against a dominant pitcher, as they handed Baylor freshman Whitney Canion a 9-0 run-rule loss (Canion lasted less than an inning) just a day after Canion battled Lawrie into extra innings in a 1-0 Washington win.

Since executive sports editor Tommy Deas was on hand in Tuscaloosa, check out what one of the best softball voices in the game had to report from his vantage point at the park for the entire event. There is also video available for all of Alabama's games in the event.

• At ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, the venue every team hopes to inhabit at the end of May, Northwestern, Oklahoma and Tennessee offered an early dress rehearsal.

Northwestern had the best weekend, and probably needed it the most, picking up a pair of wins against Tennessee and splitting a pair against Oklahoma. The Lady Vols couldn't solve the Wildcats but had no such trouble taking two from the Sooners, including one in Norman. As the math plays out, that means it wasn't a great weekend for the Big 12 favorite playing on or near its home turf.

More than the results, what stands out about the games in Oklahoma are the scores. Only once, in Northwestern's 1-0 win against Oklahoma on Sunday, did any of the teams register a shutout. The losing teams combined to score 15 runs in six games.

And it's not just those three teams. It seems that when college softball reconvenes at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, offense may matter more than ever.

Conference play kicked off in a number of leagues around the country, at least for those teams not otherwise engaged in tournaments.

Conference USA There's conversation every season about whether or not Oklahoma will make the short trip from Norman to Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series, but how about an intrastate showdown at the college game's signature event? All right, we're a long way from penciling in Tulsa for a trip to the final eight, but the Golden Hurricane cemented a strong start to the season by sweeping three from Central Florida.

An at-large entrant in last season's NCAA tournament (they were swept out of a regional in Norman by Oregon and Arkansas), Tulsa returned both primary pitchers and seven of the nine players in its batting order during that postseason run. Sophomore Jordan Kinard starred Saturday, striking out 13 against just one walk in a 7-2 win. Perseverance might be the better description of junior Jackie Lawrence (an Indiana native, in what will be a theme this week) earning the win in an 11-inning 7-6 win to open the three-game series, but she's a proven workhorse in the circle.

And as the run totals suggest, it's not as if the Golden Hurricane need shutouts. The team totaled just 33 home runs in 58 games last season, 15 of which came off the bat of Lauren Lindsay. She's at it again with five this season, but her teammates have tacked on nine more through 21 games, halfway to their total in support of the slugger last season.

SEC Kentucky dropped its three-game series at LSU but did earn a road win Saturday. The Wildcats won only three conference games all of last season, and while all three came away from Lexington, taking a game in Baton Rouge is a notable way to continue a campaign that has already featured wins against Oregon, Hawaii, UNLV and San Diego State.

Freshman Chanda Bell earned the win in relief against LSU after she took the loss in the first game of the day's doubleheader despite 10 strikeouts. Home runs from Rachel Mitchell and Ashley Langoni provided all of LSU's runs in that opening 3-2 win, as homers have been a bugaboo for Bell (nine allowed in 59.1 innings). But with 79 strikeouts and a .182 batting-average against entering Sunday's finale, the native Hoosier seems to be further proof that Fresno State's Morgan Melloh isn't the only quality pitching export the state of Indiana has provided recently.