Chat with Garland Cooper and Graham Hays!
A three-time Big Ten Player of the Year winner and ESPN.com All-American during her career at Northwestern, Cooper is now the voice of prep softball for ESPN RISE. She has also played professional softball in Japan the past two years. Hays covers college softball, women's college basketball and women's college soccer for ESPN.com.
With the postseason upon us and trips to Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series on the line, now is the time to talk softball. Stop by to share your opinion or drop in a question for Garland or Graham at 2 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Garland Cooper (2:01 PM)
Hey everyone, thanks for coming to chat with us! I'll get it started today, so let's talk some softball!
Garland - I'm taking my daughter's team (12 and 13 year olds) to the games here in Ann Arbor. What are some things I can point out to them to watch during the games? What are some small things that top college players might do?
Garland Cooper (2:03 PM)
This will be such a great experience for those girls! I remember going to see UCLA play with my dad years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday! Tell them to soak everything in and hear the sounds and see the sights at the field. It is always interesting to see how teams cope when things get hard and tell them to pay attention to the interaction between the team and how they stay focused. Also, these girls will be playing hard, so just tell them to pay attention to the girls "going all out" to make every play. That stadium is one of the best!
Let's get it out of the way, Garland, who are you picking to win it all?
Garland Cooper (2:06 PM)
I'm not usually one to pick the No.1 team to win, I'm an underdog kinda gal, but I have to say that Florida is my pick. They have the experience, they have the pitching, and they have the offense. They seem to be the most complete team and the most together team at this point. They also have won 125 of their last 133 games. Who will give them a run for their money? I'm going to say Washington. I think they are well coached and Lawrie is one of the best out there and has pitched in the WCWS.
Garland- players in the pros always talk about how the game feels different in the playoffs. did you really notice a difference between the intensity between the regular season and regionals?
Garland Cooper (2:08 PM)
I always like to think that I play the same in every game, but there is just something about playoffs that makes an athlete step up their game. Maybe it is the adrenaline, but I definitely think the intensity in playoffs is much greater than the regular season. So many times we see athletes doing there best when it comes down the wire, and that is just further proof! The game is just the game and it is always the same, but playoffs puts some extra butterflies in your stomach, the stakes are higher, and everyone wants to be the last team standing.
Gregg (Jefferson City, MO)
Do you think Northwestern can make it to the World Series? They have played some tough competition this year which might help them this weekend.
Garland Cooper (2:11 PM)
Of course, I am always a Northwestern fan but I will be the first to say that their route to the WCWS this year is one of the toughest. First of all, they have not shown strength in their last games of the season, which can't be good for the confidence of the team. I think that if everyone is on their game, that team can win. However, this regional is a tough one and really any of those teams could upset NU if they don't find themselves this week and start playing like they can.
Shane (Lewiston, ID)
Who do you think will rise up as the dominate pitcher in this years series? Any upset projections?
Garland Cooper (2:13 PM)
I'm expecting big things from Lawrie and Nelson. Both of these teams have had a taste of the WCWS before and both are dominant on the mound. They have the experience needed to go all the way and they both have the skills to shut down any team's offense.
How much scouting really goes on in the few days before regionals? Do teams have times to really learn the opposing pitchers from teams they probably haven't faced all year?9
Garland Cooper (2:16 PM)
The teams will try and scout as much as they can. It will definitely be last minute, but they will call other teams searching for information. Many of the teams will prepare for the teams they believe they will most likely face. From there, they will concentrate on the pitcher who they think will give them the most trouble. I think that these teams are absolutely studying up and preparing for this weekend's regional games. These teams will do anything they can to get the edge in the postseason.
Did your teams at Northwestern ever lose the first game of a regional? How hard is it to regroup and get through the bracket after that?
Garland Cooper (2:18 PM)
I can't remember off the top of my head if lost a first game in a regional, but I remember several close games and comebacks. In a super regional against UMass we lost our first game in the best two out of three series. The next day we played a double header and was behind in both games before winning and advancing to the WCWS. The postseason is the perfect time for teams to show their dramatic side and when it comes down to it, anyone can win and comebacks are not unusual.
Which of the national seeds do you think are the most likely to be upset in the regionals?
Garland Cooper (2:24 PM)
I think that the seeds with the toughest route are: Arizona State, UCLA, and Northwestern. Of all the teams that are seeded, I think these might be the most likely to be upset. Northwestern has been shaky leading up to this point and they have Baylor and La. Lafayette at their regional. ASU is in good shape with Cochran leading their squad, but all three of the teams in that regional, SDSU, Cal State Fullerton, and LSU are quality teams. Finally, UCLA gets to play at home like ASU and that just might give them enough of an edge, but Fresno is well coached as is UNLV and Long Beach State. Those seeds will have to work the hardest in my opinion.
Garland Cooper (2:25 PM)
Alright, I'm going to pass things off to Graham now, thanks for chatting!
Graham Hays (2:25 PM)
Thanks, Garland. Although if I'm following Garland in the order, you all really should have intentionally walked her. I'm a much easier out.
Graham Hays (2:26 PM)
46.5 hours until the first pitch, but who is counting?
Ian (Gainesville, FL)
What type of role do you see Florida's Stephanie Brombacher playing in the tournament and who do you think is Florida's best hitter?
Graham Hays (2:28 PM)
Good question. I'd also like to know how many teams that are in this tournament would love to have Brombacher as their No. 1. My hunch is more than half, easy. But as good as she is as a sophomore, I don't imagine she's going to see many innings at this point. She was a little shaky in her start against Tennessee in the SEC tournament and Walton went to Nelson right away. I could see her maybe starting the opener against Florida A&M, but that's about it. Still, nice to know you've got her for the next two years when Nelson moves on.
Mike (Amherst, Ma)
Hi Guys, What do you think Umass' chances are to advance to the Super Regionals past Washington?
Graham Hays (2:32 PM)
That's where I'll be this weekend, and I'm looking forward to it. To me, UMass is one of the best unseeded teams in the field, right there with Missouri, ULL and a couple of others. That said, this isn't a great draw for them in terms of pulling the upset; I imagine they were probably hoping to get more in the 8-12 seed range as a visitor. I think Washington could survive coming through the loser's side, while I don't see UMass being able to do the same on Sunday, so if they get there, that first meeting on Friday may decide the whole thing.
Steve (Charleston, SC)
Do you see any mid-majors having a shot at an upset to the super regionals this year? NCAA-experienced teams like Canisius from the MAAC (3 straight appearances) could give the top teams a run in some regionals. Thanks!
Graham Hays (2:34 PM)
Creighton has a shot. Oh wait, Creighton isn't in the field. Someone still needs to explain that decision to me. Of the mid-majors (not counting the MWC, WAC and Big West), Jacksonville State is the best bet. Tennessee's pitching has been more down than up recently, and the Gamecocks are a nice, balanced team that won't fear Knoxville after competing so well in Tuscaloosa last year. I don't think Radford is nearly as good a bet, but I'm interested to see what they can come up with in Chapel Hill.
Thoughts on the Tallahassee regional?
Graham Hays (2:37 PM)
The frequent flier regional? Florida State has the two best pitchers in the regional by a wide margin, and that's a nice perk to have on your side. I think Mississippi State and Oklahoma State would need better pitching performances than anyone could reasonably predict, but Cal is the intriguing team. The Seminoles aren't a great offensive team, especially once you get past Carly Wynn and Kayleigh Rafter, so if Cal's pitchers can avoid giving the Seminoles free runners -- and that's been an issue for the Bears all season -- the Pac-10 team definitely has the talent to come away with the win. But when all is said and done, I think FSU just has too much pitching to lose this one.
Paul (Albany, OR)
Only partially tournament related, but what is it going to take for Oregon State to return to the tournament? Their pitching is not holding up well in Pac 10 play.
Graham Hays (2:40 PM)
Both of those jobs, Oregon and Oregon State, are probably going to get progressively tougher as more and more Big 12, SEC, Big Ten, etc. programs start siphoning off more and more talent from the left coast. You may be looking at an Indiana basketball situation, where expectations are going to exceed realistic goals. I honestly don't know what, if anything, they have coming in recruiting-wise, but you can get to the NCAA tournament with Hall and Dyer. Getting back to the WCWS might be a stretch, though.
What do you think about the fact that only 1 team east of the Mississippi has ever won an NCAA softball title, yet the SEC has a record 9 teams in the field this year?
Graham Hays (2:42 PM)
Is that called stirring the pot? The whole SEC thing has been one of the themes all year and will continue to be so. And if teams like Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State don't at least make an impression in regionals, you're going to hear some chortling from the Pac-10 community. I did feel like the SEC's RPI was a touch out of whack this season, but from top to bottom, it's really hard to argue that any conference -- including the Pac-10 -- was definitively better this year.
Ben (Los Alamitos, CA)
Which No. 4 seeds have the best chance at pulling off an upset in the first batch of games?
Graham Hays (2:46 PM)
San Diego State. I'm not so sure that the Aztecs aren't the second-best team in Tempe, ahead of both LSU and Fullerton. The offense isn't necessarily going to get anyone excited, but they've got two good pitchers in Beasley and Micetich and they've got some depth.
Graham Hays (2:46 PM)
Texas State is another intriguing fourth seed, but yikes, that's about as tough a road as a team could have to travel in Waco.
Jonathan (Columbus, OH)
The Buckeyes look like a program on the rise. 44-9, most wins in program history. What chance does the powerful all-american catcher, Sam Marder, have, in leading her Lady Buckeyes to their first WCWS ever?
Graham Hays (2:50 PM)
A very good chance. Kentucky is playing really well at the moment, so they may not be able to cruise through their regional (BYU can be a troublemaker, too), but this is a good draw for the Buckeyes. Georgia has its own tough regional, playing on the road in Chapel Hill, but should the two seeds meet in a super, the two teams match up pretty evenly. I might even give OSU the sight pitching edge in that one with Reeder and Bodeker. If you're talking about a double-digit seed with a chance to make it to the WCWS, the Buckeyes are better positioned than anyone.
Tom (Westin, MA)
Do you feel too much emphasis was placed on RPI? In terms of selections and seedings
Graham Hays (2:52 PM)
I always think too much emphasis is placed on RPI. In the sports I cover, I just don't think it's a refined enough tool in soccer and softball to be used without a great deal of caution. And I'm not sure it always is. But that said, and as much as I thought Creighton deserved to be in, it's tough to find a lot of gripes about the bracket. All in all, it was a nice job.
Jeff (Seattle, WA)
I was very disappointed that the Washington Huskies were shipped to Amherst, MA for their regional. I heard that the reason was because Husky Softabll Stadium doesn't have lights for night games. Does this mean there's no chance of them hosing a super-regional? And isn't that unfair to a team seeded #3 nationally?
Graham Hays (2:53 PM)
No, the lights requirement, which is new this season, is only in place for regionals. Teams can still host super regionals without lights.
Danny (Long Beach, CA)
Hey Graham, I would like to get your thoughts on the Los Angeles Regional, but more specifically, the UCLA-Long Beach State game. Brooke Turner has a history of pitching well against UCLA and recorded an upset win over the Bruins earlier this season. UCLA is the heavy favorite to come out of this region, but what needs to happen for the 49ers to pull off a shocker in the opening game?
Graham Hays (2:57 PM)
It's definitely not the same kind of opening game as Florida, Alabama and Washington get. I haven't read anything from out in Long Beach, but I guess I'd assume Turner still gets the nod in that game, despite how well Petty pitched this season. Maybe oddly, I think the earlier result could actually work against the 49ers. Not that the Bruins were likely to overlook a program they know as well as they know Long Beach, but you know they're going to come in with an extra chip on the shoulder now. If you've got pitching, you've got a chance, but I wouldn't be on high upset alert.
Jay (Cape Coral, FL
With possible division rematches in the semis of the World Series, who holds the advantage with having already played one another - FL or AL, UCLA or Wash.?
Graham Hays (3:00 PM)
I'm not sure, to be honest. It's one of those things that probably evens out. Alabama definitely seemed to come out of the SEC final with some confidence they can get to Nelson, but at the same time, the Gators know they beat the Tide three out of four, so is it a push? Same for UCLA and Washington, really. They played two tight games when Lawrie pitched.
Graham Hays (3:00 PM)
All right, I seem to have gone a little long. Shocking that I'd be long-winded, I know. Thanks for chatting. Hopefully we'll do it again next Tuesday after regionals! Enjoy the games!