Such was the phrase ringing in my head upon hearing him ask me, “Aren’t you tired of watching college softball?” I held my head in my hands as I shrugged at the remark while watching No. 2 Alabama was face a 9-2 deficit against No. 4 Florida in the elimination game Sunday night.
I have been obsessed with the sport of softball for the three weeks that ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU have been broadcasting the Women’s College World Series. So obsessed, in fact, that I will not go out with you to the bar. I will schedule my other game coverage around Alabama. I have been content to plop myself down on my futon and leave only to grab some Gatorade and a tuna sandwich.
This past Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the double-elimination rounds. Eight teams were whittled down to four and four down to the final two for the championship.
Alabama, Baylor, Arizona State and Florida all won their opening games to start out (1-0) over California, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Missouri, respectively. But here it was, Sunday night at 9:35 p.m., a smile long-gone from my face, as Alabama was trailing Florida by seven runs with its final three outs left against Gator freshman pitcher Hannah Rogers.
With Whitney Larsen at the plate, Rogers made a mistake and saw Larsen triple down the right field line to score Jennifer Fenton and get ‘Bama across for its first run of game 2. Earlier in the inning, Jackie Traina walked putting runners at the corners for the Crimson Tide. Jazlyn Lunceford struck out, Cassie Reilly-Boccia singled to center field, and Keima Davis, pinch running for Traina, advanced to second as Larsen came home for a 9-2 score.
Perhaps a little momentum could go a long way for Alabama.
The Tide’s Kaila Hunt reached on a fielder’s choice, forcing Reilly-Boccia for the second out. With Davis advancing to third, Alabama faced its final out. Florida’s Hanna Rogers turned Alabama’s Kendall Dawson into Gator bait with a strikeout as Florida won.
All Alabama needed to do was beat Florida to secure their spot in the championship. The Crimson Tide beat Cal 1-0 on Thursday and Baylor 3-0 on Friday, going 2-0. Florida lost 6-5 on an Arizona State walk-off Friday night and was one loss away from being eliminated from the tournament.
Sunday was ‘Bama’s day to toss the Gators and move ahead. But instead, they themselves were demoralized in game 1, losing 16-2, forcing the ‘if necessary’ where Alabama was ultimately taken out of contention.
It was never a day for optimism for Tide fans, as Alabama faced an 11-0 deficit in the first inning of Game 1, the most runs ever scored in the first inning of a Women’s College World Series game.
Alabama senior pitcher Kelsi Dunne probably gave the best performance of her career Thursday night in her win over Cal, but on Sunday she played her worst, and freshman Traina couldn’t help either. The Gators smacked a home run, walked to score several runs with the bases juiced and for good measure, Brittany Schutte hit a grand slam to all but seal Alabama’s fate.
‘Bama’s two runs came from homers by Lunceford and Larsen, but Alabama played uncharacteristically poor softball.
Six runs were the most the Crimson Tide had allowed in a game all year, and Sunday they gave up 16 to Florida in the first game of the day. Dunne, Traina and freshman Lauren Sewell each pitched and combined for 4.0 innings while allowing eight hits, eight walks and merely struck out two with 29 batters faced. Florida senior Stephanie Brombacher threw 5.0 innings, allowed three hits, two runs, zero walks and earned seven strikeouts while facing 18 batters.
An SEC team is still in this, as Florida, the 2009 runner-ups to the University of Washington Huskies, are seeking their first (and the SEC’s first) WCWS title.
No. 1 Arizona State University, boasting 58 victories and backed behind freshman star, Dallas Escobedo, is chasing their second chance to hold the trophy after doing so in 2008.
Monday night at 8 p.m. ET will be a pitcher’s duel, between, most likely, freshmen Rogers and Escobedo.
Either the Gators will chomp their way to a historical victory or the ASU Devils will raise their pitchforks high in the Oklahoma City air.
You best believe that I will be stuck on my futon for the next two, possibly three days.
I feel like I should be yet another tool to give out a draft grade. Therefore I will grade the Patriots. I have been watching the Patriots since I moved to Connecticut from Alabama in 1992. (Side note, I HATE how the New York Jets drafted Alabama’s former quarterback, Greg McElroy. That made me sad).
I love football, but what the NFL draft has become, a spectacle after the meat-market that is the televised NFL scouting combine, is a flash and flare party which sees men who have never taken a snap in the National Football League take their first steps toward garnering $40 million signing bonus’ who later turn out to be the next Ryan Leaf.
In short, it upsets me. It is unnecessarily exhibited and covered by men who can’t seem to do anything but yell at me over the television screen. I understand the player has great “football smarts,” but you’ve yelled it at me for the past eight picks. It’s a wonder any of these players ever fails. So “tool upon tool” is screaming letter grades at me like these teams just took an exam. I will be joining the ranks of them, providing you a letter grade at the end of this and oh, by the way, I’m sorry in advance for my weakness.
That said the draft is a necessity for the business of building a football team. There are a lot of teams who drafted well because they drafted needs. The Patriots last year had an exceptional draft, fixing gaping holes at the tight end and defensive back positions. This past season, both improved exponentially (especially at tight end) and the only glaring hole was the need for a pass rusher and offensive line help. Before I begin let it be known that even though I may like some of the players New England drafted (as made obvious with my pick by pick coverage) that does not mean I feel they were smart picks in some cases.
The Patriots’ first pick was offensive tackle Nate Solder from Colorado. Given the futures of Matt Light and Logan Mankins with the team, this was a very good pick. However after that, New England’s draft went downhill. They did nothing at all to address the pass rush, even with several on the board.
With the first overall pick of the second round, they drafted Ras-I Dowling, a cornerback from Virginia. I liked this pick because I thought New England could still add good pass rush depth later in the second round, given the talent still out there. Even with Leigh Bodden coming back, Dowling could provide very capable help at the lower end of the depth chart in his first year, and could prove to be a very valuable special-teamer immediately.
After that it got bad. The Patriots drafted two running backs in a row even though BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a fantastic year and Danny Woodhead took over the Kevin Faulk role. Yes, New England needed a little more depth at that position, but one of those picks (preferably the earlier, Shane Vereen pick) should have been a pass-rusher.
Picking Ryan Mallett was a great selection, as I believe New England got a steal. Mallett could also prove to be great trade bait in a few years if Tom Brady is still racking up great numbers. A guy like Mallett won’t sit as a backup for long, not with his potential.
In the fifth round New England drafted TCU’s Marcus Cannon, an offensive lineman who dropped to round five because of a very recent cancer diagnosis. His prognosis is excellent, and doctors anticipate a recovery very soon. If he can play up to his potential in a year or two, he will have been a good steal.
The Patriots finished the draft with Markell Carter, an outside linebacker from Central Arkansas and Malcolm Williams, a defensive back from TCU. Size-wise, Carter fits the profile of the type of linebacker New England loves. I hope he proves to be a fantastic player down the road, but for now, he’s simply a sixth round pick.
The Patriots had a need, and did not address it, even with all the available needs. They added more picks for next year via trades, but the time for stockpiling picks is over. This year it was time to cash in and the Patriots didn’t do it. More than likely one of those running back picks is going to turn out to be a wasted pick. There’s only so much playing time for a running back with Ellis and Woodhead playing. There was no reason not to pick a pass rusher in that situation.
I used to give the Pats the benefit of the doubt, but for the past few years, one of the needs has been the same and New England has done little to address it. New York’s Mark Sanchez kept his jersey very clean during the playoff matchup with New England and that’s ultimately what ended up costing Tom Brady and Co. another shot at a title. If the Patriots cannot get to the quarterback, no regular season record is going to change the fact that in the playoffs, they’re going to get burned.
Patriots draft grade (according to me, who’s opinion really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but here at Noontime Sports it does): C
The head coach of the University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team, John Calipari apparently had some interesting words for one of his players Tuesday, but should swearing be allowed on the sidelines of any college sports event? Send us an email (NoontimeSports@gmail.com) and share your thoughts!