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NCAA softball: Three Pac-12 teams head to super regionals

May 19, 2013

The Pac-12 is sending three teams to the NCAA softball super regionals after regional play wrapped up Sunday across the country. Oregon, Washington and Arizona State are heading to softball's sweet 16, while Cal, Stanford and UCLA have been eliminated from championship contention.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"3533","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft size-full wp-image-4664","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","alt":"washingtonbloglogo"}}]]Remember Washington's offensive struggles on Friday and Saturday? Neither did the Huskies, who became the second Pac-12 team to advance to the super regionals after run-ruling Hawai'i 8-0 in five innings Sunday afternoon in the Seattle regional championship. The offense came from all places, as seven Huskies recorded a hit. Kaitlin Inglesby finished a great all-around weekend by going 3-3 with two-run jack, while Jennie McNeill also went 3-3 at the-- hold up, did I forget to mention what Bryana Walker did in the circle?

The 11th-seeded Huskies will now face sixth-seeded Missouri in Columbia in the super regionals. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"3541","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft size-full wp-image-4673","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","alt":"asubloglogo"}}]]Sunday afternoon was just another case of Dallas Escobedo being Dallas Escobedo. The junior hurler was dominant again in the circle with what the ESPNU crew described as a rambunctious riseball, giving up just three hits and no walks to pace Arizona State to a 2-o victory over Georgia and a regional championship to boot. Let's review what Escobedo did this weekend: 21 innings pitched, four hits, two unearned runs, and four walks against 21 strikeouts. Insert Escobedo love here:

It wasn't ALL Escobedo though. The Forks tacked on their two runs in the top of the first (designated road team for this one) thanks to an RBI bloop-double by Amber Freeman and a real-deal Holyfield double off the bat of Haley Steele to bring in Freeman. That would be all the offense Arizona State needed, and the Sun Devils beat Georgia by a 2-0 count for the second day in a row. Next up for Arizona State is a best-of-3 series with 12th-seeded Kentucky in another SEC/Pac-12 tussle to determine a spot in the Women's College World Series.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"3540","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft size-full wp-image-4672","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","alt":"californiabloglogo"}}]]Needing two wins to advance out of the Ann Arbor regional, the Golden Bears were stopped in the first game by Michigan 3-1 in a closely-contested battle. Cal had its chances in this one — especially in the second inning when the first four hitters reached base and did not score a single run. Michigan would make 'em pay in the next half-inning via a two-out, two-run double by B1G Player of the Year Sierra Romero, a freshman who earlier this year set the Michigan single-season record for home runs by a player. Cheyenne Cordes provided the Golden Bears with their only run of the game when she blasted at Sara Driesenga offering up in the zone over the left-field fence. She would later come to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and two runners on, just missing out on a walk-off homer as her fly ball landed in the glove of right fielder Nicole Sappingfield at the warning track. The loss wrapped up the season for Cal and ended the stellar career of pitcher Jolene Henderson, who got some props from ESPNU after the game:

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"3535","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft size-full wp-image-4667","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","alt":"uclabloglogo"}}]]It looked like the Bruins were going to face the same fate of the Golden Bears and be eliminated in the first game of the regional championship as well. After having a runner thrown out at home earlier in the game, UCLA was trailing 1-0 to UAB and down to its final six outs when Ally Carda went yard to lead off the bottom of the sixth to tie things up. The floodgates opened up from there as the Bruins tacked on three more, thanks to back-to-back run-producing singles from Devon Lindvall and Gracie Goulder. Jessica Hall pitched a perfect seventh, and UCLA forced another game with its 4-1 defeat of UAB, getting some revenge from a 6-3 loss they suffered to the Blazers on Friday.

This set the table for an epic of a do-or-die game for the Blazers and Bruins. UCLA had two runners thrown out at home. UAB could not walk off in the bottom of the seventh with a runner on third and one out. The end of regulation innings was just the beginning of the drama, because there was another six innings of softball to come. At the end of the day, it was a heartbreaking loss for UCLA, falling to Baylor 3-2 on a game-winning triple off the bat of the Blazers' Whitney Fletcher. This one will sting for a while in Westwood. UCLA outhit UAB 16-4 but left 18 runners on base, including stranding all ducks on the pond in a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the top of the 13th:

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"3536","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft size-full wp-image-4668","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","alt":"stanfordbloglogo"}}]]Multiple weather delays made for a long day in Lincoln, Neb. They also might have killed some of Stanford's momentum. Either way, Stanford was unable to hold onto a 3-1 lead, eventually losing to the Huskers 10-5  in the Lincoln regional championship. Nebraska attacked for five runs in the fifth (two of which came after a 32-minute weather delay) and four more in the sixth to break things open in front of the home crowd (even though Nebraska was the designated "road" team batting in the top half of innings). The Huskers capitalized on Stanford's defensive mistakes, turning three Cardinal errors into six unearned runs. In the end, unearned runs turned out to be the defense, as the Card gave up five more unearned tallies than the Huskers. John Rittman's club ends the season 39 up and 21 down after making a regional final for the third consecutive year.

Super regional action runs Thursday-Sunday, and the Pac-12 Post will keep the recaps rollin'.