Huskies headed to Oklahoma City
Friday brought the second postponement of the super regional round, with No. 4 Texas and Florida State washed out in Austin, but also the first ticket to the Women's College World Series. Here's a quick look at the action in the Columbia, Knoxville and Norman super regionals. More on the opening game in Ann Arbor is here.
Columbia Super Regional
Game 2: No. 11 Washington 1, No. 6 Missouri 0
What happened: Missouri ran into the wrong two pitchers at the wrong time for the second year in a row. Washington's Bryana Walker and Kaitlin Inglesby combined to shut out the No. 6 seed and secure a World Series berth, a day after Inglesby held the hosts to a single run in a win. In its past five super regional games, three against LSU last season and two this season against Washington, Missouri produced a grand total of three extra-base hits. It had only one in two games against the Huskies, which is one fewer than Washington outfielder Victoria Hayward had. The hero with a double in the eighth inning in Game 1, her home run in the first inning Friday held up as the game's only run. For the second week in a row, Missouri ace Chelsea Thomas was very good in the second of back-to-back starts. For the second year in a row, she didn't get much help.
Player of note: What Hayward and the pitchers did in Columbia shows up in the box scores. That isn't true of the play Kylee Lahners made to rob a home run in the first inning of Friday's game, timing her jump to perfection and pulling Mackenzie Sykes' blast back from over the fence. Washington was the Pac-12's best defense this season and made fantastic play after fantastic play in Columbia. That includes an outfield gem from a converted infielder in Lahners.
What's next: Washington returns to the Women's College World Series for the fourth time under coach Heather Tarr but the first time without Danielle Lawrie, the two-time USA Softball Player of the Year and ace of the 2009 national championship team. The Huskies will meet the winner of the Eugene Super Regional, either No. 14 Nebraska or a Pac-12 rematch with No. 3 Oregon, in their first game in Oklahoma City. The Ducks won two of three in Seattle in March.
Knoxville Super Regional
Game 1: No. 7 Tennessee 3, No. 10 Alabama 2
What happened: For the third time in four games between the teams this season, Tennessee walked away with a one-run win. In those four games, Alabama left 34 runners on base. That's a little misleading, because it left 11 runners on base in its lone win, a 7-1 result, but the fact remains Tennessee got the hits it needed, and Alabama did not. Friday, it was Tennessee's Cheyenne Tarango delivering a two-out, two-run single in the third inning to break a 1-1 tie. Alabama rallied in the fourth inning, but after Haylie McCleney greeted reliever Ivy Renfroe with an RBI double, Renfroe retired 10 of the final 12 batters she faced.
Player of note: Here's the list of Tennessee players who hit home runs during eight games in the regional and super regional rounds last season: Madison Shipman. And we're done. Now, Tennessee won enough of those games to get to Oklahoma City, so it wasn't complaining, but it's nice to have quick-strike capability. The Lady Vols have power from Shipman and SEC player of the year Lauren Gibson, but they also have 35 home runs from other players (compared to 22 a season ago). Odds are Hannah Akamine won't hit another home run this postseason, but she hit one Friday that pulled her team even at 1 in the second inning. That continues to be a difference for this team.
What's next: History isn't on Alabama's side as it looks to become just the fifth road team to lose the first game of a super regional and still advance to the World Series. Oregon did it last season at Texas, in addition to Hawaii at Alabama in 2010, Arizona at Stanford in 2009 and Virginia Tech at Michigan in 2008 (although that second one will certainly remind Crimson Tide seniors that it's possible). Alabama is not a one-pitcher team like Missouri -- Leslie Jury had a good sophomore season and could more than credibly start a game if needed. But there is still a lot riding on how Jackie Traina fares pitching on back-to-back days. She was good Friday, which is at least a positive first step.
Norman Super Regional
Game 1: No. 1 Oklahoma 10, No. 16 Texas A&M 2
What happened: If you find out, you might want to let Texas A&M know, too. The Aggies have to be a little stunned. One minute they were down 3-2 in the sixth inning of a competitive, compelling game. In what seemed like the next minute, Keilani Ricketts was landing on home plate to punctuate Oklahoma's 10-2 run-rule win. The Aggies lived up to their reputation with a pair of home runs against Ricketts, who had given up just eight all season, but they managed just one walk and one other hit against the ace, meaning Cali Lanphear and Meagan May were only able to do the minimum possible damage with solo home runs in the third and fourth innings, respectively. The Sooners already have 23 run-rule wins this season. UCLA in 2010 and Arizona State in 2011 have the most of any champions in the super regional era with 22.
Player of note: Amid all the power in Oklahoma's lineup, how can you not love Brianna Turang? The senior has been running since pretty much before Labor Day (she also played soccer for the Sooners), and she isn't showing any signs of slowing down. She had three hits against the Aggies, including her fourth extra-base hit of the season, and scored a pair of runs. She's hitting .420 -- and batting ninth. Effectively a second leadoff hitter once the Sooners get through the lineup the first time, she's having a season to remember, mostly one base at a time.
What's next: Texas A&M is a very good team with a lineup that has the power and potential to produce a lot of runs. But there's no use sugarcoating it. The task ahead is Herculean. Oklahoma last lost two games in a row in the championship series against Alabama a season ago, but Traina at least had a day between starts. Get even one win and either Melissa Dumezich will have to pitch for the third time in about 24 hours or the Aggies will have to roll the dice with someone else. For Oklahoma, coach Patty Gasso may just prefer Michelle Gascoigne as a dedicated reliever at this point, but if the senior is going to get a postseason start, Game 2 seems the most likely bet.
The weather delay in Austin means fully half of the super regionals don't start until Saturday, which is a nice advantage for Washington and a recipe for serious scheduling headaches if there are more weather issues.
Saturday's opening games: No. 2 Florida vs. UAB (ESPNU, 1 p.m. ET), No. 4 Texas vs. Florida State (ESPNU, 3 p.m.), No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 14 Nebraska (ESPNU, 8 p.m.), No. 5 Arizona State vs. No. 12 Kentucky (ESPN2, 10 p.m.)