Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Road to OKC: Super Regional Preview

The Hokies are two wins away from returning to Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series. After winning the Knoxville Regional with a Metallica-inspired 4-2 win over Tennessee Sunday, the Hokies travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., for a best-of-three series with the Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan has become a softball powerhouse the last few years. However, they have not made the WCWS since winning the national championship in 2005. They have lost in a Super Regional each of the last two seasons. However, this season is different because for the first time since 2005, the Wolverines are hosting the Super Regional.

The Wolverines are the No. 4 national seed in the NCAA Tournament and ranked No. 6 in the coaches poll.

Michigan Wolverines (51-6)

How they got here: Earned an at-large bid out of the Big Ten conference and were given the No. 4 national seed in the tournament. Michigan went 3-0 in the Ann Arbor regional, easily beating Wright State, Notre Dame and Kent State.

Hitting: Michigan features one of the most feared hitters in college softball in 1B Samantha Findlay. She is best known for hitting a championship-winning, three-run home run to beat UCLA in the 10th inning of game three in the championship series as a freshman in 2005. This year, she leads the team in almost every significant statistical category including hitting (.401), home runs (21) and RBIs (69). At the end of the regular season, the Wolverines were batting .302, 29th in the NCAA. Their 5.39 runs per game is ranked 24th.

Pitching: Michigan finished the regular season with the best pitching staff in the nation with a 0.78 ERA. Freshman Jordan Taylor is 30-3, 0.70 and sophomore Nikki Nemitz is 21-3, 0.97. Together, they account for every inning pitched by a Wolverine this season.

Notes:
In 2005, became the first school east of the Mississippi and the first cold-weather school to win the national title...Wolverines are 12-2 at home this season with losses to Northwestern and Iowa.

Analysis

This won't be easy. Expect runs to be at a premium as the best pitcher in the nation (Tech's Angela Tincher) faces the nation's best pitching staff (Taylor and Nemitz). What worries me is that the Michigan pitchers don't give up a lot of home runs. Taylor gave up eight in 210.0 innings and Nemitz gave up four in 174.0 innings. The Hokies tend to score runs on home runs. They scored 10 runs in Knoxville and eight of them came on homers. The Hokies will need to succeed more when playing small ball. They've left a lot of runners on base in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.

Fair or not, this will probably come down to Tincher. She's not going to have a lot of room for error and one run may be too many for the Hokie offense to compensate for. The key will be every time Tincher faces Findlay. She's drives the Wolverine offense and Tincher has to keep her from doing damage.

The schedule favors Michigan's ability to use two pitchers. The Hokies will likely use Tincher in all three games and if Game 3 is necessary, it will mean she has to pitch three games in two days.

Schedule

Hokies at Michigan Wolverines
Wilpon Complex at Alumni Field
Ann Arbor, Mich.
All Times EDT

Game 1 - Sat., May 24 - Noon (ESPN)
Game 2 - Sun., May 25 - 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3 - Sun., May 25 - 3 p.m. (If necessary - ESPN)

Super Regional Information
NCAA Tournament Bracket

1 comment:

Tanveer Iqbal said...
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