In a heavy weight battle, Baylor and Georgia exchanged punches, but the Lady Bears advanced to their third Women’s College World Series with a 6-3 win over the Bulldogs Saturday at Jack Turner Stadium.
Baylor (47-14), the No. 13 seed, trailed 3-2 headed into the bottom of the fifth inning before Linsey Hays hit the go-ahead two-run homer deep over the rightfield wall that proved to be the game winner. As has been done her whole career, Whitney Canion battled through a 169-pitch effort to pick up her 31st win of the season and help carry the Lady Bears to their third WCWS appearance since 2007.
The last time BU went to Oklahoma City was also via Athens, Georgia when Baylor beat the Bulldogs in three games. This time, after Baylor’s 9-1 win Friday, the Lady Bears closed the door in two games, once again on the road, stunning the No. 4 seeded Bulldogs.
Georgia scored a run in the first, fourth and fifth innings and threatened all afternoon long, but in the end Canion stranded 12 UGA base runners nixing any big innings.
Canion scattered eight hits, walked five and struck out seven to tie Cristin Vitek’s (2004) and her own (2011) single-season record for 31 wins in a season.
Baylor added the final nail in the coffin scoring two runs on three Georgia (49-15) errors in the bottom of the sixth as the game became unraveled for the Bulldogs.
After a marathon win in game one, Alabama was more efficient in game two, defeating Nebraska 2-1 in the second game of the weekend to earn the Super Regional win and punch the Crimson Tide’s ninth ticket to the Women’s College World Series, Jaclyn Traina because she gutted out so many performances over the year. She was much better than yesterday and I think everyone saw that. The Super Regional win is Alabama’s (50-11) ninth in program history and the third for this senior class that includes Traina (23-3), who threw the complete-game victory with just one run off three hits. A first-inning rally provided all the runs that Alabama would need, with “I still had a lot of confidence in myself,” said Traina. “Days like yesterday happen and I just learn from it. We worked a lot on the off-speed in there today too and that kept them off-balance. We were just on the same page together and it worked out. Nebraska (44-18) could not get anything going against Triana on offense, putting just five baserunners on all game. Starter Tatum Edwards (24-13) went the distance in the circle and took the loss despite limiting Alabama to just two runs off seven hits.
The Baylor softball team will find itself in a familiar position for the NCAA Super Regional round Friday and Saturday: Athens, Ga. Baylor’s last Women’s College World Series appearance went through the Georgia Bulldogs in 2011 in Athens, and the Lady Bears will look to repeat history in a best-of-three series Friday and Saturday.
Baylor and Georgia each went 3-1 in their respective regionals with Baylor defeating Tulsa 3-1 Sunday in Waco at Getterman Stadium while the Bulldogs beat North Carolina State in the deciding game in Athens, Georgia 7-0 Sunday night.
The Lady Bears (45-14) were the No. 13 seed headed into the NCAA Tournament and will be matched up with the No. 4 seed Georgia (49-13). The two teams will play beginning Friday at 2 p.m., EDT on ESPNU and Saturday at Noon EDT with the if-necessary game immediately following Saturday with both games broadcast on ESPN.
Alabama will be one of just 16 Division-I programs playing softball next weekend, as the Crimson Tide defeated South Alabama, 3-0, in Sunday’s Tuscaloosa Regional Championship to advance to the program’s NCAA-record 10th straight Super Regional.
Alabama (48-11) is the only program in the country to advance to the Super Regional round every season since the round’s inception in 2005. This season will be the seventh time Alabama has hosted a Super Regional and the sixth time in the last seven years.
Alabama finished the 2014 regular season on a strong note, shutting out Missouri in Saturday’s rubber match to earn the series victory.
Alabama (44-10, 19-5 SEC) capitalized on timely hits and mistakes by the Missouri (41-15, 15-9 SEC) defense, earning the win despite only tallying two runs. Both of the Crimson Tide’s runs were unearned, as Casey Stangel (14-9) took the loss in the circle, throwing 4.1 innings. Leslie Jury (15-6) had a strong outing for Alabama, earning the win with 5.1 innings pitched while Sydney Littlejohn pitched 1.2 relief innings with just one hit allowed to earn her third save of the season.
With runners at the corners and nobody out in the top of the third, Haylie McCleney stole second and nobody on the Missouri defense was out covering the throw to second as the throw rolled into center field, allowing Andrea Hawkins to score from third on the E2 and make it a 1-0 ballgame. The Tide couldn’t maintain the momentum though, as a pair of groundouts and a popout prevented Alabama from adding to its one-run lead.
Hawkins drew a one-out walk in the top of the fifth, advanced all the way to third on a wild pitch and came home on yet another wild pitch as that pushed the Tide lead up to 2-0. The second wild pitch was a ball four to McCleney, who walked to first to end Stangel’s outing in the circle as Tori Finucane entered for the Tigers. Kallie Case followed with a slap single but a double play ended the half-inning with the Tide leading 2-0.
Missouri made a bid for its first run of the game in the bottom of the fifth with a runner on second and two away. Taylor Gadbois sent a single up the middle and the runner at second rounded third and broke for home. McCleney fired in a rocket to home plate from shallow center as Jordan Patterson applied the tag for out number three to preserve the 2-0 lead and end the inning.
The Tigers put a pair of runners into scoring position in the bottom of the sixth off a single and a throwing error, which ended Jury’s start as Littlejohn entered in the save situation. A ground ball to third caught the runner at third in a rundown for out number two and the Tide intentionally walked Angela Randazzo to load the bases. Natalie Fleming hit a high popup back to the pitcher’s circle to strand the bases loaded as Littlejohn pitched out of the jam to maintain Alabama’s 2-0 lead.
Alabama couldn’t add any insurance in the top of the seventh as they took a two-run lead into the final half-inning of regulation. The tying run came to the plate off a one-out single that put runners on first and second. Kaila Hunt made a great play on a ground ball, flipping the backhand on the run to Leona Lafaele at first for out number two, though both runners advanced into scoring position. The Tide intentionally walked Emily Crane to set up a force at any base but it never came into play as Littlejohn struck out Mackenzie Sykes to end the game, earning her third save of the season and securing the series win for Alabama.
Bryce Petty and ninth-ranked Baylor closed out their old stadium with quite a fiesta.
In what became a de facto Big 12 championship game after Oklahoma State’s lost, Petty threw for 287 yards with touchdown passes on the first drives after halftime and the Bears won the their first title in the league with a 30-10 victory over No. 23 Texas on Saturday.
The Bears (11-1, 8-1 Big 12), who never even had a winning record in the Big 12 before coach Art Briles arrived six years ago, have the first 11-win season in school history and are headed to the Fiesta Bowl. That is the reward for their first outright title in any league since winning the Southwest Conference on 1980 when Mike Singletary called Floyd Casey Stadium home.
Antwan Goodley made a nifty one-handed grab on a slant pass for an 11-yard TD, one play after Petty overthrew his wide-open tight end at the goal line. After Texas (8-4, 7-2) went three-and-out, Lache Seastrunk had three consecutive runs for 28 yards and Glasco Martin ran 10 yards to help set up Petty’s 6-yard TD pass to Levi Norwood and a 17-3 lead.
Petty finished 21 of 37, with Goodley catching eight of those for 114 yards. Martin rushed for 102 yards with 18-yard TD run in the fourth quarter, one play after officials wiped out K.J. Morton’s touchdown on a 60-yard interception return when he was penalized for celebrating before getting into the end zone.
About the same time the coin toss was happening at midfield in Waco, No. 18 Oklahoma was wrapping up its 33-24 over No. 6 Oklahoma State (10-2, 7-2), which with convincing victories over both Baylor and Texas last month was in the position to win the Big 12’s guaranteed BCS berth.
Before moving next year into a new $260 million stadium on campus, along busy Interstate 35 and the Brazos River, Baylor had a memorable finish in the final game after 64 seasons at Floyd Casey.
Fans in black, green or gold didn’t even seem to mind the bitter cold – the temperature was 24 degrees at kickoff with the wind chill making it feel much colder. And most stayed around to share in the celebration and a stadium closing ceremony. They were chanting “Big 12 champs! Big 12 champs!” as time ran down and “We Are the Champions” blared loudly over the speakers with fans swarmed on the field.
Las Vegas sportsbooks have not listed Alabama’s football team as an underdog in 1,440 days. That’s 50 games and counting. And come Saturday, No. 51 is well on the way to history.The last time Alabama was an underdog? 1,440 days ago against Florida in the 2009 SEC Championship Game. Alabama’s game against LSU marked the 50th consecutive game it had been pegged as a favorite by the betting experts, a run that dates back to December 6, 2009. Alabama will roll on to No. 51 against Mississippi State on Saturday, a game Alabama is favored in by 24.5 points. The 51st straight game as a favorite will surpass Southern Cal’s 50-game streak of being favored (2003-07) and is the second longest in college football since at least 1985. Since sportsbooks are not in the business of bias, the run – and the rarity of the run – is an accurate gauge for the program’s recent dominance. “Yea, it’s rare. When you have a team as dominant as they are you couple the fact that they play in arguably the toughest division in college football, it makes it even more rare,” said MGM Resorts race and sports vice-president Jay Rood. “You would think at some point here in the last recency, that another team, LSU or whoever, would have been at least a home field favorite. “But when you have a defense as dominant as Saban has developed this defense into, that’s something that’s pretty significant, that’s something that’s pretty important when you’re factoring in a pointspread in college football.” While point spreads have been posted by Las Vegas sportsbooks for decades, definitive records dating before 1985 could not be located. Only Florida State has a longer run; it was labeled a favorite 54 times from 1997-2001. Alabama’s streak began the day after the Crimson Tide knocked off No. 1 Florida as a 5-point underdog in the 2009 SEC Championship Game, meaning the last time Alabama was listed as an underdog, running back T.J. Yeldon was too young for a driver’s license and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was shedding tears on the Georgia Dome turf. The Crimson Tide was listed as a 3-point favorite over Texas in the BCS Championship game, and off the streak went. The Crimson Tide has topped some other notable runs by elite programs. – According to Brian Edwards of BrianEdwardsSports.com, the longest before Saturday, USC, was favored 50 games in a row from Week 2 of the 2003 season until the 2007 Sugar Bowl against Michigan, winning two national titles in that stretch. Including the 50-game streak, USC was favored in 91 of 93 games from 2003 to the middle of the 2010 season. -Florida was favored in 39 straight games from Oct. 20, 2007 until Oct. 2. 2010 at Alabama. The Gators won a national championship in 2008. – Nebraska had a stretch of 54 regular season games as a favorite from 1992-97, but it was a streak broken up by bowl games. Nebraska was an underdog to Florida State twice (1992, 1993) and Miami once (1994) in postseason play. It’s only true streak was 26 games from 1995-97. “This is clearly the most dominant streak,” said Edwards, a longtime sports handicapper. “Alabama has been playing the big boys of the SEC when Les (Miles) has had it going good at LSU, with Florida having good years, this is more dominant than USC’s streak because of competition Alabama has played.” And it’s been dominant in every sense. Alabama has been favored by double digits 37 times during the 50-game streak, outscoring teams 1,864 to 551. And in 90 games as Alabama’s coach, Saban teams have been favored 82 times. Since the start of the 2008 season, Saban’s second year, Alabama has been tapped to win 73 of 77 games. It won’t be stopping in Starkville, Miss. or Atlanta, or any time soon. Rood said that Alabama will be favored by double digits at Auburn, against any potential foe in the SEC Championship game and, as of Wednesday, Rood said he would list Alabama as a 4-or 4.5-point favorite over the nation’s No. 2 team, Florida State, and a 7.5-point favorite over No. 3 Ohio State in January’s BCS Championship. Ironically, if Alabama was favored over FSU in the title game, that would be the 55th straight, besting the Seminoles’ run. “Trust me, I would love to see someone challenge Alabama,” Rood said. “It’s better for business if we don’t have someone quite so dominant. But that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon.”