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#pounditThursday, June 30, 2022

Softball

Nigel Williams-Goss’ girlfriend Kirstyn Thomas is Washington softball player

Nigel Williams-Goss Kirstyn Thomas

One of the stars of Washington’s softball team has been Kirstyn Thomas, who also has another sports tie.

Thomas, who has been a key contributor during the Huskies’ Women’s College World Series run, is the girlfriend of Gonzaga star Nigel Williams-Goss:

Scooped her up like a ground ball

A post shared by Nigel Williams-Goss (@nigelwg5) on

The two have been together for nearly three years. Williams-Goss attended Washington from 2013-2015 before transferring to Gonzaga. Thomas was a freshman during Williams-Goss’ sophomore season at Washington.

Williams-Goss posted this photo of them together on his Instagram page back in 2015: (more…)

Lisa Fernandez suspended two games for bumping umpire at WCWS

Lisa Fernandez

Lisa Fernandez has been suspended two games for making contact with an umpire during UCLA’s win over Texas A&M at the Women’s College World Series on Saturday.

Fernandez, one of the greatest softball players ever, is an assistant coach for her alma mater. Her Bruins were up 3-1 in the sixth when they ran themselves into a double-play to end the inning. Gabby Maurice tried to score from third but was thrown out at the plate, and she was injured on the tag as she tried to slide around A&M’s catcher.

That had Fernandez incensed. The assistant began yelling at the umps, leading to her ejection. Once she was tossed, she grew enraged and that’s when she bumped the ump.

To understand why Fernandez was so ticked off, you have to know the context for the whole situation. The Bruins lost their first game of the WCWS on Thursday to LSU, 2-1. The loss included two controversial plays at home. One was on a bang-bang play at the plate where the Bruins’ Rachel Garcia was called out to end the second. Had she been called safe, the game would have been tied at 1. Then in the 5th inning, UCLA threw out a runner at home for what would have been the second out of the inning, keeping the score at 1-1. Instead, the Bruins were called for obstruction at home, giving LSU the go-ahead run to make it 2-1.

Fernandez was still obviously upset about the controversial calls from two days earlier and was wondering why obstruction wasn’t called against A&M on the play Saturday. She also wanted to show her team that she has their back no matter what. The Bruins did win the game 8-2 and will continue to try fighting through the tournament.

Minnesota softball team utterly screwed by NCAA Tournament

Minnesota logo

The Minnesota Golden Gophers softball team was completely and utterly screwed by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, which unveiled the draw for the tourney on Sunday.

Minnesota enters the NCAA Tournament with the best record in D-1 softball at 54-3. They were 51-3 as of last week’s NCAA rankings, which had them No. 2 in the country in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll, and No. 3 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. They received 5 and 4 first-place votes in the respective polls. On top of that, they won three in a row and took home the Big Ten conference tourney crown.

Yet all that wasn’t enough for the selection committee to deem the Golden Gophers one of the top 16 softball teams in the country.

When the bracket was revealed, Minnesota was left unseeded and therefore not hosting one of the regionals.

64 teams get to participate in the NCAA Tournament. Four teams go to a region, which is hosted by each of the 16 seeded teams. Minnesota was shipped off to Tuscaloosa, where they will be a part of Alabama’s region. The Tide received the No. 16 seed.

The biggest reason why Minnesota might not get the most respect from the selection committee is because they play in the Big Ten. The RPI heavily weights the SEC and Pac-12 — understandably so — leaving Minnesota ranked No. 12 in the RPI as of last week. But no matter how you slice it, Minnesota has been one of the best teams in the country all season long, and even the RPI has them in the top 16. There is no possible excuse for Minnesota not hosting a regional.

The other program that got screwed was James Madison, which was 47-6 entering the week and No. 13 in the RPI as of last week. They also are not hosting a regional and instead were sent to Waco for Baylor’s. Last year they made it to the regional final against LSU.

Minnesota has one of the best pitchers in the country in Sara Groenewegen, who is 30-2 with a sparkling 0.59 ERA and 280 strikeouts in 190 innings. They’ve also crushed an absurd 65 home runs this season, including 20 by Kendyl Lindaman, who’s batting .438. They’ll just have to prove the tourney committee wrong by winning their region.

The committee’s big mistake was giving Ole Miss, which just won the SEC tourney, and Kentucky seeds instead of Minnesota and JMU. Maybe there’s some sort of ESPN/SEC TV reason for the choice, but it’s absurd that Minnesota isn’t getting to host one when they so clearly earned and deserved it.

Nick Saban gave pep talk to Alabama softball team

Nick Saban grin

Nick Saban delivered a pep talk to the Alabama softball team, and it helped pave the way for a hard-earned Crimson Tide victory.

Alabama’s softball team was facing a tough challenge taking on 4-seed Texas A&M in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Thursday. Pitcher Alexis Osorio carried a no-hitter into the 7th, and she pitched all 10 innings of a 2-1 extra-innings win, striking out an SEC Tournament record 15.

A speech from Saban helped put the team in the right mindset before the game.

“Coach Saban came to talk to us and said, ‘Are you going to dominate for half a game, three-quarters, 58 minutes or 60 minutes,’” Alabama softball coach Pat Murphy shared after the game. “This was the first time he spoke to the whole team, because I said I’m waiting for a year when I really need him, and we really needed him this year.”

Alabama advanced to the semis of the tournament and should be in a good position to host a regional when the NCAA Tournament brackets are revealed.

Not only did Saban help the softball team out in a more immediate matter by giving them the pep talk, but he also helped in a broader sense because he assisted in the recruitment of Osorio, a star pitcher from Southern California. Osorio’s father is a football fan. Saban apparently is 4-for-4 in helping Murphy close out recruits, so he’s doing much more than just helping the football program at Alabama.

Haley Fagan, Tim Walton get into it handshake line (Video)

Tim Walton Haley Fagan

There was a mini-beef that broke out in the handshake line at the end of Monday’s Florida-Auburn softball game.

Auburn’s Haley Fagan and Florida head coach Tim Walton got into it in the handshake line following Auburn’s 1-0 win over the top-ranked Gators. Fagan didn’t appear to have her hand up when approaching Walton, so the coach’s five hit Fagan in the shoulder. Fagan turned around and pushed him, leading to a near scuffle.

It’s hard to say who’s in the wrong there without knowing whether either move was intentional. Did Fagan intentionally snub Walton? Did he intentionally hit her in the shoulder, or was that coincidence?

We know there is some history between the Fagan family and Walton, as Haley’s sisters, Sami and Kasey, started off at Florida before being kicked off the team.

Alabama softball pitcher Alexis Osorio throws 19-strikeout perfect game

Alabama logo

Alabama softball pitcher Alexis Osorio made quite the statement in her season debut on Friday.

Osorio, a junior who was a second-team All-American last year, pitched a perfect game in a 6-0 win over Coastal Carolina. She sat down all 21 batters she faced, striking out 19. Her 19 strikeouts broke the school record.

Alabama’s Twitter account added a few details about the historical significance of the perfecto.

Osorio is a riseball pitcher who is a strikeout specialist. She whiffed 273 batters in 184.2 innings last year and had 227 strikeouts as a freshman.

Scott Van Pelt writes awesome note to Auburn’s Courtney Shea

Courtney Shea

Sophomore catcher Courtney Shea took Auburn’s loss to Oklahoma in Game 3 of the WCWS harder than almost anyone, but ESPN personality Scott Van Pelt tried to pick her up in a cool way.

Shea had the tough job of being asked to pinch hit with two outs in the top of the seventh inning against Oklahoma’s Paige Parker with her team down 2-1 in the final inning. Representing Auburn’s last out of the season, Shea battled Parker and fouled off multiple pitches. She eventually hit a hard grounder to second, but the Sooners made a nice defensive play to get her out.

Shea immediately had a pained look in her face and apologized to her teammates. Cameras caught her mouthing “I’m sorry” to them.

Van Pelt noticed that and reached out to her via Twitter to try helping her through the moment:

Van Pelt also congratulated Parker on the Sooners’ victory.

Shea was taking the loss so hard that her mouth was quivering as she cried after the game:

A big mark of success for athletes is their abilities to forget failure and put it in the past. That’s what Shea and Auburn need to do, even though it won’t be easy. They had a fantastic season, came in second in the country, and they should be celebrating their excellent year.

Paige Parker is Oklahoma’s Keilani Ricketts lite

paige-parker

Paige Parker is trying to do what Keilani Ricketts once did, and that is pitch the Oklahoma Sooners softball team to a national championship.

Parker will be in the circle for the Sooners in Game 3 of the WCWS on Wednesday, hoping to win the school its third national title. The second came in 2013 when Ricketts was a senior. A two-time National Player of the Year and 2013 MOP at the world series, Ricketts went 4-0 with 39 strikeouts in 31 innings at the college world series. She also took Oklahoma to the WCWS in 2012, where they were runner-up to Alabama, and in 2011 — her sophomore season.

Parker is very much on a similar path.

As a freshman, she took Oklahoma to the super regionals where they lost to Alabama. In her sophomore season, she has led the country in wins and pitched nearly every single inning of the postseason (all but Game 2 against Auburn) and carried Oklahoma to a guaranteed top-two finish in the championship.

The two players are remarkably similar, too.

Ricketts was a left-handed pitcher, who stands at 6-foot-2. Parker is also left-handed, and she is tall as well at 5-foot-11. Both pitchers have large, sturdy frames that give them the base to withstand extreme workloads in the circle.

For her career, Ricketts went 133-35 with a 1.26 ERA. She was 32-10 with a 1.24 ERA as a freshman, and 29-15 with a 1.48 ERA as a sophomore. Parker went 28-7 with a 1.65 ERA as a freshman and is 37-3 with a 1.65 ERA as a sophomore.

Not too shabby, right?

Now the one thing you could tell me is that the major difference between them is that Ricketts would have been an All-American strictly as a hitter, without even batting. After all, she clubbed 50 home runs and hit .339 with an OPS approaching 1.200 for her career. Well, as a freshman, Parker batted .394 with five doubles and nine home runs, posting an OPS of 1.142. That’s even better than Ricketts did as a freshman.

Parker has hardly batted this season because they don’t want to risk aggravating a knee injury for her, but she certainly showed a lot of promise as a freshman.

Parker may not be quite as dominant as Ricketts was a pitcher, and she may be somewhat inferior as a hitter. But she also is only a sophomore who has two more years to develop and reach those levels, especially if they let her bat again next season.

For now, she’s the closest thing Oklahoma has to Ricketts, and that may be good enough to win the school its second national title.

Auburn P Lexi Davis guarantees WCWS win over Oklahoma

Lexi Davis Auburn

Tuesday’s comeback in Game 2 of the WCWS has left Auburn’s softball team feeling confident entering Wednesday’s championship game against Oklahoma. One such player is Tigers pitcher Lexi Davis, who is guaranteeing victory.

Davis pitched a complete game in Game 1 of the best of 3 series and took the loss. She surrendered a 3-run home run to Sydney Romero in the third, but shut out the Sooners the rest of the game. The 3-run shot was devastating as Auburn lost 3-2 and was not able to overcome the deficit.

The question is whether or not Davis will get another chance to start in Game 3. The way freshman Makayla Martin pitched in relief in Game 2 and all season long, she would seem like a good bet to start, and lefty Rachael Walters should be first up in relief.

Even if Lexi Davis is not who Auburn pitches in the deciding game, it’s clear her team feels quite confident entering the championship game. They should after overcoming a 7-0 deficit in Game 2 to win.

Emily Carosone walk-off grand slam completes historic comeback

Emily Carosone

Auburn completed a historic comeback at the WCWS on Tuesday by beating Oklahoma 11-7 in eight innings on a walk-off grand slam by Emily Carosone, coming all the way back from a 7-0 second inning deficit.

Here’s the walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the eighth by Carosone:

Oklahoma took a risk in starting No. 2 pitcher Kelsey Stevens over Paige Parker in the game, and it seemed like they were in good shape after jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the second. However, Auburn made a pitching change to Rachael Walters that quieted the Sooners, and then they turned it over to Makayla Martin for the seventh and eighth. Those two yielded no runs in seven innings of relief.

On the other hand, Oklahoma freshman Jayden Chestnut came in to relieve Stevens and allowed six runs on 11 hits over 5.2 innings, including the walk-off shot. Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso had the option of bringing in freshman pitcher Brittany Finney or even Parker into the tie game but elected not to do so, and Auburn ended up coming back for the victory.

Now they’ll have to count on Parker to be at her best in Wednesday’s clincher.