NCAA softball Super Regionals review and preview: A bad day sets up win-or-else Saturday for all 3 SEC teams
It was not a good day for the 3 SEC softball teams on Friday at Super Regionals. The two teams hosting, Arkansas and Mississippi State, both lost while Florida dug itself into a 6-run hole before weather suspended that game until Saturday.
The Razorbacks could have become the first team to punch their ticket to the Women’s College World Series with a win on Friday. But a 3-1 loss to Texas evened the best-of-3 series, which goes to Saturday for a deciding game. The winner-take-all tilt is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
Arkansas had no answer for Longhorns’ pitcher Hailey Dolcini, who tossed a complete game. She scattered 5 hits while throwing a season-high 129 pitches. Included in that was an epic 20-pitch battle with Arkansas’ Hannah Gammill, which resulted in a momentum-changing ground out to end the 3rd inning.
Before the ground out, the Razorbacks broke a scoreless tie to take a 1-0 lead on an RBI single from Danielle Gibson, scoring KB Sides, who drew a one-out walk.
But Texas struck for 3 runs in the bottom half of the inning and Dolcini retired 12 of the final 13 batters she faced.
At Starkville, Mississippi State got solo home runs from SEC career home run leader Mia Davidson and Matalasi Faapito, but that’s all and the Bulldogs fell, 3-2, in 8 innings to Arizona in the best-of-three Super Region opener.
Each team hit 2 solo homers, including an 8th inning pop from Izzy Pacho that proved to be the game-winner for Arizona.
The Bulldogs look to stave off elimination on Saturday in Game 2 (4 p.m. ET, ESPNU).
Things didn’t look any brighter for Florida in its Super Regional opener at Virginia Tech. The Hokies jumped to a 6-0 lead before weather postponed the game in the 4th inning. They’ll pick it up there beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Here’s a preview of games on Saturday involving all 3 SEC teams.
Arizona (37-20) at Mississippi State (37-26)
It’s simple, if the Bulldogs hope to extend their season, they’ve got to string together some hits. They just can’t rely on home runs from Davidson and Faapito for the sum total of their offense. They were the only Bulldogs to hit homers (1 each) in 5 regional games, and they both went deep on Friday to account for the Bulldogs’ runs.
As they were in 3 of 5 regional games, the Bulldogs were outhit (9-7). To make matters worse, they left 11 runners on base, including multiple runners in 4 of the 8 innings. Bottom line, they didn’t get the clutch hit and the 2 homers were the only extra-base hits in the game for the Bulldogs.
That has to change on Saturday if they hope to play on Sunday.
No. 14 Florida (46-16) at No. 3 Virginia Tech (45-8)
Florida pitching had given up just 20 runs over the previous 13 games. Friday, the Gators allowed runs in all 4 innings against Va. Tech.
They’ll need a quick and drastic turnaround if they hope to gain the upper hand in this series. Noted for putting together timely hits, stealing bases and getting solid pitching, none of that materialized in the first 4 innings on Friday. The Gators did not have more than 1 hit in any of those innings, did not steal a base, and their pitching gave up 9 hits, including 3 home runs.
Very un-Gators like, so maybe the rain came as a blessing, and Florida can regroup and get back into the game and the series.
Texas (41-19-1) at Arkansas (48-9)
It comes down to a deciding game at Bogle Park. The Razorbacks have not lost a series this season. In fact, they haven’t lost back-to-back games this year, either. For that trend to continue in the most important game of the 2022 season, they’ll have to return to Arkansas softball, and that’s power hitting and lock-down pitching.
The Razorbacks delivered just 5 hits Friday — and only 1, a Kacie Hoffman double, went for extra bases.
But Longhorns’ ace Dolcini (22-10) threw 129 pitches on Friday and would figure to have little left for Saturday. She started 28 games this season and was by far the most effective pitcher on the Longhorns’ staff.
Arkansas’ Friday starter, Mary Haff (20-5) worked just 2 1/3 innings and Chenise Delce, the Razorbacks’ Thursday starter, threw the final 3 2/3 frames. Both should be available Saturday.