U.S. Soccer Federation And MLS Do Not Get It

Clint Dempsey gets a red card for his actions on Tuesday against Portland in the U.S. Open Cup (Jennifer Buchanan/USA TODAY Sports)
Clint Dempsey gets a red card for his actions on Tuesday against Portland in the U.S. Open Cup (Jennifer Buchanan/USA TODAY Sports)

U.S. Soccer Federation And MLS Do Not Get It

Seattle Sounder’s Clint Dempsey has been suspended three games for his obnoxious and reprehensible actions against Portland in Tuesday’s game in the U.S. Open Cup. Dempsey was also fined.

Dempsey was facing up to three months suspension from all competitions had the United States Soccer Federation found him guilty of assault. Instead, the USSF let the disciplinary actions fall to Major League Soccer on Friday. Below is a statement from MLS.

“We do not tolerate conduct of this nature from any of our players,” MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said in a statement. “No matter how passionate our players are or what happens in the ‘heat of the moment,’ they must always respect all aspects of the game, especially the referees. In light of Clint’s actions and our past precedents, we felt that a significant suspension was appropriate.”

Dempsey will now face only a ban in MLS games instead of missing time in the Gold Cup. This leads to only one conclusion: both the U.S. Soccer Federation and MLS do not get it. What is it? It is integrity.

The USSF’s handling of the Hope Solo investigation (was it even a real investigation?) was the first yellow card. ESPN documented some of the rather serious inconsistencies by the USSF. Solo was ultimately suspended for 30 days earlier this year, missing only 2 international friendlies. The USSF had a chance to make a stand on a serious issue and given what happened with Ray Rice and the NFL, it seemed like a great opportunity to show their teeth.

Instead, we saw nothing.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday when Dempsey decided he had enough of the referee and ripped up his booking card. There is ZERO defense for actions like that and he was properly sent off immediately. For the second time, U.S. Soccer had a chance to show their teeth.

Instead, they kicked the can down the road to Major League Soccer and MLS showed they have as much teeth as U.S. Soccer. Another yellow card. For those counting that is a second yellow card, which results in a red card.

It is clear that the stars are bigger than the sport of soccer. Both Solo and Dempsey are stars for club and country. More importantly, they are also role models to young people. What is the message being sent by USSF and MLS?

Your transgressions, both on and off the field, are of little concern to us. As long as we can continue to bring in revenue, we will be more than willing to look past these “minor” infractions.

Quite frankly, this kind of “discipline” is pathetic. In Solo’s case, it came on the heels of the Ray Rice incident in which the NFL and Roger Goodell botched his discipline.

For Dempsey, there is not a recent comparable case, but the rules are pretty clear about touching the referee and his property. None of that matters because stars are given their own set of rules.

Shame on Major League Soccer for letting Dempsey off with a putrid 3 game ban. Soccer still has not learned from the failures of the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL, which will only impede its progress to become one of the top 4.

American Pharoah Runs Into Racing Immortality

American Pharoah winning the 2015 Belmont Stakes with Victor Espinoza aboard (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)
American Pharoah winning the 2015 Belmont Stakes with Victor Espinoza aboard (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

American Pharoah Runs Into Racing Immortality

The 37 year wait to see a Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred racing is now over. American Pharoah led from start to finish in the Belmont Stakes on his way to a 5 1/2 length victory and becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner in history.

Jockey Victor Espinoza won the Triple Crown after having two previous attempts in 2002 aboard War Emblem and 2014 aboard California Chrome. For trainer Bob Baffert, it was his fourth attempt after tries in 1997 with Silver Charm, 1998 with Real Quiet, and 2002 with War Emblem.

American Pharoah went straight to the lead and Espinoza was determined to control the pace early on. To his outside was Materiality in second and Frosted in third. Mubtaahij was fourth on the rail with Keen Ice fifth, and Madefromlucky sixth. The trailing duo was Tale of Verve and Frammento with the latter nearly nine lengths off the pacesetter.

Pharoah set pressure-less fractions of 24.06 for the opening quarter and 48.83 for the opening half mile while Materiality was still on the outside about a length off the lead. Mubtaahij continued to save ground on the rail with Keen Ice, Frosted, and Madefromlucky behind him. Tale of Verve was starting to be pushed entering the far turn and Frammento was still the trailer.

After going six furlongs in 1:13.41 and a mile in 1:37.99, American Pharoah was set down for the final quarter of a mile and his only real threat was Frosted. Frosted came out in the stretch and looked like he would make a race of it down to the wire, but Pharoah simply pulled away to win by 5 1/2 lengths.

Frosted was second with Keen Ice coming back on for third and Mubtaahij was fourth. The remaining order of finish was Frammento, Madefromlucky, Tale of Verve, and Materiality. The entire chart can be found here via Equibase.

American Pharoah is by Pioneerof The Nile out of the Yankee Gentleman mare Littleprincessemma. He paid $3.50 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.50 to show.

The debate will now shift to how American Pharoah stacks up against the other Triple Crown winners. That will rage on for decades after this incredible run of races. Pharoah is expected to run again in 2015 though it is highly unlikely he will run beyond the end of this year.

Honor Code Storms Home In the Met Mile

Honor Code Storms Home In the Met Mile

Honor Code made a huge run in the stretch to capture the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap by 3 3/4 lengths. He will have a spot reserved for him in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile because the Met Mile is a Win and You’re In Event.

It was an eventful break as the quartet of Private Zone, Bay of Plenty, Bayern, and Pants On Fire went for the lead, but Bay of Plenty took up sharply to fall back in fourth by 4 lengths. Tamarkuz was fifth, Noble Moon was sixth, Tonalist was seventh, Kobe’s Back was eighth, Wicked Strong was ninth, and Honor Code was last of ten nearly 15 lengths behind.

The duo of Private Zone and Bayern sprinted away from the field with an opening quarter of 22.42 and opening half mile in 44.92. Leaving the turn and entering the stretch it appeared that Tamarkuz was going to sweep right on by, but he hung badly in the stretch. Coming up four wide in the stretch was Tonalist, but he was not moving as fast as Honor Code who came from ninth at the six furlong marker.

Honor Code was a bit erratic in the stretch, but he was clearly the best. He won by 3 3/4 lengths with Tonalist getting up for second over Private Zone who did well to hang on for third after setting a fast pace.

The remaining order of finish was Tamarkuz (4th), Wicked Strong (5th), Kobe’s Back, Pants On Fire, Noble Moon, Bay of Plenty, and Bayern. The entire chart can be found here via Equibase.

Honor Code is a four year old by A.P. Indy out of the Storm Cat mare Serena’s Cat. He is trained by Claude “Shug” McGaughey and was ridden by Javier Castellano. He completed the one turn mile in 1:33.18. He paid $16.20 to win, $6.40 to place, and $4.30 to show.

The Met Mile was the second race at Belmont to be part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series on Saturday. The other race was the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes won by Wedding Toast.

There are three Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races on Saturday, June 13. Two of the races will be at Churchill Downs (Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap and Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap) with the third race at Santa Anita Park (Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile).

Wedding Toast Takes Ogden Phipps Stakes

Wedding Toast Takes Ogden Phipps Stakes

Wedding Toast cemented her place in the starting gate for the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff if she is pointed to that race with her victory in the Ogden Phipps Stakes on Saturday. It was a gate-to-wire performance in a race that lacked a lot of pace.

Wedding Toast broke a step slow, but was able to rush up to the lead without too much effort. Princess Violet was second by a length in tandem with Shayjolie from the outside. In fourth on the rail was House Rules with Untapable in a good spot fifth just three lengths off the lead. Early on Rosalind was the trailer, but only four lengths behind the leader.

Wedding Toast did not face much pace pressure as she set fractions of 23.64 for the opening quarter and 46.62 for the opening half mile. The horses started to creep closer on the far turn with Untapable making a sweeping three wide move, but there was plenty of stamina left for Wedding Toast. She was able to run off and win by 5 lengths in the end.

Untapable held on for second by a short head over House Rules while Rosalind was fourth, but never seriously a threat to the top trio. Princess Violet was fifth and Shayjolie finished last of six. The entire chart can be found here via Equibase.

Wedding Toast is a five year old mare by Street Sense out of the Coronado’s Quest mare Golden Sheba. She ran the one mile and one sixteenth over a fast dirt track in 1:40.21. She paid $6.30 to win and $2.80 to place.

There is another Breeders’ Cup Challenge race on Saturday with the Metropolitan Handicap also at Belmont.

2015 Ogden Phipps Stakes Preview

2015 Ogden Phipps Stakes Preview

The Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes is part of the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In series. The winner of the Ogden Phipps will have a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

A compact field of six horses will run in this race headlined by Untapable. The field of six will be going one mile and one sixteenth over the main track at Belmont, which will be around one turn. The purse for this race is $1,000,000.

Post time for the Ogden Phipps is scheduled for 1:52 PM Eastern Time and is carded as the fifth of 13 races on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Free past performances can be found here.

Analysis

1. Rosalind (12-1 Morning Line) – She has run six straight races on turf coming into the one mile dirt event. He last dirt race was the 2014 Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks won by Untapable where Rosalind finished fourth by 11 lengths that day. Her overall record on dirt is 0 for 4 with three third place finishes. This is a very precarious spot for her and she will be up against it given her dirt record.

2. Wedding Toast (4-1 ML) – She exits the Grade 2 Ruffian Stakes here at Belmont where she won by 4 lengths over fellow entrants Princess Violet and House Rules. She is a versatile horse that can either stalk right off the lead or press a slow pace, which makes her dangerous. In addition, she loves Belmont with four starts, three wins, and a second. She is a viable alternative if you are looking to beat the extremely heavy favorite.

3. House Rules (12-1 ML) – As mentioned above, she ran third in the Grade 2 Ruffian Stakes but she did win the Grade 3 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct on April 11. Her form is quite interesting in the last 10 races as she has usually alternated wins in every other start (exception was a two-race winning streak in January and February of this year). Her Belmont record is uninspiring (4 starts with only a third place finish) and she just seems a cut below the best in here.

4. Untapable (2-5 ML) – She was a very dominant three year old filly in 2014 winning races with ease against her own sex. She finished 5th in the Grade 1 Haskell against boys, but she came back to end the season with victories in the Grade 1 Cotillion and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Her 2015 campaign started with a second place finish by half a length in the Grade 2 Azeri and then she rebounded to win the Grade 1 Apple Blossom by 2 1/2 lengths in her second start. She is unraced since April 10, but she is squarely the one to beat.

5. Princess Violet (8-1 ML) – She was second last out in the Grade 2 Ruffian Stakes, but previously won the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland by half a length two starts back. She has been in good form since her 7th place finish in the Grade 2 Prioress at Saratoga in 2014. She has run first or second in six straight races and in five races here at Belmont she has won three races and finished second the other two. She is an interesting longshot here in a small field.

6. Shayjolie (20-1 ML) – The longest shot in the race comes out the Grade 2 Ruffian like several others in this race. She was fourth that day after sitting a perfect stalking trip. Given the competition here, she figures to be up against once more.

Selections

This race appears to not have a lot of value in it, but we will take a slight upset on top. #2 Wedding Toast appears to be the horse that will control the race, as there is hardly any speed in this race. #4 Untapable should be a few lengths behind her and will definitely be the one to fend off. For a bit of a price play underneath, we will go with #5 Princess Violet who may be able to round out the exacta if one of the top two choices fails to fire.

Top selection – #2 Wedding Toast

2nd selection – #4 Untapable

3rd selection – #5 Princess Violet

Check back on Saturday for a recap of the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps.

2015 Metropolitan Handicap Preview

2015 Metropolitan Handicap Preview

The 2015 Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series gets underway in the United States on Saturday, June 6 with the Metropolitan Handicap, or as it is better known, the Met Mile.

The Met Mile will be run at one mile around one turn at Belmont Park. A field of 10 horses have been entered in this $1,250,000 race. The Grade 1 event is carded as the 9th race on the Belmont Stakes undercard with an approximate post time of 4:49 PM Eastern Time.

The winner of the Met Mile will have a guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile that is to be held at Keeneland on October 30 and 31 later this year. Free past performances for the Met Mile can be found here.

Analysis

1. Private Zone (4-1 ML) – He has been very good since late 2014. After fourth place finish in his turf debut, he won the Grade 1 Vosburgh here at Belmont, was third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct by 5 lengths. In 2015, he just missed winning the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap and then easily won the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day. From this spot at the rail, he will be gunning for the lead and saying catch me if you can. He is two for two at Belmont.

2. Bay of Plenty (20-1 ML) – After breaking his maiden in March 2014 by 7 1/4 lengths, he won a first level allowance race here at Belmont in May 2014 by 9 1/4 lengths. He came back in October to clear the second level allowance with a 2 3/4 lengths win. He ran second in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap before a six month break between races. He came back to win a third level allowance race and he has plenty of speed to burn. However, there is plenty of other speed for him to contend with here. It is worth noting that he is 3 for 3 at Belmont.

3. Noble Moon (30-1 ML) – He has seen plenty of graded stakes action since his two year campaign in 2013. He has struggled in nearly all of those graded stakes races including several large defeats behind some horses entered in here. He will have pace to run at in this spot, but here appears to be up against it here.

4. Tonalist (5-2 ML) – It was 364 days ago that Tonalist was winning the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes en route to denying California Chrome the Triple Crown. Since then he has two victories in five subsequent races including the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and his latest race in the Grade 3 Westchester. It is clear that he likes the Belmont surface with a perfect 4 for 4 record. He should have plenty of pace to run at and is a deserving favorite.

5. Tamarkuz (15-1 ML) – He has been racing in Dubai since 2014. His last four races have all resulted in victories including two Group 3 races and one Group 2 race. He will probably be racing midpack in this race and should be in a good spot. It is tough to get a read on him with his international form and is probably a cut below the best.

6. Wicked Strong (6-1 ML) – He was part of the 2014 Triple Crown chase with a duo of fourth place finishes in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. He ran well at Saratoga before he clipped heels in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup to end his 2014 campaign. His two starts in 2015 have left a lot to be desired with a fourth place finish in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap and Grade 3 Excelsior at Aqueduct. He will be able to come off the pace, but the question is whether he is good enough.

7. Bayern (7-2 ML) – After an incredible three year old year season capped off with a win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2014, he ran a dud to start 2015. He broke poorly in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes and was no factor during the running of the race. He has worked well since then and had only 1 gate work in the immediate aftermath of the terrible seasonal debut. If he breaks well, he will have plenty of company on the lead.

8. Pants On Fire (15-1 ML) – He ran third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2014 before finishing third in the ungraded Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream. In 2015, he won his seasonal debut in the ungraded Sir Shackleton before finishing third behind Private Zone in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes. He too will be coming from behind and the ceiling appears to be an underneath finish in the trifecta or superfecta, but he will have good value.

9. Honor Code (6-1 ML) – He has run only one bad race in his career, but that just happened to be his latest race. On the Kentucky Oaks undercard, he ran fifth in the Grade 2 Alysheba and did not seem to fire with a moderate pace at best. He will be coming from out of the clouds here and he should have enough speed to set it up for him. His best value would be at no less than 5-1 given the large amount of ground he needs to cover.

10. Kobe’s Back (20-1 ML) – He came back from a 7 month break to finish second in the Grade 2 San Carlos in March before shipping East and running in the Grade 3 Commonwealth at Keeneland. In that race, he was able to come from off the pace to win by three quarters of a length. He has not run since then and is another that will be coming from way out of it. He seems to be an underneath horse at best.

Selections

This race is full of speed and closers so it should be easy to decipher, right? Well, not quite. #4 Tonalist is the morning line favorite and loves Belmont in addition to having the right running style. Beyond him, however, it is not clear. #8 Pants On Fire is an intriguing long shot to pick up the pieces and #9 Honor Code could bounce back from his poor effort last time out to possibly win or at least hit the exacta. #1 Private Zone has shown the ability to hang on for the win after setting a hot pace and could hang around to hit the board if he is passed. The wildcard in all this is #7 Bayern. If he breaks well it could be tough to beat him, but if he fails to break again he will probably not make an impact.

Top selection – #4 Tonalist

2nd selection – #9 Honor Code

3rd selection – #8 Pants On Fire

4th selection – #1 Private Zone

Check back on Saturday evening to see a recap of the Grade 1 Met Mile.

2015 Belmont Stakes Preview

American Pharoah training at Belmont Park (Reuters)
American Pharoah training at Belmont Park (Reuters)

2015 Belmont Stakes Preview

The 2015 Triple Crown culminates on Saturday with 2015 Belmont Stakes. Once again, there is the possibility of a Triple Crown winner with American Pharoah having won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in May.

A field of eight has been assembled to vie for the 2015 Belmont Stakes that carries a purse of $1,500,000. They will go one mile and one-half (12 furlongs) over the main track dubbed “Big Sandy.”

Post time for the Belmont Stakes is at 6:50 PM Eastern time and is carded as the 11th of 13 races on Saturday. Free past performances can be found here.

The table below provides the entries along with the jockey, trainer, and morning line odds.

Post PositionHorseJockeyTrainerMorning Line Odds
1MubtaahijIrad Ortiz, Jr.Mike de Kock10-1
2Tale of VerveGary StevensDallas Stewart15-1
3MadefromluckyJavier CastellanoTodd Pletcher12-1
4FrammentoMike SmithNick Zito30-1
5American PharoahVictor EspinozaBob Baffert3-5
6FrostedJoel RosarioKiaran McLaughlin5-1
7Keen IceKent DesormeauxDale Romans20-1
8MaterialityJohn VelazquezTodd Pletcher6-1

 

1. Mubtaahij – He was the easy winner of the Group 2 UAE Derby in late March before taking on the Kentucky Derby. In the Derby, he sat mid pack for most of the race and he did not have much of a response in the stretch as he finished 8th. He should like this 12 furlong distance and if he can sit closer to the pace, he could make some noise down the stretch.

2. Tale of Verve – It took this guy six starts to break his maiden and he was then entered in the Preakness Stakes. He surprised many by running second to American Pharoah at odds of 28-1, but he was seven lengths behind Pharoah. That race has led some to believe he has a chance to pick the pieces once again at big odds. He will need some pace to run at in this spot and there does not appear to be much.

3. Madefromlucky – He was under consideration for the Kentucky Derby, but was sent into the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes instead. He did well in the Peter Pan when he made a four wide move in the stretch and pulled away to win by a length. He did beat only four horses that day and he ran fourth and second to Pharoah in his two races previous to the Peter Pan. He could add value to the exotics at a decent price.

4. Frammento – He was a longshot in the Kentucky Derby and he ran like it. He finished 11th beaten 12 lengths that day. He had no pace to run at in the Derby and he does not appear to have any pace in the Belmont either. He is taking the blinkers off for this race, but he appears likely headed for a spot in the bottom of the superfecta at best.

5. American Pharoah – There is not much more to say about him. He has won six straight races after a poor debut including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He is clearly the horse to beat and he will probably be the controlling speed in this race. He is just a mile and a half from horse racing immortality if he can win this race. The obvious favorite here and the top choice.

6. Frosted – He and Materiality were the only ones to really make up ground in the Kentucky Derby. Frosted just missed third as the wire came before he was able to blow past Dortmund and he finished fourth by 3 1/4 lengths. He should not be nearly as far back in this race and he could sit just off the leaders to give him a good spot turning for home. Must be considered as a slight upset possibility.

7. Keen Ice – He is another closer that will need some pace to run at in the Belmont. He was able to move from 14th to 7th in the stretch during the Kentucky Derby. His efforts prior to the Kentucky Derby show that he was an underneath horse at best and that appears to be the case here as well.

8. Materiality – He started his career a perfect 3 for 3 entering the Kentucky Derby. He had a bad draw with the three post, which caused him to come off the pace. He was near the back of the pack midway through the race and rallied to finish sixth with some trouble. In the Belmont, he should not have the same trip and will be much closer to the pace, if not contesting it with Pharoah. He certainly has a chance in this race.

Selections

This race runs through #5 American Pharoah as expected. He is likely to be the controlling speed and has not done anything wrong this year. He may have pace pressure from #8 Materiality, but he has shown the ability to win coming from behind. #1 Mubtaahij is interesting because he should relish the distance and be closer to the pace than he was in the Derby. #6 Frosted will be worth a look if you are trying to beat Pharoah while #3 Madefromlucky looked nice winning the Peter Pan at Belmont on May 9.

Top selection – #5 American Pharoah

2nd selection – #1 Mubtaahij

3rd selection – #6 Frosted

4th selection – #3 Madefromlucky

Check back on Saturday night for a recap of the 2015 Belmont Stakes.

Florida Wins Second Straight Softball Championship

2015 Women's College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)
2015 Women’s College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)

Florida Wins Second Straight Softball Championship

The Florida Gators won their second straight softball National Championship thanks to Lauren Haeger‘s dominant pitching performance. She had a no-hitter going into the fifth inning to lead the Gators to a 4-1 victory.

After struggling against Haylie Wagner on Tuesday, the Gators jumped on her right away in the bottom of the first. Kelsey Stewart was hit by a pitch and was sacrificed to second on a bunt that also allowed Nicole DeWitt to reach safely. Haeger singled her home to put runners on the corners while Kirsti Merritt put both runners in scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Taylor Schwarz brought those two runners home for a 3-0 Florida lead after one inning.

Florida drove Wagner out of the game early in the bottom of the second. Justine McLean was able to get to second base after a throwing error and then moved up to third on a sacrifice bunt. Stewart brought her home with a double to left field and Wagner was then taken out in favor of Megan Betsa with Florida leading 4-0.

Betsa struggled with her control as she hit the next two batters to load the bases with only one out. However, she soon found her control by striking out the next two batters to end the bases loaded jam.

Michigan had two bases runners in the top of the third thanks to back-to-back hitters being hit by a pitch. A strike out and foul out did not help the cause while Sierra Romero drew a walk to load the bases. Haeger ended the top of the third with a strike out of Kelly Christner.

Florida had another chance to put up runs in the bottom of the fourth. Kelsey Stewart hit into a fielder’s choice that threw out the lead runner at second, but she was able to steal second with only out. A strike out was followed by an intentional walk of Haeger before a foul out ended the inning for the Gators. After four innings, Florida still led 4-0.

Michigan would finally get their first hit in the top of the fifth. Tera Blanco hit a one out single to left field and Abby Ramirez reached on an infield single. Sierra Lawrence flied out to right field before Romero delivered an RBI single to center that scored Blanco. Christner flied out to center field to end the threat and Michigan trailing 4-1.

The Gators saw Merritt hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the fifth and she stole second on a strike out. Two batters later, McLean hit a single to first and stole second to put both runners in scoring position. Once again, Wagner was able to shut the door with a strike out.

Michigan tried to start a two out rally in the sixth. Amanda Vargas singled to center and Wagner was hit by a pitch to put two runners on. Unfortunately for Michigan, Blanco grounded out to short to end the inning.

Florida began the bottom half of the sixth with Stewart being hit by a pitch and stealing second on a DeWitt strike out. After another intentional walk to Haeger, Taylore Fuller was hit by a pitch to load the bases while Haylie Wagner came back into the circle for Michigan. She was able to prevent any runs from getting across thanks to a foul out to the catcher and ground out to second. Michigan still trailed 4-1 after six innings with one final chance.

Michigan’s final half inning began with a single by Abby Ramirez. Sierra Lawrence struck out looking while Sierra Romero hit a ground ball to the shortstop that threw Ramirez out at second. Christner came up and hit a ground ball to first base for an easy put out that gave Florida their second straight National Championship.

Lauren Haeger pitched another good game going seven innings while giving up one run on five hits. She also allowed one walk and struck out five Wolverines. For her incredible performances throughout the last week, Haeger was named the Women’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player.

Florida became the first team since the Arizona Wildcats in 2006 and 2007 to win back-to-back National Championships in Division 1 Softball. Arizona also won back-to-back titles in 1993-94 and 1996-97. The only other program to do so has been the UCLA Bruins who have done it three times in 1984-85, 1988-90, and 2003-04.

Michigan Ties Up Championship Series With Game 2 Win

2015 Women's College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)
2015 Women’s College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)

Michigan Ties Up Championship Series With Game 2 Win

The Michigan Wolverines won game two of the NCAA Softball Championship Series to force a decisive winner take all third game on Wednesday night. Michigan won 1-0 behind a complete game shutout by Haylie Wagner.

Florida went down in order to start the first inning while Michigan was able to get their lone run in the bottom of the first.

Sierra Lawrence led off with a single to left field to bring up Sierra Romero. Romero hit a slow ground ball to short, but Lawrence was able to beat the throw at second. After a bunt foul out from Kelly Christner, Kelsey Susalla hit a line drive single to center field, which was compounded by a bad hop in front of Kirsti Merritt. Lawrence was able to score on the bad bounce for a 1-0 Michigan lead. A fly out and line out left two runners stranded for the Wolverines.

The Gators had a chance to tie the game in the top of the second. Lauren Haeger hit a rocket ground ball to third for an infield single and was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Taylore Fuller. Wagner was able to get Bailey Castro to strike out on a change up before a Taylor Schwarz single to shortstop put runners on the corners. Wagner ended the threat with a strike out to Aubree Munro.

Michigan tried to add an insurance run in the bottom of the second. Wagner began with a bloop single down the left field line and she was then pitch ran for with Mary Sbonek. A sacrifice bunt by Tera Blanco moved her up to second while Abby Ramirez grounded out to third to move her up to second with two outs. Lawrence was unable to bring Sbonek home as she struck out looking to end the second inning.

The Gators went down in order in the top of the third while Michigan was only able to get a two out walk from Susalla in the bottom of the inning, but she was left stranded.

The top of the fourth provided Florida with another opportunity to tie the game. Haeger hit a single up the middle when the shortstop could not corral the ball. Jessica Damico pinch ran for Haeger while Fuller put runners on first and second with a hard single to left center field. Wagner was able to get out of the jam by forcing a pop out to Castro and ground out by Schwarz.

In the fifth, Florida got a lead off single from Munro, but a line drive hit by Justine McLean to shortstop doubled up the Gators and Michigan still clung to a 1-0 lead. The Wolverines got a one out double from Lawrence in the bottom of the fifth before a controversial call. Romero hit a ground ball to short that threw her out at first, but the throw to third threw out Lawrence despite her not having a path to the base.

The top of the sixth saw the Gators put another runner on base. Kirsti Merritt hit a beautiful bunt single down the first base line and she later stole second after a Haeger pop out to move into scoring position. A line out to shortstop left a runner stranded again and one last chance for Florida.

The top of the seventh was not kind to the Gators faithful. They went down in order to not even give themselves hopes of tying the game with a baserunner.

Lauren Haeger pitched well in the loss. She went six innings giving up one run on four hits with one walk and one strike out.

Haylie Wagner pitched seven innings surrendering six hits with no walks and five strike outs.

Game three of the Championship Series will be at 8 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday night. The decisive game can be seen ESPN with the winner claiming their second National Championship in Women’s softball.

Florida Takes NCAA Softball Championship Series Game 1

2015 Women's College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)
2015 Women’s College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)

Florida Takes NCAA Softball Championship Series Game 1

Lauren Haeger was the reason for Florida’s 3-2 win over Michigan and she did not even see the pitching circle. She accounted for all three runs batted in including a two run bomb to left field to put the Gators on the brink of their second straight National Championship.

Michigan’s Kelly Christner hit a two out single to center field, but Aleshia Ocasio was able to strike out the next batter to leave her stranded.

The Gators quickly got on base following an error by Michigan’s Abby Ramirez that allowed Kelsey Stewart to reach second base. After a ground out, Haeger came up and hit a bomb to left field to put the Gators up 2-0. A two out walk by Kayli Kvistad put her on first, but another strike out ended the inning with Florida leading 2-0.

Michigan got another two out hit in the top of the second, this time from Haylie Wagner and a walk drawn by Tera Blanco put two runners on base. Ramirez struck out swinging to end the inning and Michigan still down 2-0.

The Gators added to their lead in the bottom of the third. A one out single by Nicole DeWitt was followed by a crushing double to the right center field gap by Haeger that scored DeWitt. Kirsti Merritt was hit by the next pitch to put runners on first and second with only one out. After a ground out and walk loaded the bases, Megan Betsa was relieved by Haylie Wagner in the circle. She got the job done by forcing a foul out to end the inning and Michigan trailing 3-0 after three innings.

Ocasio was able to pitch around a one out walk to Lindsay Montemarano in the top of the fourth. Meanwhile, Florida got a lead off base runner after an error at shortstop by Ramirez. Despite that, Wagner was able to set the next three down in order to keep it a three run game.

In the top of the sixth, Michigan had a great opportunity to put their first run on the board. Kelsey Susalla singled to center and Lauren Sweet was hit by a pitch while also being pinch ran for by Nikki Wald. A fly out to right field put runners on the corners. Wagner hit a shot to left field, but just missed staying fair and she popped out to second to end the at-bat.

A walk by Blanco loaded the bases to bring up Ramirez with the bases loaded. Ramirez hit a slapper up the middle to drive home Wald and Susalla to make it a 3-2 game. Sierra Lawrence hit a hard shot to left field, but it was caught to end the inning after the top of the sixth.

The first pitch of the bottom half of the sixth hit Bailey Castro and she was pinch ran for by Justine McLean. A fly out and sacrifice moved McLean up to second, but a short pop out to the pitcher put Michigan down to their final three outs in the seventh.

Delanie Gourley stepped into the circle to start the seventh in place of Ocasio for the Gators. She gave up a lead off walk to Sierra Romero and she moved up to second on a passed ball to put her in scoring position. A single by Christner put runners on the corners before a nice stab at short by Katie Medina put the runner out at second to leave runners on the corners with one out. Interestingly, Romero stayed put at third when she may have been able to score on the throw to first.

Gourley then used a nice curveball to strike out Sweet for the second out. Gourley then induced a ground ball from Montemarano to end the game.

Lauren Haeger was the star going 2 for 3 with all three runs batted in and one run. Aleshia Ocasio pitched six innings giving up two runs, five hits, and four walks while striking out three batters.

Michigan’s Haylie Wagner pitched a perfect three and one third innings with one strikeout.

Game two will be on Tuesday night at 8 PM Eastern Time on ESPN. Michigan needs to win to force the decisive game three on Wednesday night.