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Thursday's opening day of the Women's College World Series softball tournament almost saw no-hitters pitched in both ends of a doubleheader. Chicago teams were on opposite ends of the pitching gems, both carried on ESPN from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. DePaul actually almost won the opener, in spite of going hitless. The Blue Demons have a scrappy team and play a crisp brand of softball, and they're the designated Cinderella as the only interloper to crack the top eight seeds in the WCWS. (Seeded 14th, they beat no. 3 Oklahoma in the super regionals.) They scored in the third off Washington ace Danielle Lawrie on a walk, a steal, and an error that allowed Stephanie Blagaich to come around and score from second. That seemed to be enough for Tracie Adix, who had carried DePaul into the WCWS on the strength of a 47-inning postseason scoreless streak. But she left a high fastball over the plate for Dena Tyson in the bottom of the inning and Tyson hit a two-run homer, and Washington's Ashlyn Watson added another on a similar pitch in the next inning. Lawrie cruised the rest of the way to the 3-1 no-hitter.
Good as Lawrie was, she wasn't the most impressive pitcher of the day. Northwestern's Eileen Canney was lights-out in a 2-0 shutout of Arizona in the second game of the day. Canney has a motion in which she pumps and then brings her hands down viciously in front of her body, as if she were throwing a tantrum, before kicking into her delivery. It's violent and intimidating, and it has to be distracting, especially as she delivers the ball with such effortless ease otherwise. (There's some video on the story on ESPN's Web site.) Arizona State couldn't touch her -- until Michelle Smith dumped a bunt single in front of the plate to open the sixth inning. That's a violation of baseball etiquette, in that it's considered bad form to bunt to break up a no-hitter. A guy just wouldn't do that to a guy; the first hit of a game ought to be a clean hit. But it shows what a cutthroat game these women play.
Second-seeded Northwestern was scheduled to play Washington at 6 PM (CDT) tonight in a game carried on ESPN, but it's currently delayed because of severe weather. It's win or come home for DePaul when it plays Arizona State tomorrow in the double-elimination tourney; that game, set for 11 AM, will also be on ESPN.
UPDATE: Is there a Reader blog curse? Maybe where women's softball is concerned. No sooner had I gushed about DePaul's Tracie Adix than her scoreless streak ended, and the same fate befell Eileen Canney after that rain delay Friday when she got spanked by Washington in a 9-0 skunking. DePaul succumbed in the double-elimination tournament in its second game Saturday, and although Northwestern survived to Sunday, the Wildcats then ran into a buzzsaw in the form of Tennessee lefty Monica Abbott. Both teams are out of the Women's College World Series. Good pitching might beat good hitting and vice versa, but good pitching almost always loses to even better pitching.