Why have we been making such a fuss about softball lately? Going into Saturday, this was USF's all-time history of reaching the top of the mountain in any team sport:
- Number of BCS Appearances (Football): 0
- Number of Men's Basketball NCAA Final Fours: 0
- Number of Women's Basketball NCAA Final Fours: 0
- Number of Volleyball Final Fours: 0
- Number of Men's Soccer College Cup Appearances: 0
- Number of Women's Soccer College Cup Appearances: 0
- Number of College World Series Appearances (Baseball): 0
- Number of Women's College World Series Appearances (Softball): 0
I didn't name this blog Voodoo Five because of that one play. I named it that because it was emblematic of how USF could always get right up to the cusp of true greatness and then watch it get away from them as painfully as possible. After Friday night, when the Bulls lost 2-1 to Hofstra in 11 innings with all the nonsense that went along with it, it seemed like this Super Regional might be yet another entry on our long list of "close, but no cigar" events.
But on Saturday, with USF needing two wins and resigned to facing Hofstra's Olivia Galati all day long (she pitched all 27 innings in the series and is apparently some kind of cyborg), the Bulls found a way to scratch out the two wins they needed to make their first trip to the Women's College World Series.
OK, is that enough of an intro before I start screaming about the umpires? Good. I need to curse, so meet me after the jump.
THEY WERE FUCKING EMBARRASSING. They called five(!!) illegal pitches against Sara Nevins on Friday night, which she hadn't been called for since the opening game of the season way back in February. (It's a rule that is applied very inconsistently, to say the least. Sounds like a "point of emphasis" from the NCAA, like basketball players jumping across the three-point line too early on free throws during March Madness.) They were extremely late signaling balls and strikes. They overruled each other constantly, like the Jessica Mouse "interference" call when she made one of her typically great play at third base. They made calls that seemed to be based on imaginary rules, like when a runner on first wasn't allowed to advance to second because Laura Fountain was trying to back away from the tag on the baseline as she ran to first base. (Probably because the Hofstra player was going to shove her with the glove instead of just tagging her with it.) Imagine if Joe West called college softball, and then multiply it by 100, and then clone him twice. That's what USF was dealing with this weekend. The umpires were Bobby Sheldon, Chris Drumm, and Terry Holt, and they can all eat dicks.
Even with all that, Nevins (boss) and Lindsey Richardson (who, it should be said, is also a boss) held Hofstra to a grand total of four runs in 27 innings of softball. The two of them got out of jams all weekend long, with a lot of help from Mouse. Her UZR all through the NCAA tournament has been outrageous, and she made a spectacular, possibly season-saving catch with two out in the first inning of Game 3 to keep the game scoreless. Yes, season-saving in the first inning. It was that kind of tense, nerve-wracking series.
Now USF heads to Oklahoma City to face... oh, well isn't this convenient, Oklahoma in their first game on Thursday. There's a good chance the Bulls will be the only unseeded team in the WCWS, and no matter who ends up filling out the eight-team field, they're going to be a significant underdog. But does anyone really care about that right now? A team with USF on their uniforms is going to play on their sport's biggest stage. It's been a long time coming.
P.S. Collin got a Twitvid of Judy Genshaft dancing in the stands to "Call Me Maybe". I hope she's here forever.