Women's College World Series Match Ups and More!

This feels like one of the most talked about Women's College World Series in recent history! Why? For starters, the 8 teams participating have won a combined 27 National Championships. (UCLA-11, Arizona-8, Oklahoma-4, Florida-2, Alabama-1, Washington-1) and with the exception of #13 Oklahoma State knocking off the reigning champs #4 Florida State, all top seeded teams have advanced.

Let's take a quick look at some of the first round match ups:

#1 Oklahoma (54-3)  vs. #8 Alabama (57-8)
Championship-type series in Game 1.

has been clean and consistent from day one with their only two regular season losses coming in the preseason to then #3 Florida State and #4 UCLA. They would sail through the season unscathed until dropping game one of the regional final to Wisconsin proving they're human, however, the tournament favorite doesn't seem to be lacking in any part of their game. Pitching is on point and deep and the hitters... well, they hit!

 began the season 33-0 before dropping their first L to Texas A&M in game 3 of the SEC series. They would go on to lose six in SEC play however it was good enough to claim the regular season championship. "Gritty not pretty" is a term used by head coach Patrick Murphy when talking about his team and they proved that having to claw their way past Texas in the Super Regional. Not always pretty, but you can never count out a team who isn't afraid of anybody.

#2 UCLA (51-6) vs. #7 Minnesota (46-12)
Winningest at the WCWS takes on first timers.

has been knocking on the door of a championship for the past few years but just haven't been able to pull it together when it really matters. This season could be different with the addition of Faraimo in the circle to help the 2x National Player of the Year, Rachel Garcia. Along with Azevedo the pitching staff has a 1.39 overall ERA and is supported by an offense that's scored one shy of 400 runs on the season. That combination is tough to beat.

is a team with an itch to make a statement and has already done so taking down two SEC powerhouses in post season defeating Georgia twice to take the Regional and then LSU at the Supers. Amber Fiser has an electric arm and if the bats show up to support her, things could get interesting.


#3 Washington (50-7) vs. #6 Arizona (47-12)
Awe, sweet revenge?

is out to avenge last year's championship series loss behind the arms of senior Taran Alvelo and one-year better Gabbi Plain. Washington has relied heavily on their pitchers in the past but it seems that the defense, anchored by the Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year (and former Firecracker) Sis Bates, and the hitting is right up there to support. The series sweep in Arizona at the end of Pac-12 play kicked off an undefeated run to this point so the Huskies are riding the momentum wave.

wants revenge. Not only is it the Cats first trip back to the world series since their championship loss to UCLA in 2010 but they will face off against the Huskies who came into their house at Hillenbrand and embarrassed them with a series sweep just a few short weeks ago. That series ignited the Wildcats who turned around and took two from UCLA the following weekend and continued on flawless through the post season. The Wilcats have 103 HRs on the season and their pitchers are throwing better than ever.


#5 Florida (49-16) vs. #13 Oklahoma State (44-15)
Upset in the making?

is a mainstay in the rankings year after year but after an uncharacteristically inconsistent SEC regular season (12-12) many people started to doubt that the Gators had what it takes to make it back to OKC. After an undefeated SEC tournament and regional run, and then a hard fought Supers, Florida has proven that they thrive best in the post season. Case in point, senior Kelly Barnhill is throwing better than she has all season (possibly all career) and when you have an Amanda Lorenz on your team who's batting .419 with a .563 OB%, you can almost guarantee run support. Gators are never to be taken lightly.

Oklahoma State
is a team that many people believe has what it takes to upset the best. They aren't flashy but they produce and they have a good time doing it. With a no fear and nothing-to-lose attitude, the Cowgirls will be dangerous. Senior Samantha Show is a big reason for this season's successes pitching 183 innings and slugging 18 HRs. Another fun fact about OSU, Head Coach Kenny Gajewski was on staff with Florida HC Tim Walton when Florida won it's back to back titles.

Wayne Staats from NCAA.com makes the following prediction...

It's easy to say we're heading toward the inevitable Oklahoma-UCLA showdown for the title. But OKC usually has some surprises. With the way Washington has been playing, the Huskies seem like the best candidate to keep the Sooners-Bruins meeting from happening in the finals.

Arizona could slug its way to a run, but Washington will make it back to the final series. It will end there, though, as the Huskies become the first program since California in 2003-04 to lose in the final in consecutive seasons. For the third time in four years, Oklahoma wins the title.


One statement I DO agree with is that OKC usually always has some surprises. The action begins TODAY!

NCAA Post Season Selection Show Summary

Here we go again! NCAA post season is upon us and if you weren't able to tune into Sunday's Selection Show, let me get you up to speed.

This past weekend saw the end of the regular season and most conferences held their conference-tournaments to decide who would represent their respective leagues in the post season. These 32 conference champions would be awarded automatic berths into the NCAA post season while the remaining 32 are chosen based on factors including, but not limited to, record, rank, and RPI or Strength of Schedule.

Since the introduction of RPI into college softball, the hype around seedings has intensified as top record-holding and top ranked teams are no longer shoe-in to host if their regular season schedule doesn’t show a favorable amount of wins versus ranked opponents. The top 16 seeded teams will host their regional and the top 8 seeds will have the opportunity to stay at home for both the regional and super-regional rounds.

For a list of all automatic berths by conference as well as more information on the NCAA post season criteria and upcoming schedule click here.


#1 Oklahoma (Norman, OK)
#2 UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)
#3 Washington (Seattle, WA)
#4 Florida State (Tallahassee, FL)
#5 Florida (Gainesville, FL)
#6 Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
#7 Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)
#8 Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL)
#9 Texas (Austin, TX)
#10 LSU (Baton Rouge, LA)
#11 Ole Miss (Oxford, MS)
#12 Tennessee (Knoxville, TN)
#13 Oklahoma State (Stillwater, OK)
#14 Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
#15 Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
#16 Northwestern (Evanston, IL)

For the complete NCAA Tournament Bracket click here or visit the NCAA website at www.ncaa.com/softball

Also, stay tuned for updates on some of your favorite Firecracker alumni as they make a push toward that coveted National Championship!

Perfect Game College Softball- Behind the Scenes

About a month ago I embarked on a new journey with a good friend and broadcast colleague of mine, Daron Sutton, on Sirius XM ESPNU.  Perfect Game has hosted a college baseball show for several years now and the thought of creating a show dedicated to softball just made sense!

In just the nine shows Perfect Game College Softball has hosted so far this season we have featured many of the absolute best in the game including:

Lonni Alameda- 2018 National Champion Florida State head coach; Patrick Murphy- University of Alabama head coach; Heather Tarr- University of Washington head coach / USA Junior National Team coach; Kenny Gajewski- Oklahoma State University head coach; Mike Candrea- University of Arizona head coach / 2004 & 2008 USA Olympic Team head coach; Rachel Lawson- University of Kentucky head coach; Jessica Allister- Stanford head coach; Marissa Young- Duke head coach; Rachel Garcia- Reigning 2018 National Player of the Year and UCLA standout; And many more!

Tonight's broadcast airing at 11:00 PM EST/8:00 PM PST on Sirius channel 84 will feature University of Louisiana head coach, Gerry Glasco, University of South Carolina head coach, Beverly Smith, and James Madison University head coach, Loren LaPorte.

The extreme willingness of these elite coaches to talk openly about their programs and the "journey" is priceless for both the athlete who dreams of one day playing on the collegiate stage, and the coaches trying to help guide them there. Tune in to hear coaches like Alabama's Patrick Murphy give us real insight into what it takes to win at the highest level but then also letting us in on the one single defining question he asks all recruits in order to build that championship culture.

There are only a few weeks left in collegiate regular season play so tune in to watch your favorite teams on TV and then listen in for a recap Monday evenings!

8:00 PM PST/ 11:00 PM EST

-Amanda Freed Katchka



Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #62-68

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

#62. Tully (2018) 9/10

Directed by Jason Reitman, known for films such as Juno and Up In The Air, teams up with Charlize Theron once again to tell this well written and phenomenally acted tale of a mother getting to know her live-in nanny after recently giving birth. Charlize Theron astounds with her physical transformation and authentic performance of a postpartum mother dealing with her own internal struggles as she develops a friendship with her younger, attractive nanny played by the wonderful Mackenzie Davis. Reitman’s directing along with the script written by Diablo Cody make this a compelling human story about new mothers and their mental health state. You can find Tully streaming currently on HBO.

#63. Captain Marvel (2019) 8.5/10

#64. Studio 54: The Documentary (2018) 8/10

#65. Ibiza: Love Drunk (2019) 6.5/10

#66. Deuce Bigalo: European Gigolo (2005) 3/10

#67. The Batman vs. Dracula 7/10

#68. Masterminds 5.5/10


Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #55-61

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018) 10/10

I was late to the party on this movie. I can finally confirm that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is as great as everyone said when it first came out last December. The movie follows beloved comic character Miles Morales as he gets his Spidey powers in a world where Spider-Man already exists. After a massive explosion that brings other Spider-Heroes from different dimensions, Miles must work with them to help get the other heroes back to their own earths. Fantastic storytelling, hilarious character interactions, and groundbreaking animation solidify this as one of the best movies of 2018 and I’m so happy that it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Christopher Robin (2018) 8.5/10
Black Sheep (1996) 6/10

The Birdcage (1996) 9/10

Bee Movie (2003) 4/10

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018) 6.5/10

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore (2017) 7.5/10

FC National Highlight- Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks

Next up on our tour of Firecrackers nation-wide, we head down to sunny southern California’s San Diego contingent, Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks. Having recently celebrated their 1-year Firecracker anniversary, Hicks and company have certainly made a name for themselves not only nabbing athletes from their home base of San Diego, but all the way from El Centro to Riverside and Arizona. Although hailing from different regions and backgrounds, the team considers themselves a tight knit family with the common goal of each playing college ball somewhere, someday.

The growth of Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks began about 5 years ago when a couple of Imperial Valley (deep Southeast San Diego) players reached out looking for a higher level of competition. As the group got stronger and word began to spread, what began as a vision to “meet a need” boomed into a regional softball powerhouse.

So, what was it that drew Bill Hicks into the Firecracker organization just over a year ago? “The ‘family’ atmosphere and support system,” he says. “There is a defined structure all the way to the top.” Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks is overseen by longtime Firecracker coach and FC VP Sean Brashear, who also uses his experience and expertise to help guide several other Firecrackers Brashear squads. “Being under the Brashear umbrella is a privilege. It is a very close-knit family and is based on knowledge, accountability and learning to play (and coach) the game the right way in order to create opportunities for the players. Sean hosts workouts regularly with all of his teams and gets to know the girls very well. The thing about Brashear’s umbrella that makes it so special is that there is a tremendous support system in place."

This support system includes big softball influencers and fellow peer coaches such as Tony Rico, Sean Brashear, Roman Gallegos, Mark Thornburg, Mike Smith, Jeff Allan, and Raul Duarte as well as each member of the Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks coaching staffs.

Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks 16U Coaching staff
Bill Hicks – Head Coach/Manager
Alfredo DeLaTrinidad – Coach
Gary Taylor- Coach
Ricky Guzman - IF/OF Coach
Sean Brashear - Recruiting

Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks 14U Coaching staff
Bill Hicks – Manager
Donny Wallace – Head Coach
Chad Dean – Coach
Matt Villaescusa – Coach

During their inaugural 2018 season, Firecracker Brashear-Hicks experienced great success sending both teams on their first trips to the PGF National Championships. Finishing top 20 in the 14U Premier division and 3rd in the 12U Platinum division, Bill Hicks says his greatest lesson learned is “Be yourself and build your own product that is unique. Don’t try to copy anyone else.”

Looking ahead to this 2019 summer, coach Hicks and his teams most look forward to getting back out to Colorado and spending time as a TEAM! Good luck coach Hicks, we look forward to following the Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks journey!

Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #48-54

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

#52. Paddleton (2019) 9.5/10

Mark Duplass and Ray Romano star in this Netflix film about two neighbors who take a road trip to buy drugs that will end one’s life after he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Duplass once again shows his immense talent as a filmmaker with intensely real dark comedy that pulls no punches. The performances by both Duplass and Romano are extremely commendable and the story will have you laughing and crying by the end. I feel this will go down as one of the most underrated films of 2019.

#48. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) 7/10

#49. Nacho Libre (2006)  6/10

#50. The Little Hours (2017) 6.5/10

#51. Wish I Was Here (2014) 6.5/10

#53.  Room (2015) 9.5/10

#54. In The Army Now (1994) 7.5/10

Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #41-47

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

#44. The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons From A Mythical Man (2018) 10/10

If there was anyone in the world who defined the phrase “Marches to the beat of their own drum,” it’s Bill Murray. This documentary compiles stories from all around the country as people share their random, unplanned experiences with the legendary comedic actor. From randomly showing up at house parties to bartending at a local dive bar giving everyone tequila shots even if they didn’t order them, these stories define the living myth that is Bill Murray but also serve as a reminder to everyone to just live in the moment as he has. “The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons From A Mythical Man” is currently streaming on Netflix.

#41. Batman: Gotham By Gaslight (2018) 7.5/10

#42. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017) 6/10

#43. The Break-Up (2006) 6/10

#45.  Abducted in Plain Sight (2019) 7/10  

#46. Ideal Home (2018) 7.5/10

#47. A Star Is Born (2018) 8.5/10

FC National Highlight- Firecrackers Gale

We're kicking off this Firecracker National Highlight tour with a dynamic and exciting team out of Colorado, Firecrackers Gale. Powered by 18U Head Coach, Randy Gale, Firecrackers Gale has fought through the struggles of being a mid-America team in today's softball rush, to becoming a contender in some of the country's biggest tournaments.

Going into year four in the organization, Firecrackers Gale is comprised of both an 18U team lead by head coach, Randy Gale and assisted by Nicole Gale and Michelle and Tony Gilio, and a 16U team behind head coach Scott Bricker and assisted by Shauna Parrish.

Read below as Coach Gale walks through some of the difficulties in gaining traction in this face-paced softball world as well as his passion for developing his athletes both on and off the field.


"Our team is driven by these values - first and foremost, a positive, team-first attitude, overall character - both on and off the field and a strong work ethic. The young ladies I have on my team, for the most part, have been with me since 10 or 12U. Everyone has a role and everyone contributes. They all know that for us to be successful, it takes every one of them. We are a family - from the players, coaches, parents and siblings. We spend almost as much time off the field together as we do on. In addition to our core, we have picked up some great girls this season that fit this culture. All of these young ladies understand what playing as a team is about.

Being a Colorado team, it has been difficult to get on the right stage for exposure and national tournaments. When we started we didn’t have the power house teams (in Colorado) like California and Texas. We’ve heard whispers since they were young like, "Oh it's just another Colorado team” and “Colorado has good players not great players." People don’t expect us to be competitive. As a coach, I have had to learn how to manage perceptions and drive expectations for these girls to compete with the best in the country.

There are many challenges thrown our way. To start with, the weather. We don't get the opportunity to be outside year round. In the winter months, we train at our indoor facility "The Off Season" from October through February. It’s difficult to make sure you are getting enough reps and doing the little things that you need to pay special attention too. Fielding ground balls for 4 months indoors becomes tough mentally after a while. And you can't train all aspects of the game like outfield because of space limitations. Mentally, they just want to get outside.

We also face the problem of having less athletes to choose from. We tend to have to pick kids up from all over the state rather than just from our local area. It makes it that much more important to find the elite athlete that fits into our culture, because they have to be that much more dedicated.

Having high school ball in the fall also creates a challenge for a couple reasons - First, the girls come out of winter and go straight into tournaments. There is no “warm-up” or dirt time that other states may have playing high school ball in the spring. The majority of our comp season runs March through the end of July, so when high school starts they are tired from just coming off their travel ball season, and roll right into high school season, where they end up seeing training 5 days a week. This can be very taxing on them, mentally and physically. For incoming freshmen learning how to manage arm care is huge. They have little experience throwing 5 days a week, and with the wrong direction can create serious arm issues. So to help with that, we shut the girls down from throwing for November and December and work a lot of strength and agility.

We have done a few things to try to break the stigma of most teams from Colorado, starting with how we put the team together. During tryout season, we go back to our values and look for athletes that we know would represent our Firecracker Organization, their coaches, and most importantly themselves as young women with honor and dignity. We are also looking for the girl that has chemistry with the rest of the team. While we of course look for athleticism, it’s not always our deciding factor.

The Firecrackers culture is a huge reason why we continue to attract the right kinds of players to our team. This culture is now flowing to all our FC teams in Colorado, and that starts from the top. We have brought Coach Tony Rico out to Colorado a few times, to help explain the culture and expectations it takes to be part of the Firecrackers. When you have the buy-in from one of the most influential people in softball, let alone your organization, telling you and your team you are doing things the right way, it becomes such a desire to maintain and build on that.

Additionally, we have an extremely challenging travel schedule. Come June and July we are pretty much gone out of state competing in the top showcases or tournaments around the country. To prepare for this, we play at the highest level we can in our state against the top teams in 18s. Our team has always played up and understood that we may take our licks, but we will be better prepared to play those teams from California, Arizona, Texas, and the South. We are also constantly trying to teach them the mental side of the game as well. Everything from going to bat with an approach to thinking 2 plays ahead on defense or having the bench players keep score or calling pitches to increase their game IQ.

Alongside of these things, I also believe that as a coach it is my job to foster good relationships and trust with college coaches. And by doing that I try to make sure that the colleges are aware that we do have great talent in this state.

We will continue to be the underdog when we travel out of state, and that's ok. These young ladies are happy to prove themselves every time they take the field. As their coach, I couldn't be happier with the success they have achieved, their future looks extremely bright."

                                                                        -Randy Gale

For more information on Firecrackers Gale and the Colorado Firecrackers organization please visit www.firecrackers-gale.com

Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #34-40

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

#34. The Spectacular Now (2013) 8/10

Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley star in this romantic coming of age tale of two opposite minded classmates who fall for each other in their senior year of high school. Teller plays a careless with no future in his sights while Woodley is a good girl who wants a better life for herself. The two young actors have an undeniable charm about them that would inevitably make them stars and also features a solid performance from upcoming “Captain Marvel” lead Brie Larson. “The Spectacular Now” is currently on Netflix.

#35. Lemon (2017) 4/10

Comedic actor Brett Gelman stars in this odd independent comedy following a strange man with bad social skills as his life begins to unravel after his girlfriend leaves him. I was intrigued by the idea Gelman as a lead in one of these low budget projects, especially because he also wrote the movie. But despite enjoyable supporting performances from the likes of Judy Greer and Michael Cera, the film never really has you rooting for it’s main character and the tone felt unbalanced at times. “Lemon” can currently be found on Hulu.

#36. Love, Gilda (2018) 9/10

Gilda Radner, one of the funniest ladies to ever be in entertainment, gets her story told in this documentary.  I was not fortunate enough to enjoy Radner in her prime, so this movie did a wonderful job showing her immense talent and the impact that she left. From SNL to her relationship with late actor Gene Wilder, to her untimely death, director Lisa Dapolito pays a great tribute to a legend. “Love, Gilda” is currently streaming on Hulu.

#37. Win It All (2017) 8/10

The first of two gambling-based movies on this week’s list, “Win It All” stars Jake Johnson  and Keegan Michael Key in a comedic drama about a gambling addict who winds up in debt after gambling away someone else’s money. I really enjoyed this performance from Johnson. He fits well in these lower movies like "Drinking Buddies” and “Safety Not Guaranteed” that allows him to give a more layered take on his characters. “Win It All” can exclusively be found on Netflix.

#38Baby Mama (2008) 8/10

One of the best comedic duos out there, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler started their transition from SNL cast members to movie stars  in this hilarious comedy surrounding surrogate pregnancies. Fey has always done a good job portraying the uptight straight-laced characters and that remains the same in this movie. Poehler plays the polar opposite to Fey which leads to some hilarious scenes between the two characters as their personalities clash. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my favorite underrated actors Greg Kinnear have a good role in this film also. You can find “Baby Mama” on Netflix.

#39. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018) 6/10

Adam Sandler and his famous crew of famous friends gather once again in animated form in the third film from the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise. This time the story takes us away from the hotel and takes the monsters on a summer cruise to the lost city of Atlantis. While these movies have never offered much depth in terms of story, this proves to be another harmless gag movie with some rather impressive animation effects to help make it enjoyable to look at.  “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” can be found streaming on Netflix.

#40. Mississippi Grind (2015) 9/10

Rounding out the two gambler stories for this week’s recap, “Mississippi Grind” is a fascinating tale of a gambling addict in debt who befriends a fellow gambler. Believing to have found his lucky charm, the addict and his new friend, take a road trip to New Orleans for a high stakes poker game. The film features incredible acting from Ben Mendelhson, Ryan Reynolds, and Sienna Miller. It also embraces the southern atmosphere to it’s fullest from it’s location settings to the excellent music playing throughout the movie. “Mississippi Grind” is currently streaming on Netflix.