’Bama, ASU remain perfect on Day 2
Notes: Escobedo allows two HRs but strikes out 12 in thriller
OKLAHOMA CITY – If one thing is clear through two days and six games at the Women’s College World Series, it’s this: pressure is the key.
Alabama has eased through its two games by pressuring opposing defenses and keeping foes off-balance in the batter's box. The Crimson Tide have mixed it up in the postseason. Coach Patrick Murphy has said after each game that his team has “talked about it a lot in practice that we were going to force people to make plays.”
That philosophy shift has led to more aggressiveness on the base paths, if that’s even possible. ’Bama came into the week leading the nation in stolen bases and added three on Thursday. The Tide didn’t have any on Friday, but pitcher Kelsi Dunne made the difference, changing what she gives to opposing hitters.
“We really focused a lot today on outside and off-speed to righties,” Dunne said. “I think the scouting report against me is mostly screwball, riseball, so we shied away from that. I think we kind of took them out of their game plan a little bit and made some great defensive plays because they were still putting the ball in play. They had several hits but didn’t have them timely enough I guess.”
While Alabama changed things up, Arizona State continued to do what it’s done all year: putting on pressure by slugging the ball.
The Sun Devils scored in each of the first four innings but found themselves down 5-4 heading into the bottom of the fifth. ASU put the pressure back on the Gators as Annie Lockewood poked a line drive to right field that scooted over the fence to knot the score at 5-5.
ASU continued to pressure the Gators, finally breaking through in the bottom of the seventh with a single, fielder's choice, walk and Lockwood's single on a hot shot that put Gator third baseman Kasey Fagan in a position to have to make a play, which she couldn't.
With the win, the pressure is now back on the Sun Devils.
“This tournament is far from being over. We have a lot of softball left to play and the next game we are going to play is going to be the most important game we will have played this season,” said ASU coach Clint Myers. “That's our mentality. We're not going to look past anything and on that end of it, it is the most important game of the 2011 season.”
For the second consecutive day, the crowds were overflowing the stands as 8,627 fans crammed into ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The total was the third-largest single-session total in WCWS history, trailing only the Friday (8,694) and Saturday (9,080) sessions last year.
Streak with a K
Arizona State pitcher Dallas Escobedo looked nothing like a freshman early on Friday. Before allowing five runs in the fourth inning, Escobedo was dominant at the start, striking out the first seven batters she faced until centerfielder Michelle Moultrie knocked one up the middle for a base hit in the third. Escobedo finished with 12 strikeouts, the most of any pitcher so far in this year's WCWS, but she allowed six walks and had two wild pitches.
Turning the tide
After Michelle Moultrie’s base knock broke up a no-hitter and Stephanie Bruder walked, fans throughout the stands got to their feet quickly as it looked as if the Gators had flipped the tide when Brittany Schutte lofted one to deep left field. The blast cut through the well-lit ballpark and looked to be headed out but Talor Haro was able to get under it at the base of the wall for the final out of the inning. In the bottom of the frame, leadoff hitter Mandy Urfer pushed a line drive deep into the bleachers for a 4-0 Sun Devil lead and in the process seemed to take the air out of the Gators’ sails.
Despite coming into the WCWS with just two home runs on the year, second-team All-American centerfielder Michelle Moultrie lifted the Gators back to life with a little power. The diminutive Moultrie blasted her second home run in as many days Friday as she punched one to dead center field to tie the game at 4-4. Her homer came three batters after Tiffany DeFilce’s two-run bomb and started the five-run fourth inning.
More chances for success
Annie Lockwood’s line drive shot to right field just barely cleared the fence, plating the Sun Devils’ fifth run to tie the game in the fourth inning. It was part of a 3 for 3 outing with three RBIs for Lockwood, who also laced a shot to third base, just inches inside the foul line, for the game-winning hit. It's all part of the process according to coach Clint Myers. “Our philosophy is ‘Twenty-one tough outs and every at bat is a good at bat,’” Myers said.
Taking a timeout
Fans got a little extra time to enjoy their funnel cakes and ice cream as officials stopped the Baylor-Alabama game for almost 10 minutes with one out in the top of the first so the grounds crew could work on the infield. The playing surface was too wet from the pregame dousing and was a concern for players. Before the stoppage, Alabama’s Kelsi Dunne had allowed consecutive base hits to put runners at first and second. Once action resumed, Dunne got Megan Turk to pop out to left on the first pitch and then struck out pitcher Whitney Canion looking to end the threat.
Making it look easy
Alabama’s Kelsi Dunne threw 73 pitches, including striking out the side in the fifth. That inning she had her highest pitch count, throwing 15 times. An inning earlier, she needed just eight pitches to get out of the frame. With a stellar defense behind her, Dunne tossed 6.0 shutout innings for the second consecutive game and now has allowed just four earned runs through 38.1 innings in the postseason.
Working for it
While Kelsi Dunne breezed through the game, Baylor’s Whitney Canion had to work harder to keep the Bears alive. She finished tossing 128 pitches, including 74 for strikes. Canion gave up three earned runs for the eighth time this season while suffering just her second loss in more than a month. Freshman Dallas Escobedo went even further, throwing 174 pitches in the Sun Devils' 6-5 victory against Florida.
And replay says?
Trailing 3-0, Baylor’s Kathy Shelton led off the sixth inning with a solid single to right and the Bears looked like they might be able to grab some momentum. That ship sailed quickly as Walker hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Kendall Dawson, who attempted to tag Shelton out and then threw for the double play at first. Shelton was called out but coach Glenn Moore came out to discuss the call and television replays showed the tag appeared to be behind the runner. Despite the right call or not, it still erased all threats from the bases.
I didn’t know that
Alabama coach Patrick Murphy was caught a little off guard when asked about his team not allowing a run for more than 30 consecutive innings since the second game of Super Regional play. He had not heard that statistic and didn't even realize how long it'd been since an opponent had scored. No matter. “That’s one thing we say as a coaching staff, that if the other team never scores, we’ll never lose,” Murphy said. “We come up with a key hit and the same thing happened tonight.”
Lose a streak, gain a record
After working 11.1 innings in relief during the postseason without allowing a hit, freshman Jackie Traina gave up a leadoff single to open the seventh to Megan Turk. The rookie didn’t lose her composure, however, as she struck out pitcher Whitney Canion and then induced consecutive groundball outs to earn her second consecutive save and fourth of the year. The two saves are a Women’s College World Series record, surpassing the previous mark of just one by nine players.