Arizona St., Florida head for home
Gators, Sun Devils clinch best 2-of-3 championship series bids
OKLAHOMA CITY – Clint Myers is not a numbers guy. He doesn’t really care that his squad was ranked No. 1 this season and that it’s the top seed in the NCAA field. The gaudy stats his team has put up while breezing through three games to reach the championship series aren’t much of a concern to him either.
So what numbers does the veteran coach care about?
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“We know the most important number in the regional is three, most important number in super regionals is two, most important number here at the [Women’s College World Series] is five,” Myers said. “If you want to look at those, those are a lot more important numbers than what they designate you.”
Myers isn’t alone in eschewing the numbers game. Many coaches answer the question the same way, especially when their numbers are better than just about everyone else. That doesn’t mean he’s ready to let up, not with so much still on the line.
“The hard work has paid off, but we have some more work to do. We have more games to play,” Myers said.
Starting Monday against Florida.
And the Gators have one set of digits Myers may want to take a closer look, specifically the eye-popping numbers from Sunday.
Florida scored 25 runs in two games against Alabama, a team that had not allowed a run in more than 30 innings. UF did it from the get-go as Michelle Moultrie led off the first game with the first of four Gator home runs, tying the WCWS single-game team record.
The Gators weren't just rolling on offense. Stephanie Brombacher shut down 'Bama, allowing just three hits to accompany Florida's offensive outburst and produce a 16-2 throttling.
In the ‘if necessary’ game, the Gators again jumped out front as Kelsey Bruder pounded a two-run shot to right field and Brittany Schutte added her team record 22nd home run this season seven pitches later.
"I think right now we're representing all of the SEC," Bruder said. "There's been a lot of talk about the Pac-10 and how it dominates; we just want to show that we play the same brand of ball they do. We want to represent for not only the University of Florida but the whole SEC."
Florida then cruised to a 9-2 win in the second game to clinch a spot in the championship series against the Sun Devils. Freshman Hannah Rogers tossed a complete-game four-hitter.
"I'm excited to see what the outcome is going to be because both teams are really hot," said Florida freshman pitcher Hannah Rogers.
Despite the explosiveness the Gators showed Sunday, Arizona State is more worried about staying within its confines.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re going to be facing at this point,” Sun Devil senior Mandy Urfer said. “The best of the best are going to be competing for the national title. In the end, I say if we continue to do what we’re doing, we’ll be able to be successful.”
Where do we start?
It’s hard to sift through the stack of records that Florida produced in its five-inning white-washing of Alabama, but let’s try anyway:
• The Gators scored 11 runs in the first inning, the first time a team has scored double-digits in one frame in the 30-year history of the event.
• The 11 runs were part of a 16-run explosion, which tied for fourth in runs scored while setting WCWS marks for most RBIs (15).
• Alabama set the mark with earned runs allowed (16), the most in program history, topping the mark of 13 three times before. The combined 18 earned runs allowed was also a WCWS record.
• Four home runs by the Gators tied the WCWS single-game mark and, along with two solo shots by the Crimson Tide, the six round-trippers tied for second all time.
One is not quite like the others
Entering Sunday, Alabama had allowed just 13 runs in the first inning all season, including giving up multiple runs in the frame just three times before the Gators stepped up. Florida batted around in the opening inning, sending 14 players to the plate but amazingly collected only five hits while scoring 11 times.
Dunne too early
Alabama senior pitcher Kelsi Dunne breezed through the first two games of the WCWS, working 12.0 shutout innings while allowing just five hits and one walk against 19 strikeouts. That quickly changed in the first against Florida as she lasted just 0.1 innings, allowing two hits and three walks while giving up six earned runs. She had given up just six earned runs in her previous 12 games combined. In the second game of the day, Dunne again exited early, giving up five earned runs on six hits in 2.0 innings.
Hot, hot, hot
Florida centerfielder Michelle Moutlrie has done everything she can to keep her team alive, and in the process has put her name in consideration for the most outstanding player award. Moultrie came into Sunday hitting .636 (7 for 11) in three WCWS games and proceeded to knock out four more hits in six plate appearances. She has now scored seven runs and recorded five RBIs with three home runs, one off the WCWS series record. Before coming to Oklahoma City, Moultrie had just two home runs all season.
What has she done differently since arriving in Oklahoma City? "Nothing in particular, it's just a good time to peak I guess," Moultrie said.
In the zone too
Not much that Arizona State has done in the postseason has been off the mark. Senior Mandy Urfer is a perfect example. During WCWS play, she has gone 4 of 6 with five RBIs and four walks through three games. Among her four hits was a second-inning, two-run shot Sunday that gave the Sun Devils the lead for good.
“So far I’ve been really zoned in this tournament,” Urfer said. “I just saw the first pitch and went with it. We had been working prior to the game, we were focusing on hitting the ball to right field, waiting for it, taking it the other way. It worked out nice.”
How we got here
Following his team’s final loss of the season, Baylor coach Glenn Moore was proud of the effort that got the Bears to Oklahoma City, especially through such a difficult path. Moore said he knew despite having such a young squad, he had to make a difficult schedule in the regular season to prepare for it. The plan worked.
“I think the fact that we had, with possibly the exception of Cal, we had the most difficult road to get here, which has kind of been the way our schedule has been set up all year, to play in hostile environments to prepare this team for that,” Moore said. “Even though it was young, they’ve been through the fire.”
Not so home sweet home
Coming into Sunday, the home team at the WCWS had won each of the first 10 games at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. Florida kept the streak in tact in the first game with 16-2 romp against Alabama, but top-seeded Arizona State broke the streak with a 4-0 victory against Baylor, the designated home team. Florida added a second visitors’ victory with its 9-2 championship-series clinching win against the Crimson Tide.