Arizona St., Florida show power game
Elite pitching, blistering offense collide in championship series
Florida is hitting the cover off of the ball, while Arizona State leads the 2011 Women’s College World Series with a 3-0 record by riding the arm of freshman hurler Dallas Escobedo. And that, in a nutshell, is why the best-of-three championship series looks to set up as an epic battle.
|Inside the Numbers: Arizona St. vs. Florida|
Watch: ESPN2 and ESPN3.com
Arizona St. wins first 2011 WCWS matchup
Box Score | Recap | Highlights
|NCAA Scoreboard | Bracket|
There is the now-familiar matchup between Pac-10 and SEC schools for the title. The Pac-10 owns the lion’s share of the 29 NCAA Division I Softball Championship trophies with a combined total of 22 spread among five schools, including a title for the Sun Devils in 2008. No other conference has won more than a single title with the exception of the now-defunct Southwest Conference which claimed titles in 1983 and 1987 through Texas A&M. The Southeastern Conference has been shut out despite sending Tennessee to the Championship Series in 2007 (lost in three games to Arizona) and Florida in the 2009 series (fell to Washington in two games).
Offensively, the Gators have a .357 team batting average through five games in the Women’s College World Series, more than 40 points higher than ASU’s .312 average during three contests.
Leading the way offensively for Florida, junior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie has one less home run (3) than Arizona State has hit as a team (4), and nearly double the number of hits for any other player in the tournament with 11. Moultrie, who only had two homers through the team’s first 62 games of the season, has hit .611 at the WCWS, going 11 for 18 with seven runs scored and five RBIs. Teammate Kelsey Bruder is one of two hitters in tournament play with a better batting average, checking in at .625 (5 for 8) with nine runs scored, four RBIs, a home run and eight walks.
Entering the championship series, Moultrie needs just one more home run to tie the WCWS series record. Bruder has already set a WCWS record for runs scored.
“We’ve been doing this for a while now,” said Florida coach Tim Walton. “I mean, we’ve been hitting all kinds [of pitches] for a long period of time. Everybody says it’s the bats, and everybody says it’s this and everybody says it’s this. It’s not that. It’s our hitters. Give them a wood piece, give them a stick; I guarantee they’re going to find a way to hit a home run. These guys can really hit. And I want to give them credit. They’re strong, they’re more athletic, they’re better balanced, they’re better connected than any group I’ve ever had.”
The individual who tops the offensive standings ahead of both Moultrie and Bruder is on the other side of the field. Arizona State senior first baseman Mandy Urfer checks in with a .667 average (4 for 6), five RBIs, two home runs and four walks through three contests in Oklahoma City.
The numbers for ASU freshman pitcher Dallas Escobedo aren’t flashy, but they have gotten the job done. Escobedo is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA across 21.0 innings at the WCWS. The freshman has struck out 26, the third-highest total overall and the most for any pitcher who did not throw in Saturday night’s marathon 13-inning game between Baylor and Missouri.
“With Dallas, we told her that we’re going to have to do some things and there were going to be some lessons and there were going to be some ups and downs, but if she truly believed, she would have that opportunity to play for a national championship,” Arizona State coach Clint Myers said. “To her credit, she has worked extremely hard with coach (Chuck) D’Arcy and she has just really done a great job.”
Fans got a sneak peek of what the championship series might look like on Friday evening when Arizona State marched out to an early 4-0 lead. Florida stormed back with a five-run fourth inning before the Sun Devils edged by with an Annie Lockwood home run in the bottom of the frame and a walk-off single, also from Lockwood, to seal the 6-5 victory.
Florida enters the championship series after posting a doubleheader sweep of SEC rival Alabama with an aggregate score of 25-4. ASU advanced on the strength of a 4-0 victory against Baylor. It looks to be a series of strength-against-strength in a battle for the NCAA title.