Arizona St. wins with ‘perfect team’
Sun Devils become just third WCWS champion to go error-free
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The sky divers did their job well. Two members of the United States Special Operations Command Parachute Team, each flying the respective school flags of Arizona State and Florida, landed on target and safely as part of pregame presentations during Military Appreciation Night at the second game of the Women’s College World Series championship series on Tuesday.
Annie Lockwood made sure to say thank you for their service.
Capping Arizona State’s second national title, Lockwood planted a sixth-inning shot deep to left field about three-quarters of the way up the bleachers into a crowd of military personnel in full uniform, her third home run of the series. The blast was the final Sun Devil run in a 7-2 victory, helping them take the series 2-0.
The national title was the 400th in Pac-10 history. It also kept the Southeastern Conference, a late comer to elite softball, without its first title in its third championship series (also Tennessee in 2007; Florida in 2009).
Lockwood’s run ended an explosive stretch as the Sun Devils finished the postseason with a 10-0 record behind timely—and powerful—hitting, a sterling defense and consistent pitching. It also had one other thing that coach Clint Myers couldn’t let go unnoticed.
“I can tell you the one thing this team has had that no other team [I’ve coached] has had, men or women—eight great leaders with these seniors,” Myers said. “They were very cool, calm. The idea that what we said together, breaking it into thirds, playing the best softball, we talked about it at the Regionals, we talked about it at the Super Regionals, and by golly in my opinion, they did it. They played the best softball of the year here in the [WCWS].”
Florida came with a strong senior class as well, coach Tim Walton also noted in the postgame press conference. The winningest class in school history only lost 33 games in four years. It came into the WCWS leading the nation in home runs, but it was the Sun Devils who posted nine round-trippers, the second-highest total in WCWS history only behind the 14 by UCLA last year. Three of the Gator seniors losses came in the last five days to Arizona State.
Arizona State outscored Florida 21-6 in the championship series. Before that, the Gators had scored 41 runs in five games during bracket play.
Despite making it look like everything went according to script, Myers said capping a season with a national title was not as easy as just wishing it to happen.
“It was a grind, it was hard,” Myers said. “I’m not an easy guy to play for, I’m very demanding. My expectations and my standards that I set are as high as they set for each other themselves. I believe in a strong work ethic, it’s this kind of ending that makes every single thing that they did—the blood, the sweat, the tears—all worth it.”
From freshman Dallas Escobedo’s perfect run through the postseason to the sparkling defensive effort—the Sun Devils did not commit an error in the Super Regionals or WCWS—and the power game on offense that was somewhat overshadowed by the Gators entering the series, Arizona State checked off each of its goals in unison, together as a unit.
The difference between the 2008 squad and this one was noticeable, said senior Lesley Rogers.
“Wining one is hard enough, but winning two? That’s just nuts,” Rogers said. “I feel so blessed to be a part of this program, but I don’t think anyone understands what kind of a team [effort] that was. My freshman year, we were talented no doubt. We had an amazing senior pitcher and an amazing senior class. And this year if you want to think of a perfect team, a cohesive team that has every piece of what you need to win a championship, that’s what this was. And it feels awesome.”
Dallas Escobedo had one of the most incredible runs in NCAA history as she became just the fourth freshman pitcher—and first since 1990—to win the clinching game of the championship. Along the way, she won 37 games, the second-highest total in Arizona State history, including taking her last 19 consecutive decisions.
|All You Need to Know About the WCWS|
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Cal's Proud Perspective | Students of the Game
Leal's Journey | Strength vs. Strength
Lockwood's Maturity Pays Dividends
Notebooks: Wednesday | Thursday
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|WCWS Stats: Individual | Team|
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|Division I Championship History|
|National Team and Individual Leaders|
Not a hit, but she’ll take it
Mandy Urfer was one of the Sun Devils’ hottest hitters in bracket play at the WCWS but then got off to a slow start Monday with an 0 for 4 effort. She got back on track by going 1 for 2 in the clinching game, including getting the benefit of the doubt on a key play. With a 2-2 count, Urfer looked to have swung at a ball, but was ruled to have checked her swing. She took advantage of the extra time at the plate, coaxing a walk and then scoring two batters later when Alix Johnson ripped a two-RBI single to put the game out of reach.
Arizona State was dominant throughout the postseason and its defense played a large role. The Sun Devils were perfect in the field, becoming the first team since UCLA in 1988 to win the championship without committing an error. The only other team in the 30-year history of the event to take the title without a defensive miscue was the 1982 UCLA squad. The last time Arizona State had an error was in the regional championship game.
With the win Tuesday, Arizona State coach Clint Myers won his second national title. Along the way, he picked up win No. 12 in the Women’s College World Series, moving him into a tie for sixth all time in WCWS wins.
The hottest place in ASA Hall of Fame Stadium had to be in the Gator suit the Florida mascot was wearing while roaming the stands Tuesday evening before the sun set. A close second? In the batter’s box when Gator Michelle Moultrie was at the plate. The junior finished the series with 13 hits, tying the WCWS series record in the first inning with a leadoff double. Her two bases also gave her the series record for total bases (26). The day earlier she tied the series record with her fourth home run in Oklahoma City.
Also in the record book
Florida’s Kelsey Bruder, who had some terse words about the umpire’s strike zone after Monday’s game, was back in a familiar position in the first inning when she walked on six pitches. The base on balls increased her series total to nine, tying for third in WCWS history. Earlier in the week, she set the record for runs in a series with 10.
Leading the way
Arizona State led the way with five players on the 12-person WCWS all-tournament team. Among the members were: Whitney Larsen, Alabama; Holly Holl, Baylor; Whitney Canion, Baylor; Chelsea Thomas, Missouri; Cheyenne Coyle, Florida; Kelsey Bruder, Florida; Brittany Schutte, Florida; Krista Donnenwirth, Arizona State; Annie Lockwood, Arizona State; and Mandy Urfer, Arizona State. The most outstanding player award actually went to two players in record-setting Florida center fielder Michelle Moultrie and Arizona State freshman pitcher Dallas Escobedo.