No. 4-seed Texas blanks South Carolina behind two home runs from Thom
AUSTIN, Texas -- Two home runs from junior Taylor Thom drove in six runs and lifted fourth-seeded Texas to a 6-0 victory against South Carolina on Sunday in the NCAA Softball Austin Regional championship at Red & Charline McCombs Field. Thom hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first and a grand slam in the fifth, setting the UT record for RBIs during an NCAA tournament contest.
The grand slam was Thom's fourth of the season and she became the fifth player in NCAA history with four or more slams during a campaign. With the six runs batted in, Thom raised her season total to 63, the most in a year in Texas history.
In the circle, senior Blaire Lune (28-5) went the distance, recording eight strikeouts and scattering five hits and four walks. Luna did not allow a hit in six bases-loaded situations, earning her 11th shutout of the campaign. Katie Marks (8-8) recorded the loss for the Gamecocks, tossing 4.3 innings. She gave up six runs on five hits, including the two Thom home runs. Julie Sarratt came in for the remaining 1.2 and allowed just one walk.
South Carolina had a chance to score in the top of the first as Luna started the game with two walks and a hit by pitch to load the bases. The Gamecocks were unable to capitalize, though, as Luna struck out the next three batters to get out of the bind.
After the defensive hold, the Longhorns took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the frame. Senior Taylor Hoagland started the Texas offense with a free pass and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior Brejae Washington. Thom stepped up to the plate and hit a two-run homer to left field, breaking the Texas RBI record with her 58th and 59th of the season. Two lineouts closed the inning.
South Carolina loaded the bases with no outs again in the second inning after a single to the left side and two nicely placed bunts that avoided UT infielders. A drive to center by shortstop Samie Garcia was scooped off the hop by center fielder Washington, who threw to catcher Mandy Ogle. Ogle tagged out pinch runner Brooke Barnhill. A groundball to the shortstop was snatched by Thom, who tossed home for the force out. A pop fly was caught by freshman second baseman Stephanie Ceo in shallow right to close the inning.
Both teams went quietly until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Thom struck again. Texas loaded the bases with one out after Ceo walked. Hoagland reached on an error by the shortstop and Washington singled with a blooper to shallow center field. Thom cleared the bases with a grand slam to left center, marking her fourth grand slam of the season and improving the Texas lead to 6-0.
Luna retired six of the final seven batters she faced, surrendering only a one-out walk in the seventh to seal the victory.
With the 6-0 win, the Longhorns advanced to the NCAA Softball Super Regional tournament.