Bruins hits home run in fifth-inning to send Texas past Arizona State
OKLAHOMA CITY -- For four innings on Thursday evening at the Women's College World Series, Arizona State and Texas treated the thousands in attendance to an old-fashioned softball pitching duel. In the end, it was a clutch fifth-inning home run off the bat of senior Kim Bruins that eventually proved to be the winning blow as Texas toppled Arizona State 6-3.
Bruins finished 1-for-4 with the home run, second baseman Stephanie Ceo was 2-for-3 with an RBI, and shortstop Taylor Thom and third baseman Taylor Hoagland each contributed a double and an RBI. In the circle for the Longhorns, senior Blaire Luna (31-5) allowed four hits and three earned runs through six innings of work with 10 strikeouts to get the win, while Bruins struck out a pair and permitted one hit in the seventh inning to earn the save.
ASU's offense was powered by a two-run double off the bat of center fielder Alix Johnson (1-for-2) and a solo home run from third baseman Haley Steele. Pitcher Dallas Escobedo (30-5) took the defeat in the circle after being responsible for five earned runs on six hits with six walks and five whiffs through 5.1 frames.
The third match-up of the WCWS opening day started as a pitcher's duel early on between Arizona State's Escobedo and Texas' Luna. Both teams managed a runner at second on one occasion over the opening two frames via walk, but couldn't string together any sort of sustained offense.
In the ASU third, Johnson drew a free pass, advancing all the way to third as shortstop Cheyenne Coyle reached via a fielding error by Texas. With Sun Devils stationed at the corners, Luna responded to the threat by striking out catcher Amber Freeman swinging.
The Longhorns again managed to get a runner in scoring position during the bottom of the third. Center fielder Brejae Washington walked and then swiped second on a delayed steal. Thom walked on six pitches to join her teammate on the base paths, but a pop up to short off the bat of Bruins left the duo stranded.
A diving catch out in right field by Arizona State's Bailey Wigness prevented leadoff batter Mandy Ogle from reaching for UT in the bottom of the fourth. In all the inning went quietly for both offenses as Escobedo and Luna retired the sides in order.
Consecutive base hits from left fielder Elizabeth Caporuscio and Wigness got the Sun Devil offense going with one down in the top of the fifth. That set the stage for a two-run double into the left field gap from Johnson as Arizona State finally broke the scoreless deadlock by nabbing a 2-0 lead.
Texas' offense responded in the bottom half of the fifth. Ceo started the threat with an infield single, moving to second via a walk issued to Washington. Thom stepped to the plate and drove a shot to right for an RBI double. On the throw back in towards the plate by Wigness, the ball eluded catcher Freeman as Washington also scored to knot the contest at two. Bruins followed immediately with a drive to left that sent Caporuscio back to the wall. The ball was in her glove for a split second before bouncing out, landing on the top of the wall and rolling over for a two-run home run as the Longhorns powered in front 4-2.
The Sun Devil comeback attempt began immediately in the top of the sixth as Steele led off the frame by blasting a shot just inside the foul pole down the left field line to cut the deficit to a single tally.
The Longhorns got the run right back in the bottom of the sixth as a perfectly placed bunt by Ceo between the circle and third brought in left fielder Torie Schmidt from third to make it 5-3. Third baseman Taylor Hoagland followed with a double just inside the left-field line for a RBI, ending Escobedo's stint in the circle as Mackenzie Popescue entered in relief with the Sun Devils trailing 6-3. Popescue kept Texas from adding anymore on the scoreboard as the Sun Devils moved to their final chance to extend the match-up.
Bruins came on for the seventh and worked around two singles in the inning to keep ASU off the board and preserve the 6-3 victory. In addition to her big day at the plate, Bruins earned her first save of the season.