Luna's pitching unhinges Florida
Gators say fatigue had nothing to do with WCWS elimination
OKLAHOMA CITY -- What a difference a day makes.
Two teams coming off a Saturday of emotional highs and lows met in an elimination contest on Sunday afternoon. Texas and Blaire Luna lost by run-rule to the Oklahoma. Florida, meantime, won a 15-inning marathon against Nebraska.
Twelve hours later, the two squads were back at it, facing off in a win-or-go-home game at the 2013 Women’s College World Series.
Luna, who worked just two innings in the 10-2 loss to the Sooners, was almost unhittable on Sunday. The Gators managed one hit and struck out 14 times as the Longhorns lived to fight another round.
“I really don’t think [fatigue] had anything to do with [Sunday]’s performance, Blaire Luna had everything to do with [Sunday]’s performance,” Florida head coach Tim Walton said. “She was very good.”
Hannah Rogers started and saved Saturday’s win against Nebraska. She worked eight total innings, including the first seven and the 15th. Lauren Haeger tossed 111 pitches during the middle seven innings of the marathon win against the Huskers.
On Sunday, Rogers got the call.
A three-run home run by UT’s Kim Bruins was Rogers’ only real mistake during her seven innings.
“I think we came out with a lot of energy, more than I expected,” Rogers said. “Everyone came out ready to fight.
“We struggled a little bit at the plate, but the credit has to go to Blaire [Luna].”
UF’s Lauren Haeger was also not buying the fatigue factor.
“I don’t think [we were tired], everyone had energy; I know I wasn’t tired,” Haeger said. “We all got treatment [Saturday] night, the trainers did really well with all that, helping us recover. We got good rest. Texas just made more adjustments than we did.”
Luna (32-6) was not as sharp as she has been this postseason in either of her two WCWS appearances this week. On Thursday, the right-hander struck out 10 against Arizona State, but walked three and gave three runs in UT’s win. She walked five in two innings against OU.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the third on Sunday, Luna struck out Haeger with some high heat. An inning later, with two runners aboard, Luna struck out pinch-hitter Bailey Castro looking. Florida collected 13 hits against NU; Taylore Fuller was the only Gator to register a hit on Sunday.
“I was really proud of how I bounced back,” said Luna, who will most likely get the call in Sunday’s matchup with Tennessee. “It’s the World Series and that is what it is all about. I thought I did a better job of bouncing back, mixing my pitches up better.”
For Florida, a participant at the WCWS five times since 2008, the season ended at 58-9. Although the championship series usually gets top billing on the most memorable lists from the annual event in Oklahoma City, the wild 15-inning elimination game between the Gators and Huskers will not soon be forgotten.
“It is going to be hard not to [forget],” Walton said. “That is one of the most memorable games I have ever been a part of as a coach or a player. You have to admire the backs-against-the-wall, being able to go from the highs to the lows, to being able to bounce back.”
After Saturday night’s marathon, Walton was not going to worry about Sunday just yet.
“I think what these guys showed me [Saturday], I’ll take them to battle any day of the week,” he said. “I told this team from one of the first weekends of the season, I’d win or lose with this kind of team any day of the week.”
Texas (51-9) must beat Tennessee twice -– once Sunday night and again on Monday -– in order to advance to the best-of-three championship series. The two UTs have only met three times in softball, the last coming in 2012 when the Longhorns’ Brejae Washington hit an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 victory.