OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – For four innings on Thursday evening in WCWS action at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla., Arizona State and Texas treated the thousands in attendance to an old-fashioned softball pitcher’s duel. In the end it proved to be a clutch fifth-inning HR off the bat of designated player Kim Bruins, someone who entered the contest with just three round trippers all season, that eventually proved to be the winning blow as Texas toppled Arizona State, 6-3.
For UT Bruins was 1-for-4 at the dish with the big two-run HR, second baseman Stephanie Ceo was 2-for-3 with a RBI and both shortstop Taylor Thom and third baseman Taylor Hoagland each contributed a double and a RBI. In the circle for the ‘Horns, Blaire Luna allowed four hits and three earned runs over six innings of work with 10 strikeouts to get the win, while Bruins struck out a pair and permitted one hit in earning a save.
“What an exciting match‑up, and I will tell you the one thing we talked about before the game started with the group is probably the first team to relax is going to have a good opportunity to win it all,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “I thought we were tremendous tonight, which is very exciting coming off of yesterday's practice, because we were just a little bit nervous, I thought. We were able to work it out. They kept assuring me today that they were ready to go and feeling good. They were as loose and looked like the Texas team that I knew and did a tremendous job. Kim Bruins and Blaire Luna to share that was tremendous, and Kim Bruins obviously just had a stellar night and she was a star for us. Great match‑up with a great ball club in Arizona State.”
ASU’s offense was powered by a two-run double off the bat of center fielder Alix Johnson (1-for-2) and a solo HR from third baseman Haley Steele. Pitcher Dallas Escobedo took the defeat in the circle after being responsible for five earned runs on six hits with six walks and five K’s over 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.
Easily the most serious threat of the early going came with two down during ASU’s half of the third. Johnson drew a free pass, advancing all the way to third as shortstop Cheyenne Coyle reached via a fielding miscue on a toss from third by Texas first baseman Karina Scott. With Sun Devils stationed at the corners, Luna responded to the threat by striking out catcher Amber Freeman swinging.
The Longhorns again managed a runner in scoring position during the bottom of the third. Center fielder Brejae Washington walked and then swiped second during a simple toss from Freeman back to the circle as Escobedo and her backstop failed to keep a vigilant watch on the UT speedster. Thom walked on six pitches to join her teammate on the base paths, but a pop-up to short on a 3-0 pitch off the bat of Bruins left the duo stranded.
An absolutely terrific diving catch out in right field by Arizona State’s Bailey Wigness prevented leadoff batter Mandy Ogle from reaching for the ‘Horns 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 plotted an immediate response in the bottom half of the fifth. Ceo christened 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 a RBI double. On the throw back in towards the plate by Wigness, the ball eluded Freeman up the third-base line as Washington also scored to knot the contest at two apiece. Bruins followed immediately with a towering 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 toppling over for a two-run HR as the ‘Horns 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 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 while trailing by a 6-3 count. The new hurler kept Texas from adding anymore on the scoreboard as the Sun Devils moved to their final chance to extend the match-up.
Arizona State refused to go quietly against Texas’s surprise relief pitcher Bruins as Coyle walked and Freeman followed with a base knock to right. That placed runners at the corners with two outs and brought the potential tying run to the plate in the form of Steele, a player who had already blasted a solo HR back in the sixth. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, she got under a pitch and popped it up to third to finish off the ‘Horns’ 6-3 triumph.