By Stacey Kilpatrick
It was a pitcher’s day on Thursday, as the Women’s College World Series softball championship began at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. Eight teams – four from the Big 12, two from the SEC and two from the PAC-10 played in their first of many double elimination games in front of a record crowd of 15,432.
And when I say “pitcher’s day,” let’s just say it didn’t end well for all.
No. 2 Alabama 1, No. 7 California 0:
The Crimson Tide [1-0] did a lot of things right in their win against the California Golden Bears [0-1].
In its seventh trip to the WCWS, ‘Bama earned its first WCWS win, as they improved their record to [1-6].
The Roll Tide scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI single by Kaila Hunt, which happened to be her first collegiate at bat in the WCWS. She increased Alabama’s first-to-score stats to 3-of-7 in its appearances. Senior pitcher Kelsi Dunne had one of her best performances of the season, if not the best, while freshman Jackie Traina closed out the victory.
Dunne, the only senior pitching in the WCWS, allowed only one hit and one walk while striking out a WCWS career-high 11 batters in her six innings on the mound. She also eclipsed the 1,200 strikeout mark for her career, placing her 24th on the NCAA career strikeout list.
After Alabama’s win, ESPN’s Holly Rowe talked to Dunne about how she kept the winning momentum.
“Just kept mixing speeds,” Dunne said. “It’s important to keep the other team off balance and that’s what we did.”
One of the best performances of the game came from Alabama sophomore and 2010 SEC Freshman Player of the Year, Kayla Braud, as she made a fantastic diving catch in left center to grab Cal’s second out early in the game.
No. 11 Baylor 1, Oklahoma State 0:
Baylor’s sophomore pitcher Whitney Canion earned her 30th win of the season, pitching eight innings, allowing two walks, three hits and striking out 10.
The Bears [1-0] ended the scoreless game in the bottom of the eighth, when, facing an 0-2 count with two outs, Baylor freshman Kelsi Kettler slammed a walk-off solo home run far into left field, just inches from foul territory, getting her team the 1-0 victory.
“It looked like our bats had holes in them,” said Baylor coach Glenn Moore during a post-game interview with ESPN. “Tough to get a runner past second base. Looked like it was going to take a long ball to win it.”
Oklahoma State [0-1] came close to scoring at the plate when Ari Morrison rounded third and headed home, but was tossed at the plate by Kettler.
No. 1 Arizona State 3, No. 9 Oklahoma 1:
Freshman ASU pitcher Dallas Escobedo got her 33rd win of the season, as she struck out six and allowed one run on five hits. She threw a complete game, walked two batters and had one error.
The Sun Devils [1-0] took a 2-0 lead in the fourth when Kayla Ketchum and Bailey Wigness both crossed home plate.
But Oklahoma’s Haley Nix made it a one-run game in the top of the fifth with two outs, smacking her 10th double of the season, putting OU [0-1] on the board.
Arizona State came back with another run of their own, topping the local favorites 3-1 with the leadoff home run in the bottom of the fifth by Katelyn Boyd, her 18th of the season.
Oklahoma’s Keilani Ricketts, a powerful name in the sport of Division 1 softball, gave up three runs on six hits in six innings in the loss.
No. 4 Florida 6, No. 5 Missouri 2:
Missouri red shirt sophomore, Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Chelsea Thomas had an unusual game Thursday during the final first round game. She allowed six Florida runs – the most runs she’s allowed the entire season, as well as two home runs.
Thomas had six errors, four walks and eight strikeouts for Missouri [0-1].
Florida [1-0)] saw two pitchers on the mound with senior Stephanie Brombacher and freshman Hannah Rogers. Brombacher has won 90% of her starts this season and has been pitching for the last month and a half with a torn bicep.
The senior threw 2.1 innings, allowing two hits, two walks and earning two strikeouts. But it was the freshman Rogers who earned the win. She pitched 4.2 innings and allowed two hits, two runs, two errors, three walks, but managed to strike out four batters.
Rogers got the bases loaded after she walked her first at-bat in the top of the third with one out, but was able to close the inning safely for the Gators.
Florida’s player of the game is Michelle Moultrie. She nabbed her third home run of the season, getting a lead-off homer into center in the bottom of the third, putting the gators up 3-0 against Thomas.
Kelsey Bruder had a triple in the first to score Moultrie and Brittany Schutte.
Senior Megan Bush added Florida’s fourth run in the bottom of the third, breaking her home run streak from April 23, earning a new single-season record for Florida with 21 home runs. She scored herself and Bruder.
Missouri finally got a couple of runs in the top of sixth, making it a 5-2 game, when Lisa Simmons hit a two-run double in left center with two outs.
But Florida earned its sixth run in the bottom of the sixth and took the win for the SEC.
In the winning bracket, Alabama plays Baylor on Friday at 7 p.m. ET in game 5. Arizona State faces Florida at 9:30 p.m. ET in game 6.
In the losing bracket, California plays Oklahoma State on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET in game 7. Oklahoma faces Missouri at 2:30 p.m. ET in game 8.