Texas Longhorns: Blair Luna
May, 26, 2012
By HornsNation staff | ESPN.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Junior All-America pitcher Blaire Luna went the distance and senior third baseman Nadia Taylor belted a three-run homer to lead the No. 8 Texas softball team to a 4-2 victory against No. 12 Oregon in the opening game of the NCAA Austin Super Regional on Friday night at Red and Charline McCombs Field. With Friday’s win, the No. 6 national seed Longhorns (47-11) need just one victory on Saturday to advance to the Women’s College World Series. The Ducks (42-16), the No. 11 national seed, would need to defeat Texas twice on Saturday to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
After both pitchers controlled the action for the first three innings, Texas got on the board first in the bottom of the fourth. Courtney Craig led off the frame with a double off the wall in left center and advanced to third on a Karina Scott groundout. Torie Schmidt then brought home Craig with an RBI groundout to short.
“This Super Regional has two great teams matched up, and I think you could tell in the first half of the game that we haven’t played each other much,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “The seniors have been playing amazing. Every time they come to the plate, something exciting is bound to happen. Nadia Taylor and Courtney Craig got those first rallies going.”
The Longhorns added to their cushion with a two-out rally that produced three runs in the fifth. With two out and no runners on base, Taylor Hoagland and Lexy Bennett hit back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second. Taylor then hit a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left center for a three-run homer, her 11th of the season and 32nd of her career (tied for fifth in UT history), to give Texas a 4-0 lead. Taylor’s shot marked her fourth homer in six postseason contests this year.
Oregon answered with a single run in the sixth with Kailee Cuico’s solo home run over the wall in left field for her 12th homer of the year. After Christie Nieto walked and Alexa Peterson doubled, Luna got out of the jam by retiring Moore on a groundout to third and striking out pinch-hitter Liz Brenner.
“I tried to slow the momentum down a little bit. Coach and I talked about that,” Luna said. “I was a little bit nervous out there. I was trying to focus on hitting my spots and not trying to over-do it. I think Oregon did a great job putting the ball in play and making us work.”
Oregon continued to work with a two-out rally in the seventh, as back-to-back singles by Kaylan Howard and Kelsey Chambers put runners at first and second and brought the tying run to the plate. A wild pitch from Luna coupled with an error by second baseman Bennett, who dropped the ball while trying to tag out Chambers in a rundown, allowed Howard to come around from second to score and cut the lead to 4-2. After a walk to Cuico put runners on first and second, Luna got Nieto to ground out to first and close out the win.
Luna (22-5) struck out ten batters while walking four to give Texas its 30th victory of the season at home. That matches the program record of 30 wins that was set by the 2006 team.
“We were all talking and wanting to get this first win in order to set the tone,” the second baseman Taylor said. “We know we are going to try our best and go get it tomorrow afternoon. I think the pitching staff did a great job, and the hitters did a great job adjusting.”
Texas and Oregon play game two of the NCAA Austin Super Regional on Saturday with the first pitched scheduled for 4 p.m. CT. Should Oregon win, the two teams would meet again at approximately 6:30 p.m. Central for the right to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
May, 25, 2012
By Carter Strickland | ESPN.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Blaire Luna didn’t bother to pat herself on the back after pitching back-to-back shutout games in the span of four hours Sunday and securing Texas’ NCAA Super Regional berth.
That’s probably because she could no longer feel her arm. That’s what 249 pitches in one day will do.
“It was really sore Monday,” the junior said.
Four days later, her arm is no longer hurting and neither is her confidence, both of which are good things for sixth-seeded Texas (46-11) because Luna will take to the circle against No. 11 seed Oregon (42-15) Friday at McCombs Field for the right to advance to the Women’s College Softball World Series.
“I’m glad everything is coming together when it counts,” Luna said.
This coming together follows a season when things fell apart for Luna at least by her measure. The staff ace admittedly did not have her best season. She was still 21-5 with a 2.14 era. But last season she had a 1.27 era. The season before that is was 1.39.
“I didn’t feel like she lost her ‘It’ factor completely,” coach Connie Clark said.
But, then again, she knew Luna was not where she had been or where she could be.
“My confidence fluctuated up and down,” Luna said.
So too have the Longhorns, losing three of their last five before going on a tear and winning five straight by a 26-2 margin in advance of the Super Regionals.
“I have been telling here for the last month that it was gong to be there and it was going to come,” Clark said of Luna’s confidence.
It just took a big moment, the biggest of the season, for it to arrive.
“Her coming through (in the regional) was huge for her mentally and for the team,” senior Lexy Bennett said. “We’re trying to keep her pumped up and going right at batters. If she does that I don’t think a team could beat her.”
May, 20, 2012
By HornsNation staff | ESPN.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Junior All-America pitcher Blaire Luna pitched her second shutout of the day Sunday to lead the No. 8 Texas softball team to a 5-0 victory against Northwestern in the championship game of the NCAA Austin Regional. With the win, regional top seed and No. 6 national seed Texas (46-11) advances to next week’s NCAA Super Regional for the third time in program history and first since 2006.
The Longhorns will host No. 11 seed Oregon, champion of the NCAA Eugene Regional, next weekend in the NCAA Austin Super Regional. Game dates, times and television information will be announced later for the Austin Super Regional.
Luna (21-5) earned her second victory of the afternoon in the circle for the Longhorns, allowing six hits while striking out 14 and walking just one. Earlier in the afternoon, she tossed a two-hit shutout while striking out 15 and walking one in UT’s 5-0 victory that forced the second and decisive regional championship game.
On the day, Luna worked 14 scoreless innings and allowed eight hits while striking out 29 and walking two. In her four total appearances during the Austin Regional, she posted a 3-1 mark with a 0.81 ERA. Luna worked 26.0 innings during the regional and allowed three runs on 18 hits while striking out 52 and walking four.
Meghan Lamberth (12-13) took the loss for the Wildcats, working 4.1 innings and allowing two runs on four hits while striking out one and walking two. Amy Letourneau relieved Lamberth in the fifth and tossed the final 1.2 innings, allowing three runs on three hits while walking one.
Texas jumped on the board in the bottom of the first. After Lexy Bennett singled with one out, Nadia Taylor launched a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left field to give the Longhorns a 2-0 lead.
Texas closed out the scoring with a two-out rally that produced three runs in the sixth against reliever Amy Letourneau. With two out and no runners on base, Kim Bruins walked and advanced to second when Taylor Thom reached on an infield single. Mandy Ogle then lined a two-run double to left to score both Bruins and Thom. After Washington reached on an infield single to move Ogle to third, Ogle came home on a wild pitch from Letourneau to give Texas its fifth and final run.
Bennett went 2-for-2 with a run scored, while Taylor and Ogle each added two RBI to pace the Texas offense. Shortstop Emily Allard went 3-for-4 to lead Northwestern.