• Blaire Luna throws no-hitter as Texas clinches first WCWS berth since 2006

    Last year, Texas had to watch another team celebrate on their home turf. Blaire Luna made sure that wouldn’t happen this year.

    The senior All-American tossed her eighth career no-hitter – her fourth this season and the first she’s ever thrown in the postseason – as Texas beat Florida State, 4-0, Sunday afternoon at McCombs Field to clinch a berth in the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2006.

    The Longhorns, a year removed from a heartbreaking loss to Oregon in last season’s Super Regional series, will be going to the WCWS for the fifth time in program history.

    “It’s a whole lot better feeling than the last couple years,” head coach Connie Clark said. “Certainly there is a sense of relief to get that monkey back being so darn close the last couple years, feeling that the talent was there but coming up short. It’s been a while since we’ve taken a team to the World Series. We’re going to enjoy every single moment.”

    Luna was not at her best in Saturday night’s win over the Seminoles, the first game of the best-of-three series, striking out 10 but walking five in a 3-2 come-from-behind victory. But she was sharp Sunday, striking out 13 and walking only one over seven innings, holding Florida State (44-19) hitless the whole way.

    “It’s weird because in my warm-up, I didn’t feel that good,” Luna said. “They really take their hacks. The majority of them just swing for the fence. I was just trying to get them to keep it in the park. I was a little bit nervous about keeping them off balance. They didn’t see a lot of rise balls yesterday and that’s what I went with. They saw a lot more drop [balls] yesterday.”

    Luna (30-5) fanned seven Seminoles in her first time through the lineup and allowed her first baserunner when she issued a leadoff walk to Kelly Hensley in the fourth. But Morgan Bullock, who reached on a fielder’s choice later in the inning, was caught stealing by Texas catcher Mandy Ogle. That ensured that Luna, who retired the first nine and the last nine batters she faced, would face the minimum 21 batters in Sunday’s win.

    Florida State’s Lacey Waldrop held Texas scoreless through the first four innings before getting lit up in the fifth. Karina Scott, who doubled home the winning run in Game 1 on Friday night, led the inning off with a towering home run over the left field wall to give the Longhorns a 1-0 lead.

    Texas (49-8) wasn’t done, though. Freshman Lindsay Stephens, making her first career postseason appearance, pinch-hit for Stephanie Ceo in the fifth. She hit the first pitch she saw off the fence in right field and scored when Taylor Hoagland lined a ball off the glove of a diving Courtney Senas.

    The ball trickled into left field as Stephens came around to give the Longhorns a 2-0 lead. Hoagland would be the final batter Waldrop would face as she was replaced by Monica Perry with two outs in the fifth.

    “We finally made it to OKC and we’re not done yet,” Hoagland said. “It was almost like we were running so fast that we couldn’t get our feet under us [last year]. I didn’t feel super solid like we are this year. This year, we’ve worked hard. We’ve done everything we could possibly do. I don’t have any regrets.”

    Taylor Thom, who struck out in three of her first four Super Regional at-bats, lifted a high fly ball over the same left field wall Scott hit it over earlier in the frame. That two-run shot gave Texas a 4-0 lead and gave Luna more than enough run support to send to punch the Longhorns’ ticket to the Women’s College World Series. 

    “That game was just perfect,” Thom said. “It’s such a surreal feeling like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to the [Women’s] College World Series.’ That’s something we’ve dreamt about our whole lives. To say that we have the opportunity to go, it’s such an amazing feeling.”

    Excluding that four-run fifth inning, Texas had a hard time hitting with runners in scoring position. They had a runner on second or third with less than two outs in the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings without scoring.

    But the Longhorns gave Luna all the run support she would need by nearly batting around in that fifth inning. Luna threw 117 pitches, 76 for strikes, on her way to throwing the third no-hitter in Texas postseason history. The first two came in back-to-back games in 2005 by Cat Osterman, who led the Longhorns to their last WCWS appearance seven seasons ago.

    Texas, the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, will face the winner of the Super Regional series between No. 5 seed Arizona State and No. 12 seed Kentucky on Thursday in Oklahoma City. 

  • Texas a win away from WCWS after dramatic 3-2 victory over FSU in Super Regional opener

    It took a while for Texas' Super Regional series against Florida State to start, but once it did, the Longhorns made it worth the wait.

    Texas is one win away from earning a spot in the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2006 after taking down the Seminoles, 3-2, in dramatic fashion during the first game of a best-of-three Super Regional series Saturday. The Longhorns fell behind 2-0 in the third inning but pushed a run across in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to beat the Seminoles.

    The comeback was capped off by an RBI double by Karina Scott to left-center field with one out in the sixth. After driving home the first Texas run with an infield single in the fourth, Scott crushed the first pitch she saw in her at-bat in the sixth as Torie Schmidt scored the go-ahead run.

    “We knew it would be a matter of time if we could just stay where we needed to mentally,” head coach Connie Clark said. “I thought we slowed everything down exceptionally well tonight and really owned the moment. I think that’s very important when you’re in an atmosphere like this. I felt like that was the difference in the ballgame.”

    Blaire Luna did not have her best stuff in Saturday’s victory, striking out 10 but walking five in the complete-game triumph. The first two of those walks came in the third inning before Florida State’s Victoria East lined a two-out, two-strike double over the head of right fielder Gabby Smith to bring home Kelly Hensley and Maddie O’Brien.

    But Luna came through when it mattered most. With the game tied at 2 in the sixth, she surrendered a pair of singles and walked the bases loaded with one out. But she struck out Alex Kossoff and Hensley to end the inning and give Texas the momentum necessary to take the lead in the home half of the inning.

    “We put on a great show,” Luna said. “All day we’ve been watching other games of other teams playing and a lot of them fought. I’m just really proud of our team.”

    Pitching with the lead for the first time, Luna nearly coughed it up in the seventh. O’Brien lifted a ball to deep left field and, while it was in the air, even Luna admitted to being concerned that she had just hit a game-tying home run.

    “I was a little bit [nervous],” Luna said. “I always get just a little bit nervous but I think that’s really good. Really, I was just trying to go right at them, get ahead in the count and spread the zone.”

    Luna, after issuing a two-out walk, would get Celeste Gomez to fly out to right to end the game.

    Despite not recording a 1-2-3 inning the entire night, Luna improved to 29-5 on the year and helped the Longhorns move to within one victory from reaching the WCWS for the first time since 2006. Game 2 of the Super Regional series is set to start Sunday at 2 p.m.

    Game 1 was originally scheduled to begin Friday night at 8 p.m. before rain postponed it to Saturday at 2 p.m. and again to Saturday at 8 p.m.

    “It was good to play finally,” Clark said. “I think our team did a great job of working through that. We talked about staying loose and when the bell rings, be ready for the call. I thought we came out and did a nice job tonight.”

    After East’s two-run double in the previous inning, Kim Bruins drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and scored on Scott’s infield single. Scott weakly hit the ball just past Florida State pitcher Lacey Waldrop and out of the reach of East, the first baseman as Bruins raced around to score the Longhorns’ first run of the night.

    Stephanie Ceo began the fifth with a perfectly placed drag bunt, her first and only hit of the game. Taylor Hoagland reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second base and scored when Brejae Washington drilled a 3-1 offering from Waldrop to center field, tying the game, 2-2.

    “With the 3-1 count, I was waiting for my pitch and something small,” Washington said. “I just needed something on the ground to be able to punch it through the hole and score Taylor Hoagland.”

    With the win, Texas finds itself in a familiar position. The Longhorns won their Super Regional series opener over Oregon, 4-2, on their home field last season before falling to the Ducks in the next two games and failing to earn a trip to Oklahoma City for the WCWS.

    “Us juniors and seniors have been in this position before so it’s kind of not taking that first one for granted,” Washington said. “We have to go in and fight and keep the same mindset that we have today because [Florida State has] a common goal just like we do and they’re trying to get to the World Series just like we are. We can’t take that for granted.” 

    Sunday afternoon, Texas gets a chance to prove, once and for all, it truly is a different and better team than last year. Once again, the Longhorns are one win away from the WCWS.

  • Austin Super Regional Game 1 postponed to Saturday at 8 p.m.

    The Longhorns' Super Regionals opener against Florida State has been postponed again, this time to Staurday at 8 p.m. The game was originially scheduled for Friday at 8 p.m. but was postponed and slated to start Saturday at 2 p.m. 

    After there was heavy rainfall in the area Friday afternoon, the rain picked back up again Saturday morning before dying down in the afternoon. The tarp was taken off the infield at McCombs Field around 2:15 p.m. but the outfield grass still needs time to dry. 

    The game times that were set for Sunday -- Game 2 at 2 p.m. and Game 3, if necessary, at 5 p.m. -- are still in place. This year marks the second straight that Texas has hosted a Super Regional series. The Longhorns fell in three games to Oregon in the Super Regionals last season and are looking to make their first appearance in the Women's College World Series since 2006. 

  • Texas' Super Regional opener postponed due to rain

    Texas' quest for a Women's College World Series berth will have to wait. The first game of the Longhorns' Super Regional series against Florida State was postponed Friday night to due to inclement weather and rescheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, would start Sunday at 5 p.m.

    A third game was necessary in Texas' Super Regional series last season, when the Longhorns beat Oregon in Game 1 of last year's Super Regional, 4-2, before falling in extra innings in Game 2, 5-4, and again in Game 3, 10-6. If the Longhorns get over the postseason hump this year and beat Florida State in the Super Regionals this weekend, they will earn their first WCWS berth since 2006.

    Friday night's game was originially set to start at 8 p.m. and be televised by ESPNU, although no official decision has been announced on which ESPN network would air Saturday's afternoon.

  • A year later, Super Regional disappointment fresh in Texas' mind as it eyes first WCWS berth since 2006

    It's time. They can feel it. 

    Last year was heartbreaking. But something in the air tells them this year will be different.

    Oregon denied Texas a chance to reach the Women's College World Series for the first time since 2006 when the Ducks took the final two games of last year's Super Regional against the Longhorns. The softball team came back this year, earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and made it through the Regionals without a loss for the first time since its last run to Oklahoma City seven seasons ago. 

    "There's a difference between this team and last year's team," outfielder Brejae Washington said. "Last year we kind of peaked a little early and we didn't have the depth in our lineup that was all on one page. I think this year, toward the end of the year, everyone is hitting as one unit and that's made a difference."

    Texas cruised to a 4-2 win over Oregon in Game 1 of last year's Super Regional series, hosted by the Longhorns, and took a 4-3 lead into the fifth inning of Game 2. But an unearned run in that frame tied the game and a sacrifice fly in extras won it for Oregon. 

    A six-run second inning by the Ducks in the decisive Game 3 helped send them to Oklahoma City with a 10-6 victory. Just like that, Texas' season was over. 

    "To watch someone else celebrate on your field, it sucks," shortstop Taylor Thom said. "We don't want that to happen again. It's definitely put a fuel in our fire."

    Thom did her part to give the Longhorns another chance to clinch a spot in the WCWS during last weekend's Regionals. She hit .556 in Texas' three wins while hitting two home runs, including a grand slam, and driving all six of Texas' runs in a Regionals-clinching 6-0 win over South Carolina on Sunday.

    Now, the Longhorns once again host a Super Regional, facing Florida State this time, beginning Friday night at 8 p.m. 

    "It's fresh in our mind," head coach Connie Clark said of last year's Super Regional loss to Oregon. "It's a little different feel than last year. I don't know if the pain is still there and you can feel it. It just slipped through last year. I thought it was a tremendous matchup with us and a great Oregon club. If you couldn't pick us to win a national championship this year, I think it'll be Oregon. That's how good that program is."

    Last year, Texas went into the Super Regional round with a record 46-11, going 25-3 at home. Now the Longhorns are 47-8 with a 27-3 record at home. Blaire Luna is still the ace. She's still dominant, to the tune of a 28-5 record and 1.17 ERA this year. The Longhorns remain potent on offense, hitting .330 as a team and scoring 6.1 runs per game - the second-most in school history, behind only the 6.2 runs per game they scored last season.

    "It's inevitable," Taylor Hoagland, who has a team-best .444 batting average and .626 on-base percentage, said. "People are going to talk about the past. Just to bring it up and know we were so close, just one game away, is going to be the fuel to our fire. I don't think any of us seniors want to feel like that again."

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