No. 8/8 Softball defeats Northwestern 5-0 to capture NCAA Austin Regional title
May 20, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- Junior All-America pitcher Blaire Luna fired her second shutout of the day to lead the No. 8/8 Texas softball team to a 5-0 victory against Northwestern in the championship game of the NCAA Austin Regional on Sunday afternoon at Red and Charline McCombs Field. 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 NCAA changed to its current Regional-Super Regional-World Series format in 2005).
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. Regional fourth seed Northwestern concluded its season with an overall record of 29-29.
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 a second and decisive regional championship game.
On the day, Luna worked 14.0 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 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.
On the performance of Blaire Luna today: At the beginning of the day, really last night, I was talking to the staff and I knew we wanted Luna to be the starter today. Beyond that, we weren't really sure. We had (Rachel) Fox ready in relief and we just weren't sure how long we were going to be able to go with her. I think as that first game went on, she was absolutely baffling and there was no way that we couldn't just try to ride her as long as we could. We got a nice break in the middle to get some food, get the arm worked on some and then just be ready to reset and get after it. She had great command of almost everything, specifically the rise and the drop. We were north and south a lot, but every once in awhile just when they started looking for that, she would throw in an off-speed pitch and just kept them completely baffled. Great, great performance.
On starting Luna in the second game: We just told Fox right when we finished game one that we have to stay with Blaire. We were getting so much swinging and missing that they just weren't putting the ball in play. I think physically she was the one to go with. Mentally she was the one to go with too, and I mean mentally for them. I think sending her back out made them go, `Gosh, really, we have to deal with that again?' And I just told Fox to be ready. We didn't know physically on a hot day and we weren't sure how long she would be able to go, so Fox was ready if we needed her.
On whether or not she contemplated taking Luna out late in game two: Rachel Fox was in relief for both games. She was ready to go. As we got deep into game one and knew that she had so many good looks against them in game one and starting game two, I just felt like she was going to be the one and it was probably going to end up being her game unless they just strung a bunch of hard hits together. They really were not able to square the ball up. She had such tremendous movement and I just felt like as we got deeper into game two it was going to end up being hers to win or lose. She gave us the best competitive opportunity.
On the energy of the team: We've seen it all year. I know media is supposed to ask me, `In your last six games, you've lost half of them.' I was asked that question as we were getting down to our later series in conference and I didn't have the stuff in front of me, I'm not a huge numbers person. But when I got done with the interview, I thought we lost one, we won one, we lost one, won two. We were scrapping. It really didn't matter over that period of time what our record was because it was never a long streak. It was all about scrapping it out and that really showed me. Energy is the term for it, but we talk on day one on media day about competitive spirit and energy is part of that certainly. But just seeing them grind back regardless of when people were counting them out, we just kind of stayed in our Texas bubble. And that has been very important and will be very important as we head down the finish.
Junior pitcher Blaire Luna
On whether or not this was her best performance of the season: I would say so. This year hasn't really been spectacular for me, and this week Coach Clark and I really worked hard on hitting my spots and I think today it really worked out.
On her perceptions of the season for her: It's been rough mentally just having to work through a lot of stuff. I've kind of been hitting a lot of people and walking people and my strikeouts haven't really been that high. But this week we kind of just changed our game plan. We kept my pitch count high and just staying conditioned was really important so I think that's key.
Senior third baseman Nadia Taylor
On the mentality of the team today: As we were talking, when we spoke before the last game, we were just (thinking) this could possibly be our last game, let's stay on the gas, let's rest later. Let's not take off a pitch, let's stay focused and just grind out. Every inning we brought energy. The seniors did an outstanding job, the juniors did an outstanding job and Blaire did awesome staying even-keel and keeping that energy in the circle.
On how the team has been successful enough to reach this point: I think we as a senior group have fought through adversity and this year we're determined to finish. Dropping that first game lit a fire for us. We knew that any game could possibly be our last one, so every game we didn't take off any pitches. And I think the pitchers did an outstanding job and they really showed what they can do.
Senior second baseman Lexy Bennett
On the team's mentality this season: Our thing is `Determined to be the one' and I think we've really bought into that. This by far has been the best year over my four years. This team just does really well together and I think we're exceptional. We get along really well which doesn't always happen with 15 girls. And it's the support for one another. You always hear someone (say), `Hey, my bad, I got you next time' or `Hey, pick me up' and you don't see that everywhere. I think that's huge for us.
On Blaire Luna: There are a handful of pitchers who can really manage a game like she did today, we have faced many of them. This time of the year is about the big pitcher against the heart at the biggest moment, she did a nice job with that today.
On the seniors of the Northwestern team: On behalf of everyone at Northwest we would like to say a big thank you to Olivia Zolke and Adrienne Monka who had outstanding careers here for us in uniform, they left the program in a great spot.
On the takeaway: We showed a lot of fight throughout. When we got behind early in both games, it was difficult to bounce back.
Junior infielder/outfielder Emily Allard