AUSTIN, Texas -- All-America senior lefthander Cat Osterman opened the game by striking out the first 14 batters she faced en route to a one-hit, no-walk, 18-strikeout performance, as No. 3 tournament seed Texas posted a 3-0 shutout win over Utah in the NCAA Austin Regional championship game Sunday afternoon in front of 1,202 fans at Red and Charline McCombs Field.
Texas was powered at the plate by senior rightfielder Amber Hall (Deer Park, Texas), who went two-for-three, with two doubles, two RBI and a run scored, while senior centerfielder Tina Boutelle (Katy, Texas) went two-for-three as well.
Texas, the No. 3 overall seed in the 2006 NCAA Championships, went 3-0 at the Austin Regional to win the regional crown. Texas will now host No. 14 seed Washington (35-23) in NCAA Super Regional action at McCombs Field on Memorial Day weekend in a best two-of-three series. Washington went 3-0 en route to winning the Provo Regional championship on May 20.
The Super Regional will take place Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 or Saturday-Sunday, May 27-28, with the dates and times announced on Monday, May 22. The eight Super Regional winners advance to the 2006 Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (June 1-7).
Utah ends its season at 40-21, as the Utes went 2-2 at the Regionals. UTah was making its 11th NCAA Championship showing. This is Texas' seventh NCAA trip, and UT has made three appearances in the Women's College World Series (1998, 2003, 2005).
Osterman (Houston, Texas), now 35-2, won all three Regional games via shutout. In 21 innings of Regional work, she struck out 52 of the 69 batters she faced and walked just two while giving up four hits. Texas swept through the regional, defeating UTSA (4-0) and Indiana (3-0) before stopping the Utes.
The 14 consecutive K's to start the game was the longest string of strikeouts for Osterman in a game this year. On March 4, she had fanned 12 straight in UT's 3-0 win over Houston. After the 14th strikeout, Utah's first baseman Staci Hemingway became the first and only Ute batter to reach base in the game when she laced a two-out line drive single to left. All three of Utah's outs in that inning were by strikeout.
Texas jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second on three hits, including back-to-back doubles to start the inning. Catcher Megan Willis (Chandler, Ariz.) lined a leadoff double to left center and came home when Hall followed with an RBI double into the right field corner. It was Hall's ninth double and 19th RBI on the year.
On a strikeout to UT's next batter, Utah catcher Andrea Hoffman misplayed the ball and was forced to throw down to first for the out, which allowed Hall to move to third. Hall then scored when first baseman Jackie Williams (Arlington, Texas) rifled a sharp single to left for her 22nd RBI of the year.
Texas added another run in the third when Hall doubled home Tina Boutelle from second. Boutelle reached on an infield single to third to start the frame, moved to second on a passed ball, and scored on Hall's rip to right center.
Taking the loss was Utah junior righthander Meghan Dyer. She ends the year with a 16-9 mark. Dyer pitched the complete game. All three runs against her were earned. Dyer allowed seven hits - four of them doubles - and walked one and fanned four.
Offensively for the Longhorns during the three-game Regional, Boutelle led the way with a .500 batting average (4-for-8), followed by shortstop Desiree Williams (.400, 4-10), Willis (.375, 3-8, 2 RBI), freshman DP Kacie Gaskin (.375, 3-8, 1 RBI) and Hall (.333, 3-9, team-high 3 RBI). Boutelle also was three-for-three in stolen bases.
POSTGAME COACH AND PLAYER QUOTES
Utah Interim Co-Head Coach Kyle Magnusson
His general statement the game...
"They were better today. Osterman's one of the best that's ever pitched, let alone just this year. That's about all there is to say."
On their game plan at the plate today...
"We wanted to try and make her [Cat Osterman] throw strikes, and it didn't really work. She got ahead of us. Then when she threw the ball out of the strike zone, and we chased it. All her pitches move so well and she moves it around so well, that you have to make her throw the ball over the plate or you're in trouble. That's what happened today - we were in trouble."
Utah Interim Co-Head Coach Marianne Bullis
On changing the approach at the plate after striking out in the first 14 at bats...
"We tried to stay with the same approach, stay patient and wait for a pitch we could attack. It was basically the same approach throughout the whole game."
Utah First Baseman Staci Hemingway
On what makes Cat Osterman so difficult to hit (Note: Hemingway got the lone hit off Osterman in the game)...
"Obviously, she's a great pitcher. She has a lot of movement on the ball, but I think we went out swinging and tried to be aggressive and did the best we could."
Texas Head Coach Connie Clark
Her opening statement...
"I'm very pleased with the way we performed this weekend. We talked to the team early in the week about [playing] this time of season. And this weekend, we really got to see that internal leadership, that peer leadership, emerge in a great way. That jumped out to me the most. There is a lot of accountability with the players and each other and with the coaches. It's good to get the win today, and win in one game, and it is good to go through and look at the numbers from everyone. We have had a core of about five athletes who have stepped up and taken this team on their backs. That showed this weekend."
On Cat Osterman's game today...
"Cat had another great performance today. We knew all about Utah's ability to come back and break games open, like they did yesterday. We respected that going into today. As we get down the stretch, we really want to live on our ace. She is bringing everything she can. I think everybody in the stadium focuses on the zero on the scoreboard and keeps looking under the hit column, but we don't and she (Osterman) doesn't. She stayed pitch-to-pitch. When Utah got a hit for the first time, you didn't see her change. Cat stayed right where she needed to stay. She was right where she needed to be, physically and mentally, today."
On what's next for the Longhorns...
"Obviously, it will be great to be at home for the Super Regionals next weekend. We've faced Washington in the past, including this year in Fullerton where we got by them, 1-0. They are a really strong team from a really strong (Pac 10) Conference. It will be an interesting series. We have a lot of respect for their program. Right now, we will take tomorrow off, rest up, and get back to work on Tuesday to prepare for our next step."
Texas Senior Pitcher Cat Osterman
On coming close to pitching a perfect game and striking out 14 to start the game...
"Honestly, my job is to get outs. That's the most important thing. We have gotten close to 21 strikeouts before. Did I know that I struck out the first 14? Yes, I did. When you are in the groove, you know what's going on. I did it [threw 21 strikeouts in a game] once in high school and I have always wanted to do it at the college level. But it is a hard thing to do, especially at this time of year. We play against great athletes day in and day out. The chances of that happening, really, are slim-to-none. Today, the batter [Staci Hemingway] put the ball in play and hit a good pitch for her single."
On getting ready for the Super Regional against Washington...
"We will get to work on scouting Washington soon. They are a great team, and we've played them often in big games, in some of the early season tournaments in Arizona or California. They are playing really well right now, and, after this weekend, so are we. I really like the way our team is together right now. We are attacking at the plate, and our base running has been excellent. We plan to keep working on our game, working on our game plan, and see what happens."
Texas Junior Catcher Megan Willis
On catching for Cat Osterman...
"Every time she steps out there we are expecting something great to happen. Sometimes, that can be pressure on her but she never puts that pressure on herself. She has to sit here in front of you right now and answer the question of whether 19 [strikeouts] is disappointing, and, honestly, I sit back and laugh. How many people do you see get 19 strikeouts?
I think that every time she pitches we are watching something phenomenal happen in front of us. Sometimes we start to take it for granted. You you have to give credit to Utah for putting those balls into play. Look what they did the last two games, winning at the end of each game. Cat did a great job shutting them down, because they were fighting really hard."
Texas Senior Outfielder Amber Hall
On the team's performance today and her diving catch to end the game...
"It was just fun to get it done as a team. We came out this weekend with fire and picked each other up. We have been backing each other up any way we can, really hustling, encouraging each other, and putting out hearts into it. Laying out [to make the final out of the game with a diving catch] is all part of it. You do those things because that is how bad you want it and that is what it takes to win. It is an awesome feeling right now in the locker room, because this is the team we want to win with; this is the team I want to win with."