Blaire Luna has been the Longhorns’ ace each of the last four seasons. The local product from Bowie High School has led Texas to its first trip to Oklahoma City since 2006 and is making her Women’s College World Series debut Thursday evening against Arizona State, the No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and the 2011 WCWS champs.
Luna threw her eighth career no-hitter, the fourth she’s thrown this season and her first in the postseason in the Super Regional clincher against Florida State last Sunday, a 2-0 victory over the Seminoles. She took the loss against the Sun Devils in a 3-0 loss in mid-March but is among the hottest pitchers coming into the WCWS.
Take a look at how she compares against the other aces in Oklahoma City (all statistics are from before the WCWS began):
Keliani Ricketts (Oklahoma) – 31-1, 1.22 ERA, 311 K, 49 BB, 207.1 IP, .155 BAA (4-0, 2.19 ERA this postseason)
Ivy Renfroe (Tennessee) – 21-4, 1.71 ERA, 140 K, 46 BB, 143.2 IP, .201 BAA (4-0, 0.47 ERA this postseason)
Sara Driesenga (Michigan) – 30-7, 1.25 ERA, 234 K, 71 BB, 243.1 IP, .223 BAA (4-1, 1.46 ERA this postseason)
Kaitlin Inglesby (Washington) – 22-7, 1.87 ERA, 130 K, 38 BB, 168.1 IP, .228 BAA (1-0, 0.60 ERA this postseason)
Tatum Edwards (Nebraska) – 30-9, 1.81 ERA, 214 K, 134 BB, 240 IP, .193 BAA (4-1, 1.62 ERA this postseason)
Dallas Escobedo (Arizona State) – 30-4, 2.16 ERA, 317 K, 64 BB, 243 IP, .185 BAA (5-0, 2.13 ERA this postseason)
Hannah Rogers (Florida) – 33-5, 1.48 ERA, 238 K, 83 BB, 255.1 IP, .193 BAA (5-0, 2.22 ERA this postseason)
Blaire Luna (Texas) – 30-5, 1.16 ERA, 384 K, 105 BB, 229.2 IP, .130 BAA (4-0, 0.97 ERA this postseason)
Luna has the best ERA among WCWS aces (1.16) and the most strikeouts (384) and leads the country with 11.7 strikeouts per seven innings. Only Inglesby (0.60) and Renfroe (0.47) have lower postseason ERAs among the eight aces in Oklahoma City than Luna entering the WCWS.
But Inglesby and Renfroe have No. 2 pitchers behind them that eat up a significant amount of innings. Renfroe’s younger sister, Ellen, is 17-4 with a 1.83 ERA this season, striking out 183 and walking 63 in 168 2/3 innings for Tennessee while Bryana Walker is 19-7 with a 2.81 ERA this year and got the win in four of five Washington’s victories between the Regionals and Super Regionals.
One thing that Luna has over the other seven WCWS aces, though, is the fact the she is coming into the WCWS having thrown a no-hitter in her last start. She struck out 13 and walked just one in that 2-0 win over FSU last weekend, tossing the third postseason no-hitter in school history (Cat Osterman has the other two, throwing them in back-to-back postseason games in 2005).
Here’s what has been said about Luna over the last few days:
“She was up there with the top pitchers we’ve seen. I would say, speed-wise, maybe not, but the fact that she could pick apart hitters to get us to consistently chase her junk, the fact that she could no-hit us after already facing us [Saturday] is pretty outstanding. She’s definitely she’s one of the top pitchers we’ve seen and there’s a reason she’s going to the [Women’s College] World Series.”
-Florida State center fielder Morgan Bullock
“She picked our weaknesses. I know, with me, she hadn’t thrown me too many drop balls the [Saturday] and she attacked me with them [Sunday] and I was chasing them. Props to her for making her adjustments. “
-Florida State left fielder Kirstin Austin
“You try not to talk about it. Because if you talk about it, you feel like you’re going to jinx it. Blaire strikes out a lot of betters so we try to stay in the moment and stay behid her. If we do get a ball, we just try to be ready for it.”
-Texas shortstop Taylor Tom
“Every opportunity we get to alleviate the pitch count for Luna is a good one. But Blaire gets better when she throws more and, to be real honest, we didn’t have her going as much so to me it was really impressive that she went Saturday night and came back Sunday and was sharper Sunday. We haven’t had that opportunity as of late. I think she’ll stay hot for us.”
-Texas head coach Connie Clark
“Her mental toughness, it’s not even comparable to what it was freshman year. She definitely has done a great job of growing mentally and physically.”
-Texas senior Kim Bruins
Watch Texas face Arizona State in its WCWS opener Thursday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.