Kim Bruins

Texas fell to Tennessee 2-1 in the Women's College World Series semifinal game Sunday evening to end its eason 51-10. No. 7 seed Tennessee propelled a first inning home run and a bases-loaded walk into a victory over Texas' sole home run. 

No. 4 seed Texas began the weekend in the winner’s bracket against its most formidable foe: Oklahoma. A Big 12 competitor and the No. 1 team in the country, Oklahoma had already run-ruled four of its six post-season opponents. Texas took an early lead as Brejae Washington singled to drive in pinch runner Rachel Scott, before Kim Bruins walked with the bases loaded. But the Longhorn offense stopped there. Oklahoma responded with six runs in the bottom of the third as part of a 10-run streak to close the game in the fifth.

“We gave them a lot of extra opportunities by issuing free passes and a couple of very uncharacteristic errors,” head coach Connie Clark said.

Senior ace Blaire Luna took the loss, giving up three earned runs on three hits. When the bases were loaded and Luna had walked five, Clark rotated Bruins into the circle before freshman Holly Kern closed the game.

Texas shut out No. 2 seed Florida 3-0 to eliminate the Gators from the Series. The Gators returned to the field after a 15-inning matchup with Nebraska the previous night, but the Gators didn’t attribute the loss to fatigue.

“That’s one of the most memorable games I’ve ever been part of as a player or a coach,” head coach Tim Walton said. “But I really don’t think that had anything to do with today’s performance. I think Blaire Luna had everything to do with today’s performance.”

Luna struck out 14 batters and allowed just one hit. Amidst 10 consecutive outs via strikeouts from the second to fifth innings, she broke her single-season career record of 404 and became the third Big 12 pitcher to pass 400.

“I was really proud of how I did and just bouncing back,” Luna said. “That’s what [the World Series is] about. I did a lot better job of mixing and it worked to my advantage.”

Complementing Luna’s performance was a three RBI-homer from Kim Bruins in the third. The homer was Bruins’ second in the series, grazing the fence in nearly the same place.

“I’m seeing the ball very well and trying to be more selective with the pitches I’m swinging at,” Bruins said. “I can’t even explain it — I guess that’s just my spot.”

But Bruins didn’t hit her spot in the Longhorns’ final match. The 2-1 deficit featured only a solo homer from freshman Lindsay Stephens, the first of her career.

“I just went up there trying to get the job done — I wasn’t ready to stop,” Stephens said. “I’ve grown from when I first got here in August and hope I’m where these seniors and juniors are when I’m in their shoes.”        

Luna pitched her 25th double-digit strikeout game of the season, and her second of the day, as she struck out 12 Lady Volunteers and allowed just two runs off three hits. Her 38 career WCWS strikeouts rank second in program history.

“It’s just about fighting and staying the course,” Luna said. “My mentality was just really to work ahead and spread the zone, and that’s kind of what I tried to do. It was a struggle and upsetting that we didn’t come through offensively, but I’m really proud of our team and the way that we fought this year. I’ve grown so much as a person this year and accomplished a lot.”

Joining Luna and Bruins as the winningest class in school history, seniors Torie Schmidt and Taylor Hoagland finished their careers strong as well. Schmidt connected on a team-high four hits during the Series, while Hoagland graduates with a host of records. Among them, she holds school marks with 221 career runs, 58 home runs and 178 walks.

“These last four years have been a crazy, crazy ride with a lot of ups and downs,” Hoagland said. “As much as this hurts, ending our season like this, just being here, I wouldn’t want to end it anywhere else in any other fashion. Being a part of this senior class has given me a lot of things…so just being on the field with them for the last time and in this uniform was the best feeling that I could have imagined.”

Bruins’ stellar performance leads Texas to a 6-3 victory to open the World Series

When the No. 4 Longhorns stepped onto the Women’s College World Series field in Oklahoma City, they didn’t expect anything, other than the weather, to be a breeze. Arizona State had shutout the squad 3-0 in March and a host of Sun Devils remained from the 2011 championship team. Each team was a “great ball club”, as head coach Connie Clark put it. But something among the burnt orange felt different en route to the Longhorns’ 6-3 victory.

“Coming off of yesterday’s practice, we were just a little bit nervous,” Clark said. “They kept assuring me today that they were ready to go and feeling good. They were loose and looked like the Texas team that I knew and did a tremendous job.”

Showcasing fierce pitching, starters Blaire Luna (31-5) and Sun Devil Dallas Escobedo (30-5) maintained four scoreless, hitless innings to open their series debut. As Luna allowed a leadoff walk before striking out eight in the four innings, Texas’ power hitters sought to pull ahead. In the second inning, Kim Bruins even smacked the ball over the fence and into the glove of left fielder Elizabeth Caporuscio, who reached above the fence to grab the almost home run.

“I hit it and I thought it was going to be a flyout, but the wind kept pushing and pushing it,” Bruins said. “Then I saw her reach over and just snag it.”

A Bruins popout in the third stranded Brejae Washington and Taylor Thom after walks to send the Longhorns into the fifth with the game still at 0-0.

When Caporuscio singled to right in the fifth, the first hit of the game released a contagion of offensive production. Alix Johnson’s two-run double bounced off the fence for the scoreboard’s first tallies, but the Longhorns didn’t waste any time.

Ready for a characteristic two-out explosion, Thom’s RBI double paired with a Sun Devil error to bring home Washington and Stephanie Ceo. Prior to this game, 36.9 percent of Texas’ season runs came with two outs. Bruins then reclaimed the homer Caporuscio robbed her of in the second as the ball tipped off the left fielder’s glove and out of the park, to finish the inning up 4-2.

“It was so intense,” Bruins said. “I was seeing [Escobedo] pretty well all night, so I was just hoping to go put something into play and it fell in my favor. [The softball gods] just evened it out for me, they threw me a bone.”           

But the powers that be didn’t hand a victory to the Longhorns with ease. The sixth inning sent Texas on an emotional rollercoaster as Haley Steele smashed a homer, before Luna struck out her 10th batter of the game and 1400th of her career.

After Ceo and Hoagland connected to send home teammates for a 6 -4 lead, Clark made a big decision entering the seventh. Knowing Arizona State head coach Clint Myers was calling Luna’s pitches to give his batters a heads up, she rotated Bruins into the circle.

“If you’ve seen Luna and you know her, she is about as good as anybody in the country when the bases are loaded so it’s tough,” Clark said. “But Bruins has been ready. They were two of the most patient hitters, and the timing was right to make a move. [Bruins] brought a different look to them and did a great job.”

Bruins struck out the first two batters, but big hitter Amber Freeman singled down the right field line to advance Cheyenne Coyle to third. Steele stepped back up to the plate and connected on another pitch, but this time Hoagland caught it to secure the win.

“We came out and attacked,” Clark said. “But I like it more mentally than physically. We’ll be ready to play tomorrow night, take it one day and one pitch at a time.”

Texas will face No. 1 Oklahoma at 8:30 p.m. on Friday night on ESPN2.

 

Texas wants to renew rivalry with top-seeded Oklahoma at WCWS

Nobody on this year’s Texas team has any experience playing at the Women’s College World Series. It’s been seven years since the Longhorns made the trip to Oklahoma City.

But they have experience against several of the teams also making that trip this year. Texas beat Washington earlier this season and fell to Arizona State, who it will face Thursday at 6 p.m. at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

But there’s one team in Oklahoma City that the Longhorns can’t wait to get another crack at – top-seeded Oklahoma. The Sooners have four All-Americans on their squad, including two-time national player of the year Keilani Ricketts, who is 31-1 with a 1.22 ERA while hitting .375 with 13 home runs and 54 RBIs this season.

Oklahoma came to Austin and won two of three against Texas last month but the Longhorns would love to see them again in Oklahoma City.

“I want to play them again,” senior Kim Bruins said. “They beat us in conference but we know we were so close to beating [Ricketts] that when, I think, it really counts, we’ll get her."

In eight career games against Texas, Ricketts is 4-2 with a 4.06 ERA, striking out 56 and walking eight in 37 2/3 innings while holding the Longhorns to a .224 batting average. She has batted .300 with a two home runs and nine RBIs in those games, drawing 11 walks and boasting a 1.198 OPS in those contests.

If Texas, the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, beats fifth-seeded Arizona State, they would face Oklahoma on Friday night if the Sooners beat No. 8 seed Michigan on Thursday night. 

“We took a game from Oklahoma. It’s not like those teams ran all over us,” senior Taylor Hoagland said. “This team is fearless. We’re not worried about any team on our side or the other side. We’re indifferent. If they weren’t great, they wouldn’t be there. That’s kind of how I feel about us, too.”

Senior Taylor Hoagland rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam in Saturday afternoon’s 12-4 victory against Iowa State. 

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Friday: W, 8-0 
Blaire Luna’s 100th career victory couldn’t have gone any better. She recorded her second straight no-hitter while striking out 11 to blank Iowa State, 8-0, in the series opener. While the senior took control in the circle, a freshman, Erin Shireman, provided the offense. No. 6 Texas scored three in the second to get off to an early lead and never looked back. Shireman collected three RBIs in the game to spark the offense. Taylor Thom and Torie Schmidt each recorded three hits in the game as well.

Saturday: W, 12-4 
After getting off to an early two-run deficit, the Longhorns quickly erased it with a program record-tying nine runs in the bottom of the first en route to a 12-4 victory. Senior Taylor Hoagland led the inning off by drawing a walk and hit her second grand slam of the year later in the frame. Shireman continued her hot-hitting series with a 3-for-3 day and two RBIs. Once the Longhorns jumped out to a 9-2 advantage, there was no turning back. The Cyclones cut the lead to 9-4 in the top of the fifth, but the Longhorns responded with three runs of their own in the bottom half to cap the scoring. Despite a rough start, Kim Bruins improved to 8-0 on the season with the complete-game victory.

Sunday: W, 7-2 
With Luna back in the circle, Texas concluded its weekend sweep of the Cyclones. Luna’s 11 strikeouts highlighted an effort that, by far, bested that of Iowa State pitching staff’s, which combined for just one. The Cyclones drew first blood again, pushing a run across in the second inning but Texas, led by Thom, Bruins and Hoagland, easily erased that deficit as well.

By the numbers:  
56—Taylor Hoagland’s walks this season. With her three walks Sunday, Hoagland broke the single-season Big 12 record set by Texas A&M’s Meagan May last year.  
77—Number of consecutive batters Blaire Luna faced without allowing a hit, until Sara Davison’s second-inning single Sunday.
.625—Freshman Erin Shireman’s batting average for the series. Shireman got a base hit in each of her three at-bats in Saturday’s contest.

Blair Luna teamed up with fellow pitchers Holly Kern, Gabby Smith and Kim Bruins to record a committee perfect game. 

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

We all remember Blaire Luna’s no-hitter in the first game of the season.

On Thursday she closed out a perfect one. But she didn’t start it.

This one was a combined perfect game as all four pitchers contributed as the No. 8 Longhorns (33-4) cruised past Texas Southern (22-10) 8-0.  

In a game where head coach Connie Clark wanted to get all four arms some work, Kim Bruins started the night with two perfect innings, making quick work of the Lady Tigers.

“I came out just trying to get the job done and work on what I’ve been practicing,” Bruins said.

After Bruins, Gabby Smith took the circle with a five-run cushion and tossed a perfect inning of her own. Holly Kern followed that with two strikeouts in her inning.  

With an eight-run lead and a five-inning run-rule approaching, the all-American Blaire Luna entered with a chance to secure perfection.

And she did, striking out all three of her batters.

But for the pitchers, they were too focused to even realize what was going on.

“I didn’t realize there was a perfect game going until the last inning when Blaire was pitching,” Bruins admits.

And Clark credits this to the focus in practice and the rest the team got with a few days off.

“It was nice how we looked rested and refresh[ed],” Clark said. “It was nice to see us come out and get a chance to play.”

This was the 11th perfect game in Longhorn history and the second no-hitter that Luna and the Longhorns have be involved in this season. It was also the first committee perfect game in program history.

On offense, 15 different batters combined for nine hits and eight runs. Kim Bruins provided the big hit with a bases-loaded, two-out double in the second inning to break the game open. However, the winning RBI belongs to the hot-hitting Taylor Thom. Thom’s double off the top of the right-center fence drove in Taylor Hoagland, who extended her on-base streak to 37 games.

The game was the first of 11 straight home games for the Longhorns.

“It’s pretty awesome to be involved in a perfect game,” Bruins said. “Since we had a couple of rain delays, it gets us rolling into this weekend.”

The Longhorns hit the field again on Saturday and Sunday against the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky (20-11).

No. 10 Texas (23-3) shut out Texas State (3-19) in home matches Friday and Sunday. The teams cancelled their Saturday meet scheduled in San Marcos due to poor field conditions.

In Friday’s game, Taylor Hoagland’s two home runs complemented Blaire Luna’s 17 strikeouts, which tied a career high, in a 7-0 dominating win. Mandy Ogle assisted both threats, adding her own three-run homer in the third after catching for Luna as she fanned the initial eight.

“Mandy provides a lot of confidence for our pitching staff and actually provides a lot of confidence for [freshman catcher] Erin Shireman when she is calling in pitches and when they talk about things in between innings,” head coach Connie Clark said. “What you can’t simulate until you get in the game is getting to know the pitching and learning how to call pitches. Erin is doing a nice job of soaking things in.”

The Longhorns scored seven runs on 12 hits and four walks. Ashley Wright (3-6) took the loss for Texas State and didn't make it out of the second inning.

Back at McCombs Field Sunday, the Longhorns blanked the Bobcats again. This time, Kim Bruins (7-0) continued her undefeated season before freshman Holly Kern covered the final two innings as they combined to allow just two hits in the shutout. Though Bruins allowed a season-low one hit, she walked a season-high seven.

“[Kim Bruins] competes so well and she did a great job of working through the game,” Clark said. “Being a good pitcher has to do with focusing on what you have on a good day and not what you may not have.”

Offensively, Taylor Thom drove in her eighth RBI of the week. Thom is batting .455 (25-for-55) over her last 17 games with 24 hits, 21 runs and 30 RBIs. Brejae Washington’s two RBIs for the game brought her season total to 16, just one shy of her single-year career high in 2011. Washington commends the squad on its season consistency.

“We started off at a good pace and now that we are playing higher ranked teams, we are still sticking to our game plan,” Washington said. “The depth that we have on this team is unreal. I know last year we struggled with that a little bit, but this year we have a lot of depth. Whenever someone else isn’t getting the job done, we know that we can trust the next girl.”

The Longhorns resume play Thursday at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif. The team meets its highest-ranked foe yet in No. 3 Arizona at 8:30 p.m.

The Citrus Classic featured some of the best competition head coach Connie Clark’s team had seen yet — and they handled them.

But Texas struggled against the weaker teams.

At the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Fla., the No. 5 Longhorns’ picked up signature wins over No. 15 Louisville, 2-0 and over No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette, 7-2.

A 7-2 loss against Hofstra (4-8), a 9-7 loss to Fordham (6-9) and a 2-1, come-from-behind win over Syracuse (5-8) didn’t reflect Texas’ high ranking and impressive record.

However, the tournament did help clear up how deep the Longhorns’ rotation is. While it has been known that Blaire Luna (9-0) is the ace of the staff, the No. 2 spot has been up for grabs in the early season. But with a stellar 14-strikeout performance against Syracuse, senior Kim Bruins (5-0) appears to have locked up the spot.

“Kim Bruins competes so well,” Clark said of Bruins, who is 5-0 this year. “I liked her performance overall. She had good command. She got stronger as the game went on. In a tight ballgame like tonight, it’s nice to have her out there.”

While Luna, who pitched a shutout and another complete game against two Top 15 teams, and Bruins looked stellar, the other two pitchers struggled. Freshman Holly Kern took two more losses and now accounts for all three of Texas’ losses this season while Gabby Smith struggled in her lone outing, giving up four runs in just 0.2 innings in the defeat to Fordham.

Offensively, the Longhorns scored seven runs three times and two runs twice with a mixture of the long ball and small ball. Taylor Thom, Bruins, and Mandy Ogle combined for back-to-back-to-back homers in the third inning of their win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Taylor Hoagland also hit a homer against Fordham to move into a tie for fifth on the Big 12 all-time home run list.

Small ball was provided against Syracuse as Brejae Washington and Smith hit RBI sacrifice flies in the top of the seventh to come back and beat Syracuse.

The Longhorns return to Red and Charline McCombs Field on Wednesday for a doubleheader against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Published on March 4, 2013 as "Luna, Bruins carry Longhorns". 

Weekend Breakdown: 

Game One vs. Lamar:

Brejae Washington’s four RBIs complemented Blaire Luna’s one-hitter to give No. 6 Texas a 5-0 win and extend the season-opening win streak to 13 games. Longhorns pitchers continued their streak of 27 straight scoreless innings.

Game Two vs. No. 24 Tulsa:

The Longhorns suffered their first loss of the season Friday night against No. 24 Tulsa. The 27 scoreless innings streak was snapped in the first inning of the 7-4 loss on back-to-back bases-loaded RBI singles by the Golden Hurricanes. After a shaky second inning, freshman pitcher Holly Kern was pulled for Kim Bruins. Tulsa led 5-0 going into the third. The Longhorns cut it to 5-3 in the fifth, but that was as close as they got.

Game Three vs. Utah State:

Powered by Taylor Thom’s 4-for-4 day at the plate, the Longhorns got back on the winning track with a 13-2 drubbing of Utah State. Sophomore Gabby Smith claimed the win with a complete game to improve to 2-0. Thom had an NCAA record-tying three doubles and drove in four runs.  

Semifinals vs. Lamar:

Texas set up a rematch with Tulsa in the finals with a 9-1 win over Lamar. Bruins drove in two runs and pitched her fourth complete game of the season. Taylor Hoagland and Washington combined for five runs scored while Thom continued her hot streak picking up two more hits.

Finals vs. Tulsa:

The Longhorns avenged their only loss of the season with a 1-0, eight-inning thriller against No. 24 Tulsa to claim the Texas Invitational title. Luna went the full eight innings, allowing just three hits while looking like a true all-American. The only run of the game came on a Smith single to score freshman Stephanie Ceo. 

By the Numbers:

5: Homers hit by Taylor Thom this season in 15 at-bats after her home run in Friday’s win over Lamar. The hot streak helped Thom earn Big 12 Player of the Week. 

12: Career triples by Brejae Washington after her three bagger in the tournament, just one behind Shannon Thomas for the all-time Texas record

0.50: Blaire Luna’s ERA to go along with her 7-0 record.

Game Breakdown:

Innings 1-3: After Kim Bruins struck out two batters and another fouled out, Texas quickly found its way to the plate in the first inning. Taylor Hoagland and Brejae Washington both stole bases en route to the Longhorns’ first scores of the evening. The second inning saw little action as the Longhorns preserved their two-run lead. To start the bottom half of the third, Hoagland sent a changeup out left field. The Bruins added an RBI to bring Washington in to extend the lead to four. 

Innings 4-7: Bruins struck out two more in the fourth as she continued her dominance in the circle. Stephanie Ceo scored on a wild pitch in the fourth to cap off the scoring before three scoreless innings. Bruins and HBU’s Sarah Shotton both dominated in the circle through the last three innings as both teams saw little offense.  

By the numbers:

2: Illegal pitches by Houston Baptist starter Keely Shuler. 

10: Hoagland’s stolen base count as she added another one Wednesday night. She is the team’s leader in stolen bases on the season, two ahead of Washington and three ahead of Taylor Thom. 

19: Bruins’ consecutive scoreless innings to start the season. This is the longest consecutive scoreless streak in her career. Bruins has appeared in three games this season. 

38: Team stolen bases for the season, as Washington (8/8 for the season), Hoagland and freshman Taylor King outsmarted the Houston Baptist infield Wednesday. 

.583: Batting average for Ceo. Washington also boasts an average of .471 while Hoagland boasts a .419 average.

Senior Taylor Hoagland rounds the bases after launching a ball over the left-field fence. The solo homer in the bottom of the third was her third on the season. 

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Kim Bruins recorded her third shutout of the season as the No. 6 Longhorns defeated Houston Baptist 5-0 for win number 12 in as many tries. This is the second-longest winning streak to open the season since the 2003 squad, led by recent Texas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Cat Osterman.

Bruins, who went the full seven while allowing seven hits and striking out seven, now has recorded 19 consecutive scoreless innings, the longest in her career, and is looking like the clear number two in the circle behind Blaire Luna.

“I am feeling pretty good,” Bruins said. “I’ve been working really hard this past year. I’m trying to focus on hitting my sports and letting my defense work for me.”

The Longhorns (12-0) opened the scoring in the first as Taylor Hoagland and Brejae Washington each singled, stole a base and scored on defensive miscues. Hoagland scored on an error as the Huskies tried to get Washington out on a bunt single. Washington came around and scored on an illegal pitch. 

Then in the third, after whiffing on a change-up earlier in the at-bat, Hoagland crushed another one off a blue Volvo in the left field parking lot for her third home run on the year.

“It’s just a Volvo, it will be OK,” Hoagland joked about after the game. “I recognized the change-up and missed it the first time and was looking for that pitch again. I got on top of it and drove it.”

Washington finished her day 2-for-2 with two runs scored as the top of the order did its usual damage. As a team the Longhorns recorded seven hits, stole four bases and made the most of opportunities while capitalizing on Houston Baptist’s two errors.

“We look pretty great,” Bruins said. “We’ve surprised ourselves, actually. We are all staying positive, trying to keep things under our control and trying to stay up every inning. I’d say it’s working out for us.”

The Longhorns have now out scored their opponents 41-0 over the last 19 innings.

The Longhorns will look to push the win streak to a program-best 17 this weekend in the Texas Invitational, sponsored by Time Warner Cable. Tulsa, Lamar and Utah State will be at Red & Charline McCombs Field for five games apiece.