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.”