Luna

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.”

Senior Blaire Luna winds up for her pitch in Sunday’s game against Baylor. Luna recorded 11 strikeouts and let up just two hits as the Longhorns took the victory. Texas won both of its games against the Bears as the team played one in Waco and the other in Austin. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

Though unable to score in the first four innings of either weekend match this weekend, No. 9 Texas (29-4, 2-0) trumped No. 18 Baylor (26-7, 0-2) in both contests to start off conference play. The teams faced off on both opponents’ turfs, as the Longhorns rose to 8-2 against ranked teams this season.

Texas opened the weekend in Waco with an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel. Both Blaire Luna and the Bears’ Whitney Canion struck out 14 batters as Luna didn’t allow even a single hit until the eighth inning. Three baseless innings further focused the action on the mound before Taylor Thom’s ninth-inning bases-loaded single plated Stephanie Ceo. Kim Bruins then doubled to the gap in left center to drive in Taylor Hoagland and Brejae Washington. Thom’s unearned run closed the game 4-0 when Luna allowed a leadoff single to the Baylor batting lineup.

“It’s about staying pitch-to-pitch and controlling what I can control,” Luna said. “It’s more just not overthinking things. Being that this is the fourth time they have seen me, it’s about playing chess and not getting consumed.”

Back at McCombs Field Sunday, the Longhorns started off slow again. A Hoagland error allowed pinch runner Justine Young to score unearned in the second as the Bears took their first lead of the weekend. A series of fifth- and sixth-inning fielding errors and unearned runs brought the final score to 5-1. Though shaky, Texas managed to pull away undefeated in conference play.

“The outcomes are good,” head coach Connie Clark said of the weekend matches. “Our biggest takeaway from the locker room today needs to be that you learn to love to play under pressure. Yesterday I thought we were in A+ dealing with [adversity]. Today I thought we were a C+. It’s going to be tough but I love that we did get two Ws and that we were challenged in both.”

Thom echoed Clark’s mentality, helping the Longhorns with one run, one hit and two RBIs this weekend.           

“I love pressure situations like that,” Thom said. “That’s what we live for and thrive for. I’m just excited to be up there in that situation — get a base hit and get my runners in. But for us to beat teams like that, we’re going to have to be consistent.”

Published on March 25, 2013 as "Horns overwhelm Bears in first Big 12 play". 

Senior infielder Taylor Hoagland runs the bases during a game against Louisiana-Lafayette earlier this month. 

Photo Credit: Emily Ng | Daily Texan Staff

The No. 9 Longhorns closed out non-conference play with a 4-1 showing at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, CA over the weekend.

The Longhorns started the classic with a 3-0 loss to No. 2 Arizona State, before tallying four straight wins against Penn State, No. 18 Washington, North Carolina State and DePaul.

On Thursday, Arizona State (27-1) broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning on Alix Johnson’s RBI double helping propel Arizona State to a 3-0 victory over Texas. Blaire Luna picked up her first loss of the season, despite allowing just three hits. Texas could not muster any offense off Arizona State’s elite pitcher, Dallas  Escobedo. The Longhorns recorded just three hits while striking out 13 times.

On Friday, the Longhorns swept Penn State and Washington with little trouble. Freshman Erin Shireman sparked the offense in the first game against the Nittany Lions with a tie-breaking third-inning RBI single that plated the winning-run in pace to a 8-4 win while freshman Holly Kern (4-3) picked up the win.

Against the Huskies, Luna redeemed her first loss of the season with a two-hit, 16-strikeout complete game in a 4-1 win. Junior Taylor Thom hit a two-run homer and plated another to extend her hot streak and pace the Texas offense.

On Saturday, the Longhorns swept again. Taylor Hoagland powered the Longhorns against North Carolina State to a 7-4 win behind her two home-runs. Luna pitched the first six allowing three hits and three earned runs to bring her season record to 13-1. Sophomore Gabby Smith closed the game, picking up her first save of the season.

In the second game, Hoagland blasted another homer, making three on the day, to propel Texas over DePaul 8-3. Kern allowed 11 hits to an inferior team, but the Longhorns offense was able to bail her out and help her earn her fifth victory. Four DePaul errors lead to four unearned runs for Texas.

The Longhorns return to action Saturday to begin the conference season against Baylor in Waco.

Published on March 18, 2013 as "Texas returns home with four more wins". 

Catcher Mandy Ogle waits for her pitch during a Texas Classic pool play game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Friday. Ogle recorded six RBI’s throughout the weekend.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns claimed their third straight Texas Classic championship after a 5-4 victory Sunday over North Texas. The team won all five games throughout the weekend, outscoring their opponents 32-5. 

“I was pleased,” head coach Connie Clark said of the team’s weekend performance. “We got a lot of different looks. We got all our rookies in and got all four pitchers starts.”

After winning all three pool play games, the Longhorns faced Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Saturday’s semifinal game. The Islanders collected five more hits against Kim Bruins than they did in the first matchup between the teams, when they were no-hit by Blaire Luna in the Longhorns’ season opener Thursday night. No more runs were scored, however, in this run-rule shutout Bruins also provided the offense with a two-run homer to break the game open.

“It felt great for my first start,” Bruins said. “I just went out looking to hit my spots and hit a line-drive and things worked out.”

The 8-0 win against the Islanders slated them for a rematch with the Mean Green in the championship game. As Blaire Luna, the team’s ace, took to the mound for the first time since the opener, thoughts of a second no-hitter didn’t last long. UNT’s leadoff hitter, Lesley Hirsch, singled to begin the game. Control problems hurt Luna in the first inning as three walks and a wild pitch allowed North Texas to score twice.

“She wasn’t as ready as she needed to be on first pitch,” Clark said. “She rushed her warmup and didn’t do her same routine. She came out of the bullpen and went right on the field.”

After a five-run Texas second inning, powered by Mandy Ogle’s three-run homer and six straight hits, Luna finally found her rhythm as she allowed no hits for the next four innings. But she ran into trouble with two outs in the sixth as the Mean Green cut the Longhorns’ lead to 5-4. A scoreless seventh helped hold the lead Texas took after a five-run second inning, and Luna picked up her second win in as many attempts while recording 14 strikeouts.

“I was just trying to hit my spots and rely on Mandy [Ogle],” Luna said. “I found my rhythm during the game when I was fully warmed [up].” 

The undefeated Longhorns return to Red and Charline McCombs Field at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday against Stephen F. Austin.

Published on February 11, 2013 as "Horns win third straight Texas Classic title". 

This past weekend Texas went 1-2 against the University of Oregon in the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas. The No. 4 Longhorns narrowly missed a chance to go to the College World Series in Oklahoma City for the first time in six seasons.

The last time the Longhorns made the trip up north was when Cat Osterman was in the circle in 2006. Junior All-American Blaire Luna led the Longhorns in the circle again this year and despite an impressive season, finished just short of the finals.

The Longhorns finished the 2012 season with a 47-13 overall record and 16-8 Big 12 Conference Record. Texas finished third in the conference behind Oklahoma and Missouri.

“It’s obviously very painful to come up a little bit short,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark. “I am extremely proud of the fight and the tremendous season that this team had….We had some opportunities in that first game and I think we battled well till the very end. WE just didn’t get the outcome that we wanted.”

Despite not living up to their personal expectations and goals, which included a national title, the Longhorns did make it past the first round, something they had not been able to accomplish the past couple of seasons.

“I think we did a great job bringing this team together this season,” said senior third baseman Nadia Taylor. “Even though we fell short I know this season was definitely a success for us.”

After a 4-2 victory Friday night, the Longhorns had two chances to pull off the series win. A pitching battle on Saturday afternoon resulted in a 5-4 Oregon victory which forced a rubber match for Saturday evening. However, poor pitching in game three resulted in an Oregon offensive explosion. Oregon won the final game 10-6 earning the trip to the College World Series.

On Friday Luna pitched a complete game against the Ducks and earned the victory for the Longhorns while giving up two runs off of seven hits and striking out seven. Taylor lead the offense with a three run home run in the bottom of the fifth which secured the Longhorn’s win.

“This Super Regional has two great teams matched up, and I thing you could tell in the first half of the game that we haven’t played each other much,” Clark said. “Blaire Luna gave us a great game tonight. Oregon has a tremendous lineup. They are very balanced and have great power. I though Blaire did a really nice job pitching to them.”

Luna started off in the circle for the Longhorns Saturday morning in game two but after giving up three runs off of two hits, sophomore Rachel Fox took over in the third inning and earned the loss. Fox finished the season 14-2. Oregon, who played as the home team for game two and game three, went up quickly in the bottom of the first off of a home run and a throwing error by Luna. The Texas Offense responded going up 4-3 by the third inning. The Ducks tied up the game in the bottom of the fifth forcing extra innings. A walk off sacrifice pop fly by junior Kaylan Howard of Oregon won the game 5-4 for the Ducks.

Howard’s sacrifice fly forced a rubber match Saturday Afternoon. Luna started off once again in the circle but was replaced quickly by Fox in the second inning after giving up five runs off of three hits. Fox only lasted an inning and a half before being pulled after giving up an additional three runs off of five hits.

Junior Kim Bruins finished the game for the Longhorns in the circle but the damage was already done. Bruins gave up two runs off of two hits. Despite scoring six runs, the Texas Offense was unable to overcome the problems on the defense. Luna took the loss for the Longhorns finishing the season 22-6.

“It was a matchup of two great teams. We came out and battled it out,” Clark said. “I don’t know if there is a big difference…That game couldn’t have been any more intense. I think it was just a matter of creating some breaks and getting timely hits. It ended up going their way tonight.”

In the seventh inning, Texas scored three runs all off of solo home runs. Junior Taylor Hoagland and seniors Lexy Bennett and Courtney Craig each launched one over the fence for the Longhorns. Hoagland, who set the career home run record earlier in the season, hit her 18th season home run against the Ducks.

“Oregon’s pitcher was very talented. She moved the ball around the strike zone well,” Bennett said. “I thought we did a very good job adjusting, but we just didn’t get the outcome we wanted in the end. The three homeruns in that last inning showed that we weren’t just going to lie down and let them have it.”

This weekend marked the final series for seniors Bennett, Craig and Taylor. All three have contributed significantly the Longhorn’s success over the past four years.

“The seniors have been amazing since the first day they arrived on campus. This is a special group sitting here. They’re going to be missed greatly,” Clark said.