Washington and Tennessee score opening round wins in WCWS

Washington College Softball

Washington and Tennessee score opening round wins in WCWS


OKLAHOMA CITY—Two teams seized the opportunity while two others didn’t in the first round of the Women’s College World Series at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium Thursday before an opening day crowd of 7,911.

As a result, the Washington Huskies emerged victorious, nipping No. 14 Nebraska 4-3 in eight innings on Kimberlee Souza’s walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the eighth inning in game one of the WCWS. It was her eighth homer of the season and advanced the Huskies (44-14) to play Friday at 6 p.m.  against the University of Tenneseee, which defeated SEC rival Florida 9-2 in the second of four opening games Thursday. It was the first win at the WCWS for the Huskies since winning the 2009 national title.

The Huskers took the early lead in the first inning as Gabby Banda scored on Brooke Thomason’s RBI, her 57th this season, sacrifice fly to left field before the Huskies scored twice in the bottom of the inning on a two-run homer by junior Kaitlin Inglesby to take a 2-1 lead. Victoria Hayward was aboard on a walk when Inglesby hit her 12th homer of the season over the left field fence off Nebraska starter Tatum Edwards. Edwards hurled the first four innings, allowing two runs and the homer, striking out three and walking seven. Freshman pitcher Emily Lockman (15-6) hurled three innings in relief and gave up two hits and two runs. She walked one batter and struck out four.

Nebrasaka tied the score at 2-2, scoring on an error in the fourth inning before the Huskers moved ahead with a run in the fifth inning with Edwards scoring on a wild pitch. Holding a one-run advantage, the Huskies  tied the game in the seventh inning to force extra innings when Hayward tripled to right field with one out and scored on Hooch Fagaly’s sacrifice fielder’s choice.

Nebraska, which stranded five runners, couldn’t put together a threat in the top of the eighth after stranding three runners in the seventh and not scoring.  Souze, however, didn’t waste any time in the bottom of the inning, hitting the first pitch thrown by Lockman over the left field fence for the deciding run. The run gave Inglesby her 23rd win of the season against seven losses. She surrendered four hits and one run in five innings of relief. Washington starter Bryana Walker allowed one hit and two runs while striking out two batters in three innings of work as the starter.

Talking about her game-winner, Souza said, “Well, first of all, being at the World Series is a dream I’ve always had, and before the at-bat I had a little talk. Coach (Heather) Tarr talked to me and calmed me down, told me to get a good pitch and get up and hit it, and that’s what I did.”

Souze had struck out the first time up against losing pitcher Lockman. Said Lockman,”She just adjusted and won that at-bat. I mean, I went all out and she went all out, and she just happened to win.”

In the second game, Tennessee seized the opportunity early, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning against Florida starter Hannah Rogers, who lasted only one-third of an inning (24 pitches) with Lauren Haeger replacing her and pitching the remainder of the game.  Rogers faced just five batters and walked two straight, gave up a single, forced home the first run with a third walk and threw two balls to Melissa Brown before being replaced by Haeger. Haeger hurled six and one-third innings, giving up 10 hits and six runs (four earned).

It was the first time Florida and Tennessee had met in the World Series, although the Gators hold a 43-21 advantage in the overall series. Prior to Thursday’s game the last five games between the two SEC rivals had been decided by two runs or less.

Florida’s best chance came in the fifth when the Gators scored their only runs, the first on an RBI triple from freshman Kelsey Stewart. With the bases loaded, two outs and a chance to tie or take the lead, freshman Taylor Schwarz bounced into a force at third base.
Tennessee (50-10) immediately answered with a four-run sixth, aided by a pair of UF’s infield errors, to blow the game open. For good measure, the Vols tacked on two more in the seventh.
The Gators (57-8), the second overall seed in the NCAA field, will face 14th-seeded Nebraska (45-15) in an elimination game Saturday at noon ET.

The Lady Vol seniors helped Tennessee to its eighth 50-win season as Melissa Brown, Raven Chavanne, Kat Dotson and Lauren Gibson combined for six hits, seven RBIs and four runs scored. Fellow senior Whitney Hammond scored a pinch run while Dotson was just a home run shy of the cycle.

UT handed Florida its worst loss of the season as the Gators (57-8) had not lost by more than two runs this year and their seven previous losses were by a combined nine runs. Thursday’s game marked Florida's worst loss since losing 10-1 to the eventual national champion Alabama in the SEC Tournament last season on May 12, 2012.

The nine runs tallied by the Lady Vols against Florida tie the most Tennessee has registered at any Women's College World Series since a 9-0 win over Arizona on June 3, 2010.

Ellen Renfroe (18-4) was dominant in the circle allowing just four hits and two earned runs while striking out nine Gators.