College softball: SEC schools show offensive force at World Series
By JEFF LATZKE
AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY — A record-setting day for SEC offenses at the Women’s College World Series has set the stage for a first-time champion to be crowned.
Pinch-hitter Jazlyn Lunceford hit her first career grand slam during Alabama’s second surprising outburst Saturday, lifting the Crimson Tide past defending champion Arizona State 6-2 and into the World Series semifinals.
Coach Patrick Murphy replaced four-time All-American Brittany Rogers with a freshman who didn’t have a hit in over a month.
With two outs, Lunceford sent a 2-2 pitch from freshman Hillary Bach (31-11) onto the walkway at the front of the left-field stands to put the Crimson Tide ahead 4-2 in the fourth inning.
“I’m not going to lie. I was a little nervous going in, but after the first cut or two, I was ready,” said Lunceford, who had fouled off the previous two pitches.
After being mobbed by her teammates at home plate, she was greeted with a bear hug from Murphy, who had left his third base coaching box.
Alabama gave starter Kelsi Dunne (28-4) some added cushion with a pair of unearned runs in the fifth, including one on a double steal.
The Crimson Tide (54-10) also beat eight-time national champion Arizona 14-0 earlier in the day, setting records for the most runs and biggest margin of victory in a World Series game.
“It could be the best day in the history of our program, especially since our backs were against the wall and it’s do or die,” Murphy said. “To eliminate Arizona and then the defending national champion on the same day is one hell of an accomplishment.”
Next up is a semifinal matchup Sunday against top-seeded Florida, with the Tide needing two wins to reach the finals.
Georgia also won twice to reach the semifinals and will have to duplicate the feat Sunday against third-seeded Washington to advance again. The Bulldogs beat 2005 champion Michigan 7-5 with a World Series record four home runs in a single game.
The losses by Arizona State, Michigan and Arizona left the semifinals void of any team that’s won the title before.
The SEC seems in prime position to win its first title in a sport dominated by Pac-10 schools who have won 20 of the 26 national titles.
“Until somebody beats them, they’re still the best conference,” Murphy said. “I always tell our freshmen, you don’t say anything until you do something. And now Jaz has that opportunity but nobody else does.
“One of us needs to do it. Whether it’s us, Georgia or Florida, we need to do it. If we don’t do it, we need to shut up and try again next year.”
Katie Crabb hit a two-run home run in the top of the fourth for Arizona State.
“We thought we could hold it to a 2-0 lead,” Arizona State star Kaitlin Cochran said. “You just can never underestimate any team at the World Series. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Murphy’s move had some strategy behind it. While Rogers was a career .418 hitter entering the World Series, she’s a slap-hitter who gets most of her hits by beating out infield grounders. With the bases loaded and two outs, Murphy couldn’t risk a force out.
“I know she’s a four-time All-American, but I wanted to score more than one run,” Murphy said. “And Jaz did the rest.”
Georgia 7, Michigan 5
Taylor Schlopy became only the fourth player in World Series history to homer twice in one game, rallying the sixth-seeded Bulldogs out of an early three-run hole.
Schlopy’s three-run blast into the left-field stands off Nikki Nemitz (28-7) put Georgia on top 5-3 in the second inning, and Ashley Pauly and Brianna Hesson also homered.
“Taylor’s just a clutch player,” Bulldogs coach Lu Harris-Champer said. “Oh, God. She’s extremely dynamic.”
Christie Hamilton (26-9) came on in relief and picked up her second win of the day despite having a series of illegal pitches called against her.
Roya St. Clair homered and drove in three runs to lead the Michigan (47-12) offense.
The Bulldogs (46-11) will take on third-seeded Washington in the semifinals Sunday, needing to beat the Huskies twice to reach the best-of-three championship series. Washington beat Georgia 3-1 on Thursday.
Georgia was hardly intimidated by the 3-0 first-inning deficit, having come from at least four runs down in both of its super regional wins.
“I think it basically just lit our fire and got us going,” Harris-Champer said. “It kind of got the energy up and got the game to be exciting. The girls just came back and kept hitting the ball.”
Alabama 14, Arizona 0, 5 innings
Charlotte Morgan homered and drove in three runs as Alabama handed Arizona its most lopsided loss in school history.
The Crimson Tide scored eight runs in the second inning and set records for the most runs scored in a World Series game and the most lopsided victory in the event’s 27-year history. Arizona held the previous records with a 12-0 first-round win over Fresno State in 1989.
The largest previous loss by the Wildcats (46-17) came in a 15-3 defeat to Cal State-Fullerton in 2003.
“Any time you put on a uniform, you’re going to have the highs and the lows that come with it,” said Mike Candrea, who also coached the U.S. team in the last two Olympics. “I’ve been on both sides of it. You feel bad, but truthfully it’s not life-threatening. Like I told the kids, what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”
After winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, Arizona has been eliminated in the minimum two games each of the past two years at the World Series.
Georgia 5, Missouri 2
Kristyn Sandberg hit a two-run home run and Kristin Schnake added a two-run double as Georgia claimed its first victory at the World Series.
Sandberg hit her eighth home run of the season in the fourth inning to make it 3-0, and Schnake tacked on two more runs an inning later as Georgia took advantage after Chelsea Thomas (16-7) issued a walk, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.
Marla Schweisberger had a two-run single for Missouri (50-12) after a disputed call kept a rally going in the sixth inning.