College Softball World Series opens in upset fashion
OKLAHOMA CITY – Hawaii added another milestone to its long and unexpected journey to the Women’s College World Series.
Traci Yoshikawa hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning and Alexandra Aguirre also homered as the Rainbow Wahine beat Missouri 3-2 on Thursday in the opening game of college softball’s championship event.
The lowest seeded team left in the NCAA tournament, 16th-seeded Hawaii (50-14) has been on the road for 24 straight days but keeps finding ways to win. Jenna Rodriguez hit a game-ending homer as the Rainbow Wahine upset top-seeded Alabama to advance to the World Series, and Yoshikawa provided the heroics from the bottom of her team’s loaded lineup against Missouri.
With the nation’s top home run hitter waiting on deck, Yoshikawa drove the first pitch from Kristin Nottelmann (24-8) over the right field wall.
“I had good contact. It was a good feeling off my hands. I was just hoping it was going over,” said Yoshikawa, one of eight players in Hawaii’s lineup with at least 10 homers this season. “It went over, and it was the greatest feeling ever.”
Tennessee, the 15th-seed, joined the line of underdogs moving into the winners’ bracket by beating Arizona 9-0 in five innings. The Lady Vols will face either defending champion Washington or Georgia on Friday night.
Hawaii powered its way to its first World Series appearance. The Rainbow Wahine have an NCAA record 156 home runs this season, including Yoshikawa’s game-winner and Aguirre’s solo shot in the second inning that provided a 1-0 lead.
Rhea Taylor homered and scored twice for ninth-seeded Missouri (51-12), which made back-to-back World Series appearances for the first time in school history.
Taylor alertly raced home to tie it as Hawaii was slow getting the ball back in after Nicole Hudson’s double to right field in the third. Her solo home run to left off starter Stephanie Ricketts (30-8) made it 2-1 in the fifth.
That set the stage for a dramatic finish. Hawaii won in its final at-bat for the third straight game – this time with a long ball from the No. 9 hitter.
“There was no doubt that we were going to come back because we come back all the time,” Ricketts said. “As you can see, one through nine, there’s always a chance of the ball flying out.”
Hawaii will next play on Friday night against UCLA, which beat Florida 16-3 in a game shortened to six innings because of the mercy rule. Missouri will face Florida in an elimination game Saturday.
If anything, the NCAA’s decision to move the right- and left-field walls back by 10 feet and make them 2 feet taller may have hurt the Tigers more than holding back the nation’s top-scoring offense.
Pinch-hitter Lindsey Muller hit a fly ball to the new warning track in right in the bottom of the sixth that Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine thought might have been over the fence with the stadium’s previous dimensions. Instead, it was caught and Hawaii – which was averaging 7.7 runs – rallied.
“Three runs is not a big deal. I felt like we should have scored four or five-plus, but our offense didn’t come through,” Earleywine said.
“I know Hawaii’s offense will be the story of the day. They hit a couple of home runs. But at the end of the day, I think anybody in this tournament would be satisfied with giving them three runs.”
UCLA 16, Arizona 3, 6 innings
Andrea Harrison homered twice and drove in six runs, Megan Langenfeld went 4 for 4 with a homer and four RBIs, and UCLA broke the Women’s College World Series record for runs in a game.
Harrison hit three-run homers in the first and sixth innings as the Bruins (46-11) surpassed Alabama’s World Series record of 14 runs scored in a shutout against Arizona last year.
The teams’ combined run totals were also a World Series record. The game was shortened to six innings because of the mercy rule.
Langenfeld (12-1) provided the final blow with a two-run homer to left field to cap UCLA’s nine-run sixth inning. She also threw five scoreless innings of relief after Tiffany DeFelice of Florida (48-9) tied the game with a three-run double in the second inning.
Stephanie Brombacher (34-7) gave up five earned runs in 2 1-3 innings, getting pulled after she threw a series of illegal pitches. Tennessee 9, Arizona 0, 5 innings
Ivy Renfroe struck out six in a spotless World Series debut, Erinn Webb and Jessica Spigner had two-run doubles and Tennessee took advantage of a wild outing by Arizona starter Kenzie Fowler.
Fowler (34-7) walked eight in three-plus innings marred by eight illegal pitches, including a pair of balks that brought in runs for the 15th-seeded Lady Vols (48-13).
Webb’s double to right-center was the only hit in a four-run third inning for Tennessee, which tacked on three more runs in the fourth. Spigner’s two-run double made it 9-0 and put the Lady Vols in position to stop the game after five innings because of the mercy rule.
It was the second straight mercy rule defeat at the World Series for eight-time national champion Arizona (48-12), which was eliminated in a 14-0 loss to Alabama last year.
Renfroe (30-4) allowed only three singles to an Arizona offense averaging 7.5 runs.
Georgia 6, Washington 3.
Megan Wiggins hit a tiebreaking three-run home run off national player of the year Danielle Lawrie in the sixth inning and Georgia rallied to beat defending champion Washington.
Lawrie (40-4) took a three-run lead in the first inning but struggled against the Bulldogs (49-11) for the second straight year at the World Series. The only loss for Lawrie and the Huskies at last year’s event was a 9-8 extra-inning decision against Georgia.
Wiggins had an RBI single and Georgia scored twice in the fifth to tie it, then hammered a 2-1 pitch from Lawrie over the center-field fence to put the Bulldogs ahead.
Washington (50-8) also lost its super regional opener before Lawrie pitched back-to-back shutouts to put the Huskies back in the World Series.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User