Tankersley's solo homer propels upstart La.-Lafayette past Florida
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Holly Tankersley hit a solo home run to center field off NCAA wins leader Stacey Nelson in the eighth inning Thursday as Louisiana-Lafayette opened the Women's College World Series with a 3-2 upset of top-seeded Florida.
Tankersley, who hit her 22nd home run of the season, became the first player to hit a ball into the new 34-foot tall outfield bleachers at Hall of Fame Stadium. She reached for a pitch tailing away on the outside part of the plate and drove it into the front row of the stands.
"People have considered us an underdog because we were one of two unseeded teams to make it to the World Series," said Vanessa Soto, who set up Tankersley's heroics with a key two-run double in the fifth inning.
"Coming in here, we don't relish the [underdog] role -- we just say, if people are going to underestimate us, that's fine. We know how good we are. We can't really control anyone else's thoughts."
Ashley Brignac struck out a career-high 15 hitters as the unseeded Ragin' Cajuns (52-13) spoiled Florida's first ever trip to the double-elimination World Series.
Lousiana-Lafayette broke through against Nelson (45-4) with a pair of infield singles by Karli Hubbard and Vallie Gaspard in the fifth inning. Vanessa Soto, a transfer from LSU who was the only Ragin' Cajuns player who'd ever faced the Gators ace in college, then lined a two-run double to the base of the wall in right-center field to tie the game at 2.
Louisiana-Lafayette, a Sun Belt power, is making its fifth World Series appearance and first since 2003.
Florida (67-4) struck first on Corrie Brooks' two-out RBI double in the second inning, with Tiffany DeFelice scoring from first after Lafayette left fielder Katie Smith overran the ball in the corner. Aja Paculba added a two-out double in the fourth inning.
Texas A&M 1, Virginia Tech 0
Texas A&M (55-7) managed only two hits but it was enough for the Aggies to win a 1-0 contest over the USA Softball player of the year Angela Tincher and Virginia Tech (38-9) in the second game Thursday.
"It feels great to get that first win," A&M coach Jo Evans said. "Last year we exited mighty early and we have been talking about getting back here ever since. I'm really proud of our kids. The biggest thing we told to our kids was that, we were going to have some strikeouts; this pitcher is a strikeout pitcher and you're going to strikeout in this game. How are you going to handle that? What are you going to learn from your at bat and your teammate's at bats? And what are you going to take up to your next at bat?"
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, freshman Rhiannon Kliesing lined a shot to shallow right field. Freshman Andrea Tivar came in to pinch run and moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Natalie Villarreal. With two down, Megan Gibson hit a liner at third baseman Charisse Mariconda, who fielded the ball and threw wide of Beth Walker at first base, allowing Tovar to score the winner.
Gibson earned her 39th victory and 20th shutout of the season. She scattered five hits and stuck out nine.
The Aggies face Louisiana-Lafayette at 6 p.m. ET Friday.
Arizona State 3, Alabama 1
Arizona State (62-5) rallied with a three-run seventh inning to beat Alabama (56-7), 3-1, in the third game Thursday.
ASU pitcher Katie Burkhart improved to 37-5. Kelsi Dunne (25-5) took the loss.
With the score tied 1-1, Dunne intentionally walked ASU's Katie Cochran for the third time to lead off the seventh. The Sun Devils then put down the sacrifice bunt and Leslie Rogers delivered a RBI double into left-center field to tie the game.
Mandy Urfer followed by lining a pitch down the third base line that scored two runs.
Charlotte Morgan's fifth inning double to the left field wall scored Alabama's only run. Jordan Praytor scored from first base.
Alabama will play will play Arizona on Saturday.
UCLA 1, Arizona 0
Anjelica Selden struck out nine in a three-hit shutout and Amanda Kamekona drove in the game's only run in the bottom of the first as UCLA blanked Arizona 1-0 in the fourth game Thursday.
UCLA (51-7) will face Pac-10 rival Arizona State at 9 p.m. ET Friday.
ESPN.com's Graham Hays and The Associated Press contributed to this report.