ASU, Alabama advance to semis
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Since their season was suddenly on the line, Kelsi Dunne and the Crimson Tide have made it impossible for their opponents to get them down.
Dunne pitched six spotless innings Friday night, Whitney Larsen and Kaila Hunt had RBI singles and second-seeded Alabama moved into the Women's College World Series semifinals with a 3-0 victory over Baylor.
Top-seeded Arizona State also made it to the semis, beating Florida 6-5 on Annie Lockwood's bases-loaded, infield single in the bottom of the seventh.
The Crimson Tide and Sun Devils each need just one win in two chances Sunday to reach the best-of-three championship series.
The tandem of Dunne and freshman Jackie Traina has put up zeroes for 30 1/3 innings since the third inning of a 5-2 loss to Stanford in their super regional opener.
Dunne said Larsen, a fellow senior, pulled the team together after that loss -- which made it necessary for Alabama (53-9) to win back-to-back elimination games to reach the World Series -- and told players to take a "fearless" mindset.
"Ever since then, we have come out and we've been fearless and we have fought together," said Dunne, who has 24 2/3 scoreless innings in a row. "We've just been playing. All cylinders of our game have been clicking together and coming together at the right time.
"Our defense has been phenomenal and we've been getting those timely hits that we have fallen short of before."
The Crimson Tide is trying to get to the championship round for the first time. It's also the first time Alabama has been in such a favorable position. In its last two trips to the World Series, the Tide rallied back for two wins in the losers' bracket but still needed two more to reach the finals.
Dunne (29-4) had given up 21 runs in 40 2-3 innings over six starts in those trips as a freshman and sophomore, then the top-seeded Tide got bounced in the super regionals last season when Dunne won her first SEC pitcher of the year honor.
Hays: Dunne's resiliency
Alabama could be haunted by its recent tournament losses, but with the resiliency of ace Kelsi Dunne, those losses aren't holding the Tide back, writes Graham Hays. Story
She has allowed only five singles over 12 shutout innings at this year's World Series.
"Kelsi is in a zone right now," coach Patrick Murphy said. "It just warms my heart to know that a senior is in that position when she comes to her final performance in her career."
Amanda Locke drove in the first run for Alabama with a sacrifice fly in the first inning off of Whitney Canion (30-11). Hunt singled and scored on Larsen's two-out base hit in the fourth and then provided her own RBI single with two outs in the fifth.
Bama's best start at the World Series also comes with Tuscaloosa just over a month removed from the deadly tornadoes that killed 42 and damaged or destroyed more than 5,000 homes while the team huddled in a stadium basement.
"It makes you come closer, even closer than we were before," Dunne said. "We have such a supportive community, and they stick with us through the good and the bad, and we want to stick with them and help them celebrate something."
Arizona State (57-6) squandered a four-run lead before Lockwood led the way back.
She hit a solo home run just over the right-field fence in the fourth to tie it at 5 after Florida (53-11) rallied for five runs in the top half of the inning.
Lockwood then smashed a one-hopper right at third baseman Kasey Fagan with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh. It bounced off of Fagan and toward the Sun Devils' dugout, allowing Katelyn Boyd to score the winning run.
"You just put it in play, and good things usually happen when you do that," said Lockwood, who was 3-for-3 with three RBIs and also walked twice. "I was just really trying to square up the ball and put it somewhere where no one could get it."
Fagan had already thrown out one Arizona State runner at the plate in the inning, but couldn't do it again.
Dallas Escobedo (34-3) went the distance to win her 16th straight decision, but not without a challenge.
After falling behind 4-0 early, the Gators charged ahead with a five-run fourth inning. Tiffany DeFelice and Michelle Moultrie each hit two-run home runs, and Brittany Schutte hit a tiebreaking RBI double to center field. Aja Paculba scored before Kelsey Bruder was cut down while trying to score from first.
The Sun Devils jumped ahead at the start, getting an RBI single from Lockwood in the first before scoring twice the second inning off of starter Stephanie Brombacher's throwing error. Alix Johnson came in to score when Brombacher's attempt at a force-out at second sailed into center field, and Talor Haro advanced all the way to third before coming in on Boyd's single to make it 3-0.
Mandy Urfer added a leadoff homer in the third off of reliever Hannah Rogers (34-7) to make it 4-0.
Holly Holl had two of the five hits by Baylor (46-14). The Bears will face an elimination game Saturday night against one of two Big 12 rivals, Oklahoma or Missouri.
Baylor coach Glenn Moore second-guessed his decision to call the grounds crew out in the first inning with runners on first and second when he noticed Kayce Walker was struggling with her footing on the wet infield dirt. But he said even if he did "pour water maybe on a fire," he's glad he did.
"When we've had two kids tear ACLs on leads at second base and you see her slip twice, then it's not worth it to lose a kid," Moore said.
After the delay, Dunne retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning. After allowing the two first-inning singles, she allowed only two over the next five innings.
Traina threw a scoreless seventh for her fourth save.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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