Texas, Luna shut out South Carolina: Advance to Super Regionals

Taylor Thom drove in all six of Texas' runs and Blaire Luna struck out 8 over seven scoreless innings to help Texas advance to the Super Regional round in Austin next week.

The Longhorns shut out South Carolina, 6-0, on Sunday afternoon and put themselves in the driver's seat for the next round of the postseason.

Texas and Blaire Luna faced some adversity in the first and second inning when Luna loaded the bases in both innings with zero outs. Luna settled into her All-American pedigree and threw three consecutive strikeouts to get out of the first inning unharmed. In the next inning Luna found herself in the same situation, but this time a stout Texas defense helped Luna escape with the shut out intact.

Coach Connie Clark felt like that adversity was good for Luna and the players heading into the next round of postseason play.

"I think it's amazing with our mentality that we've had over the last few weeks," coach Connie Clark said. "Slowing everything down, not panicing, and owning the moment. It was good for us to have to go through that and be able to do what we want to do the next couple of weeks."

Taylor Thom homered twice in the game and now has 14 home runs this season. The first home run came in the first inning. The second was a grand slam in the fifth inning that allowed Thom to break the single-season record for RBIs with 63. The grand slam was Thom's fourth this season and makes her one of five players in NCAA history to hit four or more during a season.

In the first inning, South Carolina looked like they were going to strike first when Luna walked the first two batters and hit the third to load the bases. But Luna struck out three straight to get out of the inning.

In the bottom of the first inning, Taylor Hoagland drew a lead-off walk and Brejae Washington's sacrifice bunt moved Hoagland to second. Taylor Thom homered to left on the next at-bat to put Texas on top 2-0.

The Gamecocks were threatening again in the second inning when Kelley Dillon singled to left and Shelby Gonzales reached on a bunt single to the pitcher. Codee Yeske reached on a bunt single that dropped over Luna's head to load the bases with no outs.

The Texas defense settled in behind Luna and helped her get out of the bind. Samie Garcia hit into a fielder's choice, but a spectacular throw by Brejae Washington from center field threw out the runner at home plate. Alaynie Page grounded into a fielder's choice and the Texas defense made the force at home plate to preserve the shut out again. Dana Hathorn flew out to right field on the next at-bat to end the inning.

Blaire Luna explained after the game that she was a little dehydrated early on in the game, but felt she got stronger as the game went on.

"I didn't really hydrate well enough so that kind of affected me," Luna said. "I ate something and I think as the game went on I got stronger."

Coach Clark said she had Kim Bruins ready to pitch if Luna was unable to continue, but Luna carried on and finished the next five innings strong.

In the fifth inning Stephanie Ceo drew a walk and Hoagland reached first on an error by the Gamecock's shortstop. Washington singled to shallow center to load the bases. Thom stepped up and hit a grand slam out to left field and picked up her sixth RBI in the game.

Luna (28-5) threw 133 pitches and went seven innings, allowed five hits and four walks and hit two batters. She struck out eight batters.

South Carolina's Katie Marks recorded the loss after giving up six runs (5 earned) over 4 1/3 innings pitched.

South Carolina left 11 runners on base. Texas left two runners on base.

Texas now moves on to the Super Regional round, which will be hosted at Red & Charline McCombs Field in Austin next week.