Some diehard softball fans said Arizona State's 6-5 win over Florida on Friday night in a winners' bracket final at the Women's College World Series was one of the most intense, entertaining games all season.
Get ready for Florida-Arizona State round 2, round 3 and maybe round 4.
The best-of-three final that starts Monday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium doesn't figure to be a 1-0 pitchers duel.
“I really think it's going to come down to offense,” said ASU senior first baseman Mandy Urfer. “Florida has a great offense and we have a good offense. Both teams are swinging it pretty well right now.”
Florida is swinging it exceptionally well.
In five WCWS games the Gators are batting .353, have scored 41 runs — 8.2 a game — and slammed 11 home runs.
“I don't foresee these games being 0-0 heading into the seventh, eighth or ninth,” said Florida leftfielder Kelsey Bruder. “I think it's going to be the team that outscores the opponent. We try to hit hard pitchers so our pitchers can pitch with ease.”
That certainly was the case on Sunday when the Gators romped to 16-2 and 9-2 wins over SEC rival Alabama.
Yes, Florida, is hot at the right time. But this is a lineup that's slammed 120 homers this season.
The Gators' 3-4-5-6-7 hitters have combined for 94 homers — Kelsey Bruder (18), Brittany Schutte (22), Megan Bush (21), Cheyenne Coyle (17) and Aja Paculba (16).
“Everybody said it was the bats or this or that,” said Florida coach Tim Walton. “It's our hitters. Give them wood, a stick and I guarantee you they'll still find ways to hit home runs. These guys can really hit.”
So can Arizona State, which is batting .312 with 13 runs and three homers in three WCWS games, 82 home runs this season.
“These type of games are different,” said ASU freshman right-hander Dallas Escobedo. “That game (Friday night) was so exhausting.”
The pitchers are good.
Escobedo is 35-3 with a 1.42 ERA.
“She's unbelievable,” Walton said. “Her stride length is so far the ball just jumps out of her hand. She's different than everybody else we've seen in this tournament ... I haven't seen a pitcher like Dallas in a long, long time.”
Escobedo, though, gave up five runs in the fourth inning in the Friday night classic.
Florida's two pitchers — Hannah Rogers (35-7, 1.64 ERA) and Stephanie Brombacher (20-2, 1.15 ERA) — kept Alabama in check on Sunday with their season on the line but gave up six runs Friday night against the Sun Devils.
“When our offense is attacking the ball it helps me a lot because it allows me to have fun with my pitches,” Rogers said. “But they're a good hitting team. I need to hit my spots.”
That's the key, as usual. Pitchers must work both sides of the plate and change speeds. But one advantage to having a dynamic offense is a pitcher doesn't have to worry one mistake could be the difference.
“I've never been on a team like this where I know they'll score some runs for me even if I mess up,” Escobedo said. “But you still have to approach it like every pitch has to be your best pitch because one pitch like a home run can change the game.”
Or just put more pressure on the other offense.