NCAA softball: Texas Longhorns beat Arizona Wildcats, advance to WCWS semifinals

View Comments

Estelle Czech didn’t just enter the game to do damage control.

She entered the game to dominate.

Texas kept its season alive on Sunday with a 5-2 win over Arizona in a Women’s College World Series elimination game thanks in part to the heroics of the sophomore pitcher.

After watching Arizona take a 2-1 lead with runners on first and second, Texas head coach Mike White made a change inside the circle. Out came star pitcher Hailey Dolcini and in came Czech, who had never made an appearance in a WCWS.

But that wasn’t apparent when watching her performance. 

Needing two outs to get the Longhorns out of the jam, Czech showed the poise of a postseason veteran at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. She first took down Arizona’s Blaise Biringer, who struck out looking on a 3-2 count.

'It's just off the charts':Why ABC broadcasting the WCWS is a huge deal for NCAA softball

Texas' Estelle Czech (22) celebrates after her team defeated Arizona 5-2 on Sunday night in Oklahoma City.

The Wildcats’ next batter, Sophia Carroll, also didn’t go down easily. 

She battled to a full count as well before Czech sent the seventh pitch in her direction. Carroll swung at the ball only to come up empty for a strikeout that ended the inning.

Czech’s dominance didn’t end there. She recorded four strikeouts and allowed just one hit for the rest of the contest to lead the Longhorns to victory.

"My position for today was to be a reliever and to pick up Hailey (Dolcini) when she needed it, and that's exactly what I tried to do," Czech said. "Hailey did her job and I did mine."

Like two heavyweights in the ring, Texas and Arizona exchanged jabs at the plate prior to Czech’s appearance. The first swing to connect came courtesy of the Longhorns’ Courtney Day, who delivered a solo home run in the bottom of the third inning.

Carlie Scupin countered for Arizona in the top of the fourth. The sophomore sent a high-arching shot that landed in the top corner of right field for a two-run single.

Then came the haymaker from Texas in the bottom of the frame. 

JJ Smith drove a deep bomb into the outfield with runners on first and second, and Arizona’s Paige Dimler jumped at the wall only to watch the ball narrowly elude her glove. Smith's three-run home run gave her team a 4-2 edge.

"Honestly, I was a little nervous because this is my first time being in the World Series," Smith said. "I was just doing it for my team."

'We fear no one':After run-rule win vs. Florida, UCLA set to face OU in WCWS semifinals

Texas starting pitcher Hailey Dolcini (27) celebrates after striking out an Arizona batter during the first inning of an NCAA softball Women's College World Series game on Sunday, June 5, 2022, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Texas gained some insurance via a sacrifice fly by Bella Dayton in the bottom of the fifth inning, and Czech did the rest.

Smith led the Longhorns with three RBIs and one run on 1-for-3 hitting.

Scupin led the Wildcats with a pair of RBIs on 1-for-3 hitting.

Texas advanced to face No. 7-seeded Oklahoma State on Monday night. The unseeded Longhorns must beat the Cowgirls, who are still undefeated in the WCWS, twice to avoid elimination and advance to the championship finals.

"If you had told me in March that we were going to be in the Final Four, I would've said, 'I'm not quite sure about that one,'" White said. "The girls have come together when it really counted... It's exciting to see these girls excel on the big stage."

Meanwhile, Arizona’s unlikely journey to Oklahoma City comes to an end. After losing 10 of 11 games from March 19-April 9, the unseeded Wildcats (39-22, 8-16 Pac-12) reached the WCWS by winning the Columbia Regional and the Starkville Super Regional.

"When we got here, we weren't satisfied with being here," Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe said. "I think we grew up tremendously. As much as they might not see it now, I have the perspective of how great this is going to be for them in the future."

'It's just off the charts':Why ABC broadcasting the WCWS is a huge deal for NCAA softball

View Comments