Sun Devils earn first-ever national softball crown
ASU’s Katie Burkhart hurled a four-hitter, and Sun Devils slugger Kaitlin Cochran notched a three-run homer as the softball squad earned its first NCAA Women’s College World Series title with an 11-0 romp over Texas A&M in Oklahoma City June 3.
The Sun Devils, who ended the postseason with a perfect 10-0 mark, went 5-0 at this year’s WCWS after losing its three most recent games at the event. The championship title came in ASU’s 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.
Cochran, a junior, demonstrated why opponents started the WCWS by intentionally walking her six straight times.
She went the opposite way for her 14th home run of the season, giving the sixth-seeded Sun Devils (66-5) a commanding 4-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning in Game 2 of the best-of-three championship series.
Teammate Mandy Urfer reached on a fielding error by Texas A&M’s third baseman, Jamie Hinshaw, and Rhiannon Baca followed with a base hit that also deflected off Hinshaw’s glove to bring Cochran to the plate in a situation where the Aggies couldn’t think about walking her.
Jackie Vasquez, who was hitting behind her, already had won a semifinal game with a three-run home run, and she had driven in ASU’s first run with a RBI single in the third.
Cochran drove the first pitch over the left-field fence and was greeted by a mob of teammates when she completed her trip around the bases.
When asked in the press conference after the game whether or not she knew her home run was gone when she hit it, Cochran replied: “Honestly, no. I was looking at the left fielder, thinking she would catch it. I was just trying to run the bases as fast as I could, because I knew it was a close game at that point. I just wanted to put more runs up on the board for my team.”
The Sun Devils turned it into a rout with seven runs in the seventh inning, including a two-run single by Caylyn Carlson and a three-run home run by Mindy Cowles that bounced off a canopy over the seats in left field.
Burkhart, a senior, struck out 13 to win her 11th straight decision.
“I have been speechless since we won the game,” Burkhart said. “This is the most phenomenal experience I have ever had. This is what I have dreamed about for my entire life. To be able to experience this is truly amazing. This team is capable of doing damage, and I think we did that today."
The margin ended up matching the second-most lopsided game in WCWS history. Only Arizona’s 12-0 defeat of Fresno State in the first round of the 1989 World Series was a bigger blowout.
The Sun Devils rushed out of the dugout and celebrated in a huddle on the infield.
The victory gives ASU some bragging rights in the Pac-10, which already sports titles from softball powers UCLA and Arizona, as well as one from California.
The Sun Devils had a respectable program for years, but the squad surged forward after Clint Myers took over three years ago and made them perennial World Series participants.
“I’m very, very proud and honored to be these young ladies’ coach, and I thanked them after the game,” Myers said. “I’m not a very easy coach the play for. They have gone through a lot. They believed, and they worked harder than most. What they were able to do in this playoff system was truly amazing. They are champions. They will be champions in life, and they will be champions here and at Arizona State. For the seniors that are leaving, they were the heart and soul, and they will be truly missed.
“Next year, we will have new heart and soul. This is a tradition we were trying to build, and this year’s team put it on the map. I am very honored to be the coach of Arizona State.”