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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Gators chomp Wildcats

    First baseman Sam Banister speaks to the media after a 3-0 loss to Florida. Banister went hitless in the game.
    First baseman Sam Banister speaks to the media after a 3-0 loss to Florida. Banister went hitless in the game.

    OKLAHOMA CITY – With the nation’s top offensive team matched against the nation’s top pitching, something had to give. And in Arizona’s first game of the 2009 Women’s College World Series, the dominating Gator pitching overcame the Wildcat hitters.

    Arizona’s 21st trip to Oklahoma City began much like their 20th WCWS started – a shutout loss. The Wildcats (46-16) fell by a score of 3-0 at the hands of Florida (61-3) and pitcher Stacey Nelson.

    The nation’s leading offense was not enough to match Nelson’s performance in the circle, which held Arizona to just two hits the entire game.

    “”Every time we made an adjustment, she made an adjustment to our adjustment,”” senior first baseman Sam Banister said.

    Coming into the game, Arizona’s key was to build off the momentum they acquired by beating Stanford in the Super Regionals – an impressive feat considering they dropped game one in Palo Alto, Calif.

    Outfielder Brittany Lastrapes and shortstop K’Lee Arredondo led off the game with back-to-back singles, giving the Wildcats the opportunity to strike early.

    However, Nelson borrowed a page from Arizona’s playbook and chose to bear down. The All-American pitcher would not give up another hit.

    “”I thought we were going to get the big hit that inning but that didn’t work out,”” Lastrapes said. “”At the time, I had a lot of confidence in our offense and I thought we were going to put something together.””

    Nelson’s counterpart, pitcher Lindsey Sisk, rode her impressive performance against Stanford to earn the start. During her last outing, she struck out 14 batters to seal Arizona’s WCWS spot.

    Against the Gators, however, her results were not as striking. Florida made use of their powerful offense early, hitting two homers off Sisk (13-5) to account for their scoring.

    “”We thought that Sisk would be a good match-up,”” Candrea said. “”At the moment, we thought it was the right thing to do.””

    Outfielder Francesca Enea’s two-run jack in the first inning gave the Gators the early lead. The next inning, shortstop Megan Bush hit a solo shot that would knock Sisk out of the game.

    Arizona ace Sarah Akamine stepped into to the circle and gave the Gators a taste of their own medicine. The junior gave up just three hits in five innings of work, striking out seven, and issuing no walks.

    Even though Akamine (22-7) loosened the Gators’ bite on Arizona’s ERA, the Arizona offense did not step up to the plate. Nelson racked up 12 strikeouts in the game by getting the Arizona hitters to chase pitches out of the zone.

    The struggles grew throughout the lineup. Catcher Stacie Chambers was a strikeout victim three times in the game. Four Wildcat players went 0-3, and the Florida ace only issued three walks.

    “”We just couldn’t quite make the adjustments we needed to offensively,”” Candrea said. “”I really felt during the game that we were just a couple of base runners from getting something going.””

    Though they would not register another hit, the chance still lingered for Arizona as the game winded down. The Wildcats made a number of impressive defensive plays that kept them in the game, including a catch in left field by Lastrapes that landed at the No. 3 spot on Sportscenter’s Top Ten Plays.

    Nelson admitted after the game that even with a three run cushion, she did not feel her lead was safe.

    “”Every pitch was a battle with them,”” said Nelson. “”I never felt out of trouble, even in the seventh inning with two outs.””

    The potential of a breakout offensive inning still lingered for Arizona. With hitters listed one through nine, the Wildcats attempted to become the comeback cats as they had done in previous post-season games, but Nelson and the Florida defense foiled every potential rally.

    The Wildcats will hold practice in the afternoon tomorrow before playing Saturday at 1 p.m. CST.

    They will face No. 4 Alabama, who also lost their first game on Thursday. In another similarity to last year’s WCWS, it was the Crimson Tide that the Wildcats faced and lost to on the brink of elimination.

    Click here for all your Summer ’09 softball coverage!

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