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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona softball sweeps Utah, preps for No. 1 Cal

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Gordon Bates / Daily Wildcat

The third and final game of Arizona softball’s series went as well as the first two with a 4-2 win over Utah on Wednesday at Hillenbrand Stadium.

The game marked UA head coach Mike Candrea’s 1,300th win, making him the fastest coach, and second ever, to reach that number.

The game started off quickly for both teams, as a first-inning double from Utah’s Katelyn Elliott drove in a runner, Kelsi Hoopiiaina, who reached base via an illegal pitch call after grounding out to third base, putting the Utes up 1-0 before the Wildcats stepped into the batter’s box.

“You don’t ever overshadow a win,” Candrea said. “It feels good to get a victory. There are always positives.”

Arizona’s (28-10, 7-5 Pac-12) Brigette Del Ponte kept her hot streak alive, knocking a RBI single past the third baseman and tying the game at one before Kristen Arriola slapped a single that reached the outfield wall and drove in two — putting the Wildcats up 3-1. Del Ponte went 5-for-9 with a double, two home runs, six RBI, and four runs scored in the series.

Utah added another run in the third inning, narrowing the lead to just one. All-American pitcher Kenzie Fowler (12-3) was pulled in favor of sophomore Babcock after giving up three hits and two earned runs in four innings. Babcock was able to pick up her first save of the season in the final three innings.

Offensively, from the second inning until the bottom of the sixth, the energy seemed to be sucked out of the Wildcats, and Candrea noticed.

“We did enough to win, and that’s all I can say,” he said. “I can’t say that we played great softball. If we bring the same energy to the ballpark we did today (against Cal this weekend), we’re going to get our ass kicked.”

The lull ended in the bottom of the sixth following back-to-back errors in the top of the inning from usual defensive standouts Shelby Pendley and Del Ponte. Arriola stepped to the plate and whacked her fifth home run of the season, extending the Arizona lead to two runs.

“Boo (Arriola) is a kid that is on track all the time,” Candrea said. “She’s no-nonsense, she’s always prepared. Good things happen when you do that.”

The Wildcats start a three game road series against No. 1 Cal on Friday, the toughest matchup they’ve had all season.

“It’s sitting right in front of them,” Candrea said. “Life is full of choices, and they’ve got a choice to make. We just have to make the choice to play the game with some toughness, some drive, and some competitiveness, or it’s going to get tough.”

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