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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Summer Sports Update: Softball one win away from national championship

    Sophomore right fielder Adrienne Acton, right, looks to the home plate umpire after sliding safely past Northwestern catcher Jamie Dotson, left, to score in the third inning of the first game of the 2006 NCAA Division I softball championship in Oklahoma City yesterday.  Arizona defeated Northwestern 8-0 and will play for the schools first NCAA championship since 2001 tonight.
    Sophomore right fielder Adrienne Acton, right, looks to the home plate umpire after sliding safely past Northwestern catcher Jamie Dotson, left, to score in the third inning of the first game of the 2006 NCAA Division I softball championship in Oklahoma City yesterday. Arizona defeated Northwestern 8-0 and will play for the school’s first NCAA championship since 2001 tonight.

    OKLAHOMA CITY – Back in February, Arizona probably wouldn’t have considered the Northwestern Wildcats a potential opponent in the Women’s College World Series.

    In the second game of the season Arizona dominated the Big 10 team so much that a run-rule was put in effect to shorten the game to six innings.

    Now, one game into the WCWS championship series in Oklahoma City, the two teams faced each other once again with the same result, another 8-0 drubbing that puts Arizona one game away from the school’s first national championship since 2001, last won by the softball team led by then-junior Jennie Finch.

    Game 2 is tonight at 5 on ESPN2.

    “”It was a great opener for us,”” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “”The first game is an important game. Our kids came out and had good energy like they did yesterday. “”That’s all you can ask for. Offensively we made some things happen with a little help from them, and a lot of help from us put runs on the board.””

    In a game that featured six errors between both teams, three injury delays, and four unearned runs, the Wildcats charged to an early 5-0 lead in the third inning. It marked the biggest run total in an inning from any team in this year’s WCWS.

    To open the scoring for Arizona, sophomore right fielder Adrienne Acton led off the third with a bunt single. Junior center fielder Caitlin Lowe followed with an infield single, and Acton reached third on a throwing error.

    Senior left fielder Autumn Champion followed with a ground ball to second base, and Acton, without hesitation, starting running towards home plate, where she was safe on a very impressive hook slide.

    “”Autumn’s hit was toward second base, so I knew it was going to be close,”” Acton said. “”I did a slide and she didn’t get me. I knew I had to get around her somehow.””

    In the circle for Arizona, senior ace Alicia Hollowell (31-5) was back in dominant form as she took another perfect game into the fifth inning. Hollowell allowed only one hit, no runs and struck out twelve Northwestern hitters after no-hitting them earlier in the year.

    “”Regardless of the score, I go out there and act like it’s a 0-0 ballgame,”” Hollowell said. “”I take it one pitch at a time and do everything I can to not let anyone on base.””

    Hollowell did almost just that, allowing only three batters over the minimum.

    In Sunday night’s elimination game against Tennessee, Hollowell also took a no-hitter into the fifth inning in Arizona’s 6-0 victory.

    “”Hollowell was very good tonight,”” Candrea said. “”We’re pleased with it, but we’re not going to let our guard down. We’ve got a lot of work to do.””

    For the Arizona hitters, seven of the nine batters in the starting lineup got at least one hit. Sophomore designated player Taryne Mowatt led the offensive charge, going 3-for-4, including a solo home run in the seventh inning and a backbreaking two-run double to cap the Wildcats’ five-run third.

    The home run came just a few pitches after Mowatt fell to the ground after fouling a ball off her kneecap. She has three of Arizona’s four extra base hits in the WCWS so far.

    “”I’m seeing the ball well,”” Mowatt said. “”I think throughout the year, I only hit singles. I practiced a lot over the summer and focused on seeing the ball and Coach really helped me with my swing. I just put it all together.””

    Lowe once again proved her worth on the base paths, scoring two runs, going 1-for-4, with a walk and a stolen base. The steal placed her atop the WCWS stolen base list for one season with three in the series.

    Arizona’s other slap-speedsters, Acton and Champion, contributed to the base total, going 2-for-7 combined with two runs scored.

    In the circle for Northwestern, junior Eileen Canney (26-8) started the game, going only two innings, and allowing three hits and two earned runs in the loss.

    Canney was relieved by senior Tucson native Courtnay Foster in the middle of a Champion at-bat. Foster pitched the remaining five innings, allowing five hits and six runs, only two of them earned due to NU’s porous defense.

    “”I felt good,”” Foster said. “”I wanted to go out there and attack them, but I am looking forward to another chance tomorrow.””

    The Northwestern defense was very shaky, to say the least.

    On a pop fly to freshman shortstop Tammy Williams in the game-deciding third inning, senior second baseman Ashley Crane ran over and knocked the ball right out of her glove, allowing Lowe to cross home plate for the second of five runs in the error-fueled rally.

    Williams continued her physical beating on the field in the seventh inning when after bunting to Hollowell, the Arizona pitcher threw the ball away, allowing Williams to get an extra base as the ball went down the right field line. But on an attempt to make it to third, Williams slid head first into the leg of freshman third baseman Janae Leles.

    Not only was Williams out at third, she was forced to leave the game in a somewhat violent scene as blood gushed out of her forehead. It was reported after the game that stitches were put in by a medical staff.

    Going into this series, Hollowell said she had a bit of added energy in the final games of her Arizona career in which she is on the cusp of doing the one thing she has never accomplished in her illustrious career.

    “”I was excited,”” Hollowell said. “”My juices were flowing, and I was ready to go. There’s just something about my four years at Arizona that I want to do everything in my power to make sure we come out on top.””

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