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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Softball: Wildcats move on to Super Regionals

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Arizona congratulates freshman Matte Haack after pinch-hitting a home run to tie the game at four runs against the Hofstra Pride in the finale of the Tucson Regional Sunday at Hillenbrand Stadium. Arizona would go on to win 10-6 thanks to a walk-off grand slam by sophomore Lini Koria.

It was a nail biter in the championship game of the Tucson Regional.

“”I think it was one of the greatest wins. Absolutely,”” said Arizona softball head coach Mike Candrea. “”For the time, for what the game meant, for the situation that we’re in, with our personnel, I think it’s one of the biggest ones we’ve had in the time I’ve been here.””

It took 12 innings.

The third longest game in Arizona NCAA postseason history would be decided off the bat of Lini Koria, who stood after Hofstra pitcher Olivia Galanti intentionally walked junior Stacie Chambers and freshman Brigette Del Ponte.

“”I told Lini when she got up to the plate, I said ‘Let’s do one for Charlene’ right now,”” Candrea said, “”and it was just remarkable.””

Koria, who’s mother Charlene Koria passed away from a heart attack earlier this season, blasted a grand slam with one out in the bottom of the 12th to send Arizona 10-6 over the Pride on Sunday.

“”With having someone remind me and my teammates too, also saying to me, ‘Do it for mom’ it just gives me another pathway, an advantage over what situation I was in at bat whether it was bases are loaded or two outs, it didn’t matter to me.””

Koria’s game winner was made possible by senior K’Lee Arredondo’s two-RBI-triple to the gap in right center field that tied the game between the Wildcats (46-11) and the Pride (45-12) for the fourth time that day.

“”I guess I can say that we fought like Wildcats, but I can say it’s probably one of the best performances I’ve seen by a team,”” Candrea said. “”The fight, the never-give-up from a lot of different people.””

The contest came down to the pitching matchup between Arizona’s freshmen ace Kenzie Fowler and Hofstra’s Galanti (26-7), who pitched in relief of Erin Wade in the fifth inning.

Fowler threw 11 1/3 innings and 204 pitches before senior Sarah Akamine (13-5) took over the circle to close out the top of the 12th. Fowler had walked two batters in the inning and given up four singles, including and RBI hit off the bat of Michele DePasquale before walking Sara Michalowski to put Hofstra ahead 6-4.

The Wildcats responded in slamming fashion to earn their way to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament, which they will host next weekend against Brigham Young University.

“”Kenzie was not at her very best today … but she wanted the ball and hung in there as long as she could,”” Candrea said.

Hofstra took the early lead in the second meeting of the weekend between the Wildcats and the Pride. Hofstra’s Tessa Ziemba knocked a double off of Fowler to plate two runs for Hofstra in the first inning.

Arizona responded quickly, however.

Back-to-back singles by Lauren Schutzler and Arredondo and a walk to Chambers loaded the bases for Del Ponte. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Del Ponte scored Arizona’s first run of the game.

While Ziemba was the offensive hero in the top half of the inning for the Pride, her miscue in the bottom half would prove to be a costly one. Koria sent a fly ball right at Ziemba, who dropped the ball. The two-base error allowed Schutzler and Chambers to score and gave the Wildcats the 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first.

Despite all the scoring in the first inning, the scoreboard remained clear for both teams until the top of the sixth inning.

Hofstra head coach Bill Edwards brought in freshman pitcher Galanti in the bottom of the fifth inning, but she did her damage in the top of the sixth from the batter’s box.

Galanti took a solo shot over the left field wall to tie the game 3-3 in top of the sixth.

The game pressed on through extra innings until the ninth when Arizona committed two errors in the top half to allow the Pride to regain the lead. After DePasquale slammed a lead-off double to begin the ninth, Michalowski hit into a fielder’s choice which allowed Kirker to catch the runner at second in a pickle.

Then, Ziemba sent a single into right field and a misplay by Arizona’s right fielder Karissa Buchanan put runners at second and third with one out in the top of the ninth for the Pride.

Freshman Baillie Kirker then committed an error on a play that would have ended the inning and kept the score tied. Instead, Michalowski scored to put the pride up 4-3 going into the ninth.

“”In games like today you really see how importance experience is,”” Candrea said. “”To make a run at this level, experience is a huge factor and sometimes in experience will go thorough their trials and tribulations and today was no different for us.””

Arizona answered again, however, as Candrea had freshman Matte Haack hit in place of Kirker.

“”I knew at that moment that I wasn’t going to roll the dice any more and wanted to get another look,”” Candrea said.

Haack blasted a solo shot to center field that would once again even the score in the bottom of the ninth and allow the Wildcats to pull off the comeback win three innings later.

The Wildcats will host the Super Regionals this weekend against the surprise team from the Austin, Regional. BYU knocked off No.7-seeded Texas before defeating Eastern Carolina University in the Regional Championship Game. Dates and times are yet to be announced.

 

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