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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Softball beats Sooners, advances to WCWS”

    Arizona pitcher Taryne Mowatt recorded her 100th career victory in her last home game, third baseman Jenae Leles hit two home runs, and interim-coach Larry Ray exorcised his demons as Arizona advanced to the Women’s College World Series by beating Oklahoma 5-2 in the third and final game of the NCAA Super Regional Saturday.

    “”That was the longest game I’ve ever gone through,”” Ray said.

    If Ray was sitting on pins and needles it’s hard to blame him. The irony would have been unbearable if Arizona had been ousted by the Sooners. In 2004, Ray’s last turn as head coach, Arizona did not qualify for the WCWS in part because of a loss to the Sooners. It was the first time Arizona had not made the WCWS since 1988.

    When Arizona drew Oklahoma in the Super Regional, people took notice. Mowatt, however, was determined to avoid any headlines that might read, “”History repeats itself.””

    “”When I was out on the mound I thought, we have to do this for Coach Ray because you guys (the media) have really given him a hard time this past couple weeks about this Oklahoma thing,”” she said.

    After winning Friday’s game, Arizona looked like it might be in trouble after it was shutout 2-0 in the second game by Oklahoma pitcher D.J. Mathis. Arizona needed its offense to come alive to win the tiebreaker. The Wildcats immediately got what they were looking for when Leles smashed a home run to centerfield and second Sam Banister followed up by knocking out another home run. Leles’ home run went deep and bounced off the roof of the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre. Leles said that she’d never hit a ball that far, even in batting practice.

    “”That’s only the second ball I’ve ever seen hit off that building. It was a monster,”” Ray said.

    After Mathis walked the next hitter, Oklahoma coach Patti Gasso pulled her for Lauren Eckermann.

    Despite the hot start, Oklahoma stayed in the game until the end. Oklahoma shortstop Samantha Long hit a home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to bring the score to 2-1. Eckermann managed to keep Arizona’s bats silent until the sixth inning when catcher Callista Balko hit an opposite-field home run to right-center with two outs to put Arizona up 3-1.

    Balko’s blast proved to be much-needed insurance because Oklahoma battled back with another home run in the bottom of the sixth, this one by first baseman Samantha Ricketts.

    The whole thing came full circle in the top of the seventh inning when Leles knocked her second home run out of the park for two runs, giving Arizona a 5-2 lead.

    “”I’m just seeing the ball very well right now. Seeing it and hitting it. Just keeping it simple,”” Leles said of her two-home run performance.

    Having some cushion, Mowatt didn’t relinquish the lead. She struck out Sooner left fielder Haley Anderson to start the bottom of the seventh.

    Second baseman Amber Flores hit a double to get on base, but Mowatt struck out center fielder Krystle Huey and got a pop out from catcher Lindsey Vandever to win the game.

    Mowatt, who gave up eight hits in the game, said that her teammates’ offense helped take some of the weight off her shoulders.

    “”It’s definitely a good feeling knowing that if I mess up there are however many other girls on our team that are going to pick me up and do their job,”” she said.

    Gasso said that it was a tough loss for her Sooners, but that she was proud of their effort to come back and force a third game.

    “”We knew it was going to be tough coming here,”” she said. “”We threw it all out there. I was very, very pleased and proud of our efforts. We gave everything we had. It was just a little bit short.””

    Home runs accounted for every score in game three. Mathis said that Arizona’s power made them difficult to contend with.

    “”One through nine, they have a very potent offense. You really have to hit your spots because they’ll make you pay,”” she said.

    Arizona now shifts its attention to preparing for the WCWS, which starts May 29 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Mowatt said that her team is definitely ready.

    “”We’re hitting good and our defense is great,”” she said. “”We need to keep everything going and know that we’re great and we’re in the World Series. It’s a clean slate and it’s time to, you know, play some good softball.””

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