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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

‘It beats practicing’

Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

With the sun in her eyes and one out in the game, a liner zipped past the ear of Arizona softball third baseman Brigette Del Ponte for a UTEP single.

Immediately, Arizona’s team managers handed out sunglasses — the No. 2 Wildcats (32-4) wouldn’t miss many more opportunities on defense.

But in a two-game sweep of the UTEP Miners (26-14) at Hillenbrand Stadium Wednesday, they did leave some opportunities at the plate.

“”I think one of the crucial things from here on out offensively is discipline at the plate,”” said head coach Mike Candrea. “”In games like this, I probably expect more good at-bats. We jumped on them … and then we gave away some at-bats the last two (innings).””

In front of a crowd of 2,633, the Wildcats rolled in their doubleheader Wednesday, dropping the Miners 8-0 in Game 1, before capturing a 10-0 win in the second match-up that saw eight first-inning runs cross the plate for Arizona.

It was a tune-up before a highly anticipated weekend against the

No. 1 Washington Huskies, and Arizona looked sharp.

“”We got some live at-bats tonight,”” said shortstop K’Lee Arredondo. “”At first I kind of felt like it’s bad to play the game tonight. (But) we’re not having to sit around for an entire week to see a live at-bat all week.””

Fowler shakes poor start in Game 1

Behind a nine-strikeout no-hitter by freshman ace Kenzie Fowler (21-2), the Wildcats run-ruled the Miners in Game 1, scoring half of the final 8-0 deficit in the first inning.

But Arizona got off to a poor start as a fielding error allowed the Miners’ lead-off hitter, Kia Moore, to reach third base. After two outs, Fowler hit two consecutive batters to load the bases, but Arizona’s defense got the final out to keep the game scoreless.

“”It was a weird first inning,”” Fowler said. “”We kind of a got a little out of control. That kind of pumped us up a little bit and let us know they weren’t just going to lie down.””

After a single and a head-first stolen base in Arizona’s first inning, center fielder Lauren Schutzler advanced to third thanks to an Arredondo single. The shortstop then stole second before Stacie Chambers singled to bring in the pair, scoring Arizona’s first two runs.

Freshman Del Ponte followed in the five-slot to double the lead, scoring herself and Chambers before UTEP managed to get three outs.

The hot bats continued in the second inning.

Second baseman Kristen Arriola launched a home run inside the left field foul pole to put the Wildcats on top 5-0, causing the Miners to replace starting pitcher Stacie Townsend, who was 16th in the nation, with 10.3 strikeouts per game heading into the game, with Courtney Auger.

Arriola has seemingly solidified her starting position at second base. Last season, the sophomore split starts with junior Victoria Kemp but after the two UTEP games, she had a nine-game hitting streak as a starter.

“”I think it’s just maturity in a way,”” Arredondo said of Arriola’s success. “”You know what pitches to expect, what pitches to lay off of. Once you start learning the college-level game, it just makes you a better hitter.””

Meanwhile, UTEP’s Townsend gave up five runs, all earned, on five hits. Arizona only conjured up seven hits, but two Miner errors and six total walks by UTEP pitchers didn’t help the team’s defensive cause.

Three walks in the fourth by Auger loaded the bases with one out. She got Arredondo to pop out but then walked Chambers to bring in Arriola from third and put the Arizona lead at six.

Auger was replaced by senior Kelly Curran to clean up the two-out, bases-loaded fourth inning. A passed ball on the first pitch resulted in a 7-0 Wildcat lead as left fielder Brittany Lastrapes touched home from third.

Fowler reached first on a fielder’s error that also allowed yet another run to score, giving Arizona enough to run-rule the Miners.

Koria helps UA blast Miners 10-0 in Game 2

With two on base, Arredondo tapped a bunt to load the bases in the bottom of the first inning, all with no outs. Designated player Chambers knocked the single past the outstretched arms of UTEP second baseman Kelynn Frye to score Arizona’s first run.

It wouldn’t be the last.

Del Ponte, who had five RBIs in the two games, popped a hit to left field for her 53rd RBI of the year to score another for the Wildcats and a wild out at first advanced Chambers to tally a third run.

The most impressive play on the evening came on the first pitch thrown to catcher Lini Koria. The powerful sophomore boomed a home run over one of the deepest parts of the Hillenbrand facility, clearing the left center field stands to give Arizona six runs.

“”Besides the other ball she hit that hit the top of the clubhouse, I haven’t seen a ball (go) that far,”” Arredondo said of the hit.

“”I definitely think it’s important to get some of these girls who aren’t necessarily rolling right now to get going,”” she added.

Lastrapes nailed another homer to far left field to punch in two more, and Arizona surged to an 8-0 lead in the first inning.

Del Ponte added her 15th homer of the season in the bottom of the second inning, giving Arizona a 10-0 lead. Arizona wouldn’t score again, but held the Miners quiet.

“”We’ve had the confidence,”” Candrea said afterward. “”Definitely, you want to feel going off to Washington on a high rather than a low.””

As soon as the Wildcats reached the final out, Candrea quickly shifted focus to Friday’s game at Washington.

Said the head coach of the two-game, run-rule victories: “”It beats practicing.””

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