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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Softball: Arizona escapes Cougars

Softball: Arizona escapes Cougars

With the nation’s top two run producers in Hillenbrand Stadium, the first Super Regional matchup between the Arizona Wildcats and the Brigham Young University Cougars had the potential to be a high scoring, run producing battle.

Instead, Game 1 saw a pitchers’ duel between No. 10 seeded Arizona’s Kenzie Fowler and BYU’s Paige Affleck that ended in a 2-1 victory for the Wildcats on Friday night.

“”Great pitching always beats great hitting and I think that’s what you had tonight — two of the best pitchers in the country battling each other and it turned out to be a great battle from the mound,”” said BYU head coach Gordon Eakin.

Arizona (47-11) head coach Mike Candrea echoed Eakin’s sentiments, noting that the game’s low scoring wasn’t a surprise.

“”There’s not a bad victory. A win is a win is a win and that’s the bottom line,”” said Candrea. “”It was a game that I expected. We did what we needed to do today to win but we were very fortunate with three errors to be on the winning side.””

Arizona was fortunate that its three errors didn’t knock the game open for BYU (46-12), which left nine runners on base throughout the game. Fowler (34-6) was also able to work out of a bases loaded situation in the top of the fourth inning that kept the scoreboard clear until the sixth inning for BYU.

“”It’s tough to lose when we had our chances,”” said Eakin. “”We had several opportunities where we had runners in scoring position and we did not put the ball in play.””

The Cougars fell behind early in their first Super Regional game in school history. Arizona scored a run off a single that died in shallow left field off the bat of Brigette Del Ponte, giving her 76 RBIs for the season.

Center fielder Lauren Schutzler, who started the Arizona offense with a bunt single, would be the only player to cross home plate until the top of the sixth inning, when the Cougars would plate their only run of the evening.

BYU tied the game at an even 1-1 before sophomore Lini Koria drove in the game winner for the Wildcats for the second game in a row.

After Arizona answered to retake the lead, Fowler promptly shut down the Cougar offense and struck out the nation’s top RBI producer — Angeline Quiocho — with BYU’s J.C. Clayton already on base.

“”That last inning was big with (Angeline) Quiocho up,”” Fowler said. “”They’re pretty solid one through nine, so no easy outs. They’re free swingers so try to keep it within their power.””

Fowler worked BYU with a steady dose of strikeouts and ground balls. She navigated through the Cougars potent offense and finished with 10 strikeouts and just one walk.

Her counterpart, Affleck (32-9), was able to deal a mix of pitches to keep Arizona’s lineup off balance.

“”She did a good job of keeping the ball out of the zone and keeping us off balance early on,”” Candrea said. “”I think offensively we were slow at making some adjustments and never got to her like I thought that we might be able to.””

Arizona’s No. 3 scoring offense had seven hits to No. 6 BYU’s six, but neither team was able to crack the game wide open.

The Wildcats took the 1-0 lead in a best two-out-of three series that will conclude tomorrow. Game 2 of the series is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and, if necessary, Game 3 is scheduled for 4 p.m. Arizona needs to win just one of the next two scheduled games to continue its appearance streak a the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.

“”You’ve got to come out and as long as you have a uniform on and you’re playing, you need to go out and play like it’s the last game you’ll play in your life,”” Candrea said.


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