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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Arizona knocks off Sooners in Super Regional opener

    This is Arizona? You may have thought the NCAA Super Regional was being hosted anywhere but the Old Pueblo as gray skies stretched over Hillenbrand Stadium and the packed stands were filled with blue and red sweaters and windbreakers. Meanwhile, 1,000 miles away in Norman, Okla., fans of the No.10-seeded Sooners watching their team take on the Wildcats on ESPN were taking refuge indoors from a decidedly more Tucsonan high temperature of 90 degrees.

    If the weather wasn’t freaky enough, No. 7-seeded Arizona seemed to have fully taken the trip to some kind of bizarro world when starting pitcher Taryne Mowatt (28-12) gave up a home run to Oklahoma second baseman Amber Flores in the Super Regional opener’s first at-bat.

    However, things quickly got back to normal. The temperature never got out of the sixties, but Mowatt got hot, allowing only one hit the rest of the game. The Sooners went 1-for-24 the rest of the game and Mowatt retired the last 11 batters as Arizona went on to beat Oklahoma 3-1 and win the first game of the best-of-three Super Regional in the NCAA Softball Championships. A win tomorrow will earn the Wildcats a spot in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla. The only time the Wildcats missed a berth in the WCWS since 1980 was in 2004 when Arizona head coach Mike Candrea was on his last leave of absence to coach the US Olympic softball team.

    “”I was a little worried after that first hitter,”” said interim-coach Larry Ray. “”But Taryne came out and grinded it out.””

    “”Taryne bared down,”” he added. “”She’s doing what she always does.””

    Arizona was able to counterpunch immediately in the first inning when leftfielder Brittany Lastrapes hit a double off the left field wall. Third baseman Jenae Leles later drove in the run when she knocked a ball in the gap between left and center field.

    “”I knew that if I got through that inning we’d go out and get another run,”” Mowatt said.

    The scored stayed deadlocked until the fifth inning when Leles hit a home run over the left-center field wall.

    Mowatt said that Leles’ contributions on offense helped swing the game in the Wildcats’ favor.

    “”The home run definitely gave them some momentum,”” Mowatt said. “”But I think after we got our run, we started getting some confidence. They kind of deflated. Jenae’s home run kind of sealed the deal.””

    Arizona had a chance to really break the game open after Leles’ home run, loading the bases with only one out. Oklahoma pitcher D.J. Mathis (30-6) was able to keep the game tight by striking out pinch hitter Sarah Akamine. Right fielder Adrienne Acton then grounded out at first base, leaving all three runners stranded.

    Arizona finally wore out Mathis in the sixth inning when left-hander Lastrapes hit an opposite field home run to put Arizona up 3-1.

    Lastrapes said that she didn’t even know the ball was going out of the park. She’d never hit an opposite-field home run in her life.

    “”I didn’t know what it would feel like,”” she said. “”I heard people cheering and I was like, ‘Ahhh!'””

    When Mathis walked the next hitter, shortstop K’Lee Arredondo, Oklahoma head coach Patti Gasso pulled Mathis for Lauren Eckermann. She got out of the inning with help from her second baseman, Flores, who turned an unassisted double play on a ground ball hit by Leles. Designated hitter Stacie Chambers then grounded out to third.

    However, the damage was done. Mowatt retired the next three Sooners in the seventh to end the game.

    Now the pressure is on Oklahoma to win tomorrow morning and force a deciding game three.

    “”We’ve been going through tough times throughout the season and we know what to expect to have to win two games on the final day,”” Gasso said.

    Mathis, who gave up six hits, shouldered some of the blame for the loss herself.

    “”I just wasn’t hitting my spots like I usually do,”” she said. “”We can’t win like that.””

    “”D.J. was not at her best tonight,”” Gasso said. “”Mowatt had a great game as expected. We knew what was coming.””

    Flores said that the staying loose was a key for the Sooners.

    “”With a talented pitcher like her you just have to go out there and relax,”” she said. “”We just have to take this one game at a time.””

    For their part, the Wildcats are hoping to just get out there and do the same thing tomorrow.

    “”I’m very confident,”” Mowatt said. “”They’re obviously going to come out fighting, but our team has the edge.””

    “”We’re not gonna change a thing,”” Lastrapes said.

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