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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona’s Kenzie Fowler pitches no hitter in doubleheader

Fourteen wins, one loss and a seven-game winning streak — things are swell in Arizona softball land.

But don’t ask head coach Mike Candrea. In his eyes, it’s too early to know where exactly the No. 2 Wildcats stand, even after Wednesday night’s two-game sweep of the New Mexico State University Aggies.

“”It’s kind of nice to come out and take care of business, although we had a lot of hiccups tonight,”” Candrea said. “”We still have a lot of growing pains that we’re going through.””

Taking on last season’s best-hitting softball team in the NCAA, the Arizona Wildcats (14-1) rode the first career no-hitter by freshman ace Kenzie Fowler to a 8-0 Game 1 victory against the NMSU Aggies (9-6) before pounding the Aggies 9-0 in Game 2.

Freshman Brigette Del Ponte hit two three-run home runs on the evening — one in each game — sparking the offense, while an inconsistent defense gave up two hits and committed two errors.

“”You’re always looking for that complete game, that perfect game you’re trying to play,”” Candrea said. “”There’s still room for improvement.””

Both teams were quiet to begin Game 1.

The Wildcats put four runners on base through the first two innings but none advanced past first, as NMSU’s defense held strong. Soon though, starting Aggie pitcher Carissa Theis would find trouble.

Junior Brittany Lastrapes got the scoring going in the third inning with a solo homer to right-center field to put UA on the board. Then, redshirt junior Stacie Chambers knocked in center fielder Lauren Schutzler from third base, who had advanced off a stolen base and a single.

With the fifth Arizona hit in a row, five-slot hitter Del Ponte rocketed a three-run bomb into the outfield stands, giving Arizona a 5-0 advantage.

“”I was watching them warm up and (they) really favored (their) inside pitch,”” Del Ponte said. “”That’s what I expected, and that’s what I got at both at-bats.””

After second baseman Kristen Arriola sent a solo shot to left field on the first pitch of the fourth inning, freshman Baillie Kirker singled in the bottom of the fifth inning to set up a two-run homer by designated hitter Lini Koria. That gave Arizona a walk-off, 8-0 victory in the middle of the fifth inning due to the eight-run-after-five-innings run rule.

“”I could come in and relax, and I guess focus more on that rather than being tense,”” Fowler said of the offensive help.

Game 2 was much of the same.

Pitcher Sarah Akamine got the nod from Candrea despite lingering back problems. She found trouble in the top of the third after tossing a triple to freshman Lauren Morizi before giving a single to junior Kylie Randall to put runners on the corners.

With one out, Arizona’s fielders got the Wildcats out of the inning unscathed and did the same when NMSU outfielder Angie Ortega reached third with one out in the fourth inning. Akamine finished the game giving up two hits in the full five innings.

“”A lot of balls got hit to K’Lee (Arredondo),”” Del Ponte said. “”She really stepped up, made some plays.

“”We need to work on our throws,”” she added, alluding to two UA errors.

Schutzler scored in the first inning after a second of two wild pitches by Schroeder got behind Aggie catcher Ali Baumhover. Schroeder would walk Arizona’s leading home run hitter, Koria, to give Arizona a second run.

The Aggies senior appeared tentative putting any pitches in the strike zone and was replaced by junior Alex Villalobos in the third inning after Del Ponte hit her second home run, giving the Wildcats a 5-0 lead.

Still in the third inning, Koria knifed a double between the center and right fielders, and Kirker earned an RBI single before Schutzler, usually a slap-hitter, hit a home run for three more UA scores and a 9-0 lead that would hold.

Afterward, Candrea’s mantra of going through the learning process still stood despite the two blowout wins.

“”I told the girls, ‘It’s a simple game. You hit strikes and take balls,'”” he said. “”Sometimes young kids make the game more difficult than it really is.””

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