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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Summer Sports Update: Softball charges into WCWS championship series

    Tennesses Katherine Card, left, and co-head coach Karen Weekly walk across the field as Arizona celebrates its 6-0 win over Tennessee during their Womens College Softball World Series game in Oklahoma City yesterday. Arizona advances to face Northwestern in the championship series starting today at 5.
    Tennesse’s Katherine Card, left, and co-head coach Karen Weekly walk across the field as Arizona celebrates its 6-0 win over Tennessee during their Women’s College Softball World Series game in Oklahoma City yesterday. Arizona advances to face Northwestern in the championship series starting today at 5.

    After getting shut out by No. 8 seed Tennessee yesterday morning, the No. 2 seed Arizona softball team bounced back in an elimination game rematch last night.

    Now they have a shot at the school’s first team national championship in any sport since 2001, won by the softball team, as the Wildcats beat the Lady Vols 6-0 in the deciding game after falling in the 1-0 shutout.

    That clinched a berth in the best-of-three championship series in the Women’s College World Series set to begin tomorrow night at 5 against No. 4 seed Northwestern in Oklahoma City.

    This series marks Arizona’s 11th appearance in the championship round, as they look for their seventh national title, all under head coach Mike Candrea. In the other dugout, the other Wildcats haven’t even made it to Oklahoma City since 1986.

    “”This team’s come a long way the last month and a half,”” Candrea said. “”I remember sitting around the circle and I asked them, ‘How many of you think we can win a national championship?’ Not a hand went up and that really alarmed me.

    “”We went on a venture from then on to convince them that this could happen. We did what we had to do today to give ourselves an opportunity and that’s all you can ask for.””

    It is the first time since 2002 that Arizona has been this deep in the tournament.

    Senior ace Alicia Hollowell led the charge in the semifinal game, as she took a perfect game into the fourth inning, allowing only two hits in her 13-strikeout performance.

    Hollowell, who has arguably been one of the best pitchers in Arizona history, is the only one in high ranks that is without a national championship, and now she will get her first shot in leading the team to that elusive title.

    “”I asked them today after the first game to come out here and spill their guts and leave everything on the field,”” Candrea said. “”There is no doubt we came out with some fire and some energy.

    “”We played the game very well today. Hollowell was magnificent. Our offense did a great job getting some runs on the board and it was huge. It was just a great performance. “”It wasn’t our best game yet but hopefully we can add to it.””

    Hollowell said, “”I basically just tried to mix my pitches more. There were a couple of times in the first game when I didn’t do a very good job of doing that. I just wanted to keep them as off balance as possible.””

    In the winner-take-all Arizona win against the Lady Vols, the Wildcats pounced on junior ace Monica Abbott early, scoring two runs in the first, two more in the second, and another in the third, with the help of three Tennessee errors.

    In their previous two WCWS games against Tennessee, the first game yesterday and a 1-0 loss last year, Arizona only mustered three hits off Abbott but last night was a different story entirely.

    Junior center fielder Caitlin Lowe was the catalyst as usual, hitting a leadoff single, and senior left fielder Autumn Champion followed as she reached base on an error. Junior shortstop Kristie Fox and sophomore catcher Callista Balko accounted for the first outs of the game, but freshman third baseman Janae Leles’ two-run single started the onslaught.

    “”You’re going to see different heroes,”” Candrea said. “”Whether they’re a leadoff hitter, a fourth hitter or a ninth hitter, you can’t put your guard down. That’s what makes this game so special this time of the year, whether you’re a freshman or whether you’re a senior.””

    Arizona piled on nine hits in the game, including two by Champion, who also finished with three RBIs, a run and a stolen base.

    Abbott gave Arizona lots of trouble in the first game of the day, allowing only two hits and a walk in her complete-game effort.

    “”It always helps the second time you see a pitcher,”” Champion said. “”You know what to expect and what she is going to throw. You can go out there with a different approach than you did the first game.””

    The Wildcats came within inches of tying the game with two outs in the seventh after two errors by junior shortstop Lindsay Schutzler.

    Arizona had runners at the corners when the speedy Lowe hit a high chopper to Schutzler, who barely got the throw in time to beat Lowe, ending the game.

    “”Right after I got thrown out, it kind of lit a fire under me,”” Lowe said. “”Even as I was going through the high fives at the end of the game, I knew that we were going to come out on fire and keep on them the whole game.

    “”I think a game like that is good because you know you can stay with a team and you know you can beat them. We just needed to make our adjustments.””

    Path to the championship

    Arizona breathed a huge sigh of relief when Pacific 10 Conference foe and No. 1 seed UCLA was eliminated from WCWS play, losing 3-1 in eight innings to Northwestern.

    Arizona was winless in three tries against the Bruins, and two of the losses were not close.

    Another sigh of relief came when No. 3 seed Texas was eliminated. Arizona beat the Longhorns 2-0 Friday for their first loss of the WCWS in a game that kept the Wildcats in the winner’s bracket, but facing three-time national Player of the Year senior Cat Osterman is never an appealing option.

    The Wildcats started this journey Thursday when they beat No. 7 seed Oregon State 3-2 in nine innings.

    The final part of Arizona’s season starts tonight against another team of Wildcats from Northwestern.

    Earlier in the season in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe on Feb. 10, the Arizona Wildcats obliterated their foes from Evanston, winning 8-0 in a six-inning, run-rule affair.

    Not only did Arizona tee off on senior pitcher Courtnay Foster, who went to Sahuaro High School in Tucson, but Hollowell was also dominant, pitching a no-hitter and allowing only one runner to reach base via walk.

    “”It really doesn’t matter what you do when it’s this time of the year,”” Candrea said. “”It’s being prepared to do something when your next at bat occurs. This team has done a very good job of having a good approach – a much better approach than we did for six months of playing this darn game.

    “”I think it’s paid off. I think some kids walk up to the plate and if they do have some failure, they reevaluate why they did. Instead of sitting around pouting about it, they’re making plans and getting ready for their next at bat. I think it’s truly paid off.””

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