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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Oregon’s hot bats too much for softball

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Softball vs San Diego State University

The Arizona softball team lost a prime opportunity this weekend to improve its chances of retaining home field advantage throughout the tournament. The Wildcats lost to Oregon 11-7 on Friday and 12-7 Saturday before finally capturing a 5-4 win on Sunday.

“Finally something came through for us,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “It’s one of those weekends where it felt like we were grinding and grinding all weekend with nothing good is happening.”

In Friday’s game, Wildcat pitcher Kenzie Fowler was abused by the Ducks, giving up six hits and eight runs in just four innings before being replaced by first baseman and sometimes-pitcher Jessica Spigner, who gave up seven hits and three more runs.

“We were giving up too many bases, whether it’s hit batters or walks,” Candrea said. “We’re trying to eliminate those unforced bases.”

Oregon got off to a fast start, hitting two grand slams in the first three innings, while Arizona (32-14, 9-9 Pac-12) scored seven runs on 11 hits.

Saturday was a defensive nightmare for Arizona. Again, the Wildcats gave up double-digit runs and were unable to keep up with the explosive Ducks offense. The 12 runs given up by sophomore Shelby Babcock are a season high for Arizona, as is the five errors they committed, including two fielding errors from typical defensive standout Brigette Del Ponte and another by catcher Chelsea Goodacre, who was trying to throw out an attempted base stealer.

After getting down 7-1 and running the risk of being run-ruled on their own field, the Wildcat bats finally began to heat up as they scored five of their runs in the second and third innings. The Wildcats had back-to-back RBI doubles from seniors Lini Koria and Jessica Spigner, dropping the lead from six runs to two, before Oregon hit another home run, putting the game out of reach for Arizona, ultimately losing the series.

“(On Sunday), Shelby just wasn’t feeling herself,” Candrea said. “She gave us everything she had, but at this level, you have to have everything.”

Saturday’s loss marked a three-game conference losing streak — the worst three-game conference stretch for the UA, losing by a combined 15 runs, since the Pacific 10 Conference began softball play in 1988.

If the RPI rankings, where Oregon sat eighth prior to the series and directly ahead of the No. 9 Wildcats, weren’t enough to show close the two teams are, Sunday’s matinee series finale should have been.

The game started with yet another Oregon homer, again from sophomore Kailee Cuico, her second of the series. Arizona battled back in an odd way, as its first two runs were scored via walk and a batter being hit by a pitch.

After the third inning, in which Babcock gave up another two runs, she was pulled in favor of junior Kenzie Fowler, who blanked the Ducks the rest of the way, despite giving up four hits.

“As a pitcher sometimes when you try to hard, you get flat,” Fowler said. “We had nothing to lose. We were rocked pretty hard all week.”

Fowler’s pitching, in addition to a home run by Koria and an RBI double, allowed the Wildcats to push the game into extra innings, where they were able to score the winning run on a walk-off Hallie Wilson single with two outs in the bottom of the eighth.

“I was thinking, ‘Please don’t catch it,’” Wilson said. “I’m glad it fell. … We wanted to be determined. They weren’t going to win; it didn’t matter if we went 12 innings or 13 innings. We’re not going to let up.”

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