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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

‘Cats propel past Bison in NCAA opener

Arizona softball’s journey for a ninth NCAA Championship has begun. The Wildcats faced the North Dakota State Bison last night in the second game of the NCAA Tucson Regional round of postseason play, winning 11-0.

This season, players and coaches have often used the phrase, “We need to strike first.” Arizona did just that, taking an early 2-0 lead in the first inning, albeit in an unorthodox way.

The Wildcats scored their two runs in the first frame despite not being able to record a hit in the inning. Leadoff hitter Karissa Buchanan reached base via a hit by pitch before executing a double steal to get over to third, junior third baseman Brigette Del Ponte was also hit by a pitch and following a sacrifice RBI bunt from catcher Lini Koria, Buchanan scored.

After freshman shortstop Shelby Pendley was walked, head coach Mike Candrea called for a double steal, sending Pendley to second and Del Ponte home for Arizona’s second run.

“The sun was setting right in the eyes at second base,” Candrea said. “I really felt I had an advantage if I could take advantage of it. I’m not one that often squeeze bunts and probably, people know that. It just was a great opportunity to do it, and set tone for the team.”

If Candrea’s aggressive baserunning calls did not set the tone for the team, the pitching from Shelby Babcock certainly did. Babcock, who said she was “very honored” to have gotten the starting ball over junior Kenzie Fowler and played like it, giving up just seven hits with six strike outs. Her most important statistic was one – as in one walk given up for the entire game, 2.35 below her average per game.

“When people are on base, you don’t want to walk people,” Babcock said. “I just went right at them with my stuff, it turned out good for me.”

Almost everything Arizona did worked on Friday night. The offense, that has struggled to get hits, was in full swing behind a career high six RBI for senior Kristen Arriola. North Dakota State’s pitching was not exactly subpar, giving up just five hits, but the downfall for the Bison came when Arriola hit a grand slam in the bottom of the third inning, essentially ending the Bison’s hopes of pulling the upset.

“It’s a big situation for me, so I have to stay calm and stick to my game plan,” Arriola said. “See a pitch and hit it. Of course your team is counting on you. I’m just really calm and collected, just making sure I get the job done.”

The Wildcats will face Notre Dame today at 3 p.m. at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium, a team that Candrea said is very similar to his own.

“They have some speed; probably as much if not more speed than we have,” Candrea said. “I was very impressed … they played one pitch at a time. We know we have to get ready.”

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