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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Summer Sports Update: Softball returns to the Women’s College World Series

    Arizonas Autumn Champion celebrates as she slides across home for Arizonas first run in their 5-0 win over LSU, Friday, May 26, 2006 at Hillenbrand Stadium.
    Arizona’s Autumn Champion celebrates as she slides across home for Arizona’s first run in their 5-0 win over LSU, Friday, May 26, 2006 at Hillenbrand Stadium.

    After a nerve-racking weekend of softball at Hillenbrand Stadium, the No. 2 seed Arizona Wildcats softball team punched its ticket to the Women’s College World Series for the 18th time in 19 years.

    It took all three games of its best-two-of-three series against No. 15 seed LSU (55-14) for Arizona (49-10) to clinch a spot in the WCWS, which starts Thursday in Oklahoma City against the winner of the series between No. 7 seed Oregon State and No. 10 seed California that the Golden Bears lead 1-0.

    The deciding game, a 14-5 run-rule elimination victory last night, was far less of a thriller than Game 2 of the series, a contest in which Arizona lost 3-2, but fans, players and coaches all were relieved when Arizona jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the third inning, almost sealing a World Series spot.

    The Wildcats won Game 1 5-0 Friday behind senior ace Alicia Hollowell’s (27-4) 16th shutout of the season.

    “”I think our mental toughness over the last month and our growth as a team really helped us out tonight,”” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “”I told them to get their minds cleared, stay positive and we need to attack, and coming out and scoring some runs was tremendous.””

    After junior second baseman Chelsie Mesa flew out to center with runners on first and third to finalize the 3-2 loss in the first game of the evening, junior shortstop Kristie Fox took it into her own hands to make sure Game 3 of the series would not be so close.

    Over the three-game set, she accumulated 10 RBIs, a career-high eight of which came in the final game of the series.

    In the first inning of the clincher, Fox hit a two-run home run after senior left fielder Autumn Champion singled. In the second inning, Fox blasted a grand slam to straightaway centerfield, making the score 7-0.

    In the third, she continued her tear with an RBI single that made the score 11-0 and later added another RBI single in the fifth inning, ending her 4-for-4, two-homer, eight-RBI game.

    “”I just really tried to work hard on staying inside the ball,”” Fox said. “”That was what I was doing really well last weekend. I just tried to stay confident and know that I’m better than what I’ve been showing. I worked really hard on getting my swing back to where it needs to be.””

    Fox joined Champion and sophomore designated player Taryne Mowatt in the 4-for-4 club in the series finale.

    “”Fox was unbelievable,”” Candrea said. “”She really stepped it up. We had some different people throughout this whole weekend kind of come through for us and that’s a good sign, hopefully.

    “”We got on it, and that was good to see. To put runs on the board like that was huge. I’m not going to say anything about the officiating, though. They were squeezing a little bit there.””

    In the fifth inning, Arizona assistant coach Larry Ray was ejected by home plate umpire Joe Squires for arguing balls and strikes. However, he was not the only one complaining. Coaches as well as players from both teams consistently challenged calls made by all three field umpires.

    Going into the bottom of the fifth, Arizona was poised to end the game two innings early on a run-rule, leading 14-2, but Hollowell encountered a little bit of trouble, giving up three late runs. The three runs still weren’t enough to stop the run-rule however, and Arizona won their most important game in a landslide, 14-5.

    “”We have to do a little bit better job of finishing strong, but I know Alicia can do it,”” Candrea said. “”When we were up 11-0 I told Alicia to have a 0-0 mentality because I’ve seen too many things happen.””

    Hollowell’s official line in the final game was five runs (one unearned) on seven hits in five innings. Hollowell didn’t dominate as much as she did in game one, a 5-0 Arizona victory, when she received the win, pitching a complete game shutout.

    “”Our offense just came out absolutely swinging the bats,”” Hollowell said. “”It was nice to have that lead going out in the first inning. They’re good hitters, so I just tried to work around the zone, and they did a great job of putting runs up on the board, so I had a little leniency as a pitcher.””

    The journey leading up to this point of the season has been anything but rocky for the Wildcats, and even though the team ended a 14-game winning streak earlier in the evening, it is prepared for the destiny that awaits them in Oklahoma City.

    “”We’re excited,”” Hollowell said. “”We’re ready to go and just give it our all.””

    With Hollowell in fine form, the pitching should be a dominant force heading into the World Series, but with the hitters producing as much as they did last night, there is not an ounce of concern from the team.

    “”If you look at our lineup tonight, every single person, one through nine produced,”” Fox said. “”If we can keep that up in the World Series, we’re going to be unstoppable.””

    Candrea added: “”I’m proud of these kids, I really am. We got the job done and that’s what’s important right now. We’re back in the World Series. Hopefully we can jump on a wave and ride it.””

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