Arizona softball has strong start to first road series
After scoring just three runs in its last outing against Washington, the No. 21 Arizona softball team found itself in an offensive battle against Utah as the Wildcats won 6-4 at the Utah Softball Stadium in Salt Lake City. The victory gave Arizona (22-10, 2-2 Pac-12) a strong start to its first road series of the season and made it 20 wins in a row against Utah (13-15-1, 0-4) — a streak that dates back to 1989.
Senior Brigette Del Ponte, junior Kelsey Rodriguez, sophomore Chelsea Goodacre and freshman Mandie Perez led the Wildcats with multi-hit performances.
“I’m very pleased with how we did tonight,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “We got ahead with four runs in the first and continued to produce offensively. We got six tonight, and I was happy, but I’d like to get back to our eight-run games. There were some mistakes but, overall, a lot of positives.”
The game started out with a bang for the UA, which scored four runs in the top half of the first inning.
Goodacre hit her fifth double of the year to deep right-center field to score sophomore Chelsea Suitos. Freshman Lauren Young contributed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0. Perez subsequently provided a base hit to score two and lift Arizona to its 4-0 lead leaving the top half of the inning.
“I think it was a complete turnaround from Washington,” Del Ponte said. “Our hitters are really seeing the ball and our pitchers are performing well, too.”
Utah retaliated in the bottom of the first, putting a run on the board with a leadoff triple by center fielder Chalese Fankhauser, who then scored from an illegal pitch.
The Utes added another on a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2 in the second inning and then again in the third on a single to left-center to tighten the game at 4-3.
After sophomore Hallie Wilson knocked a single to left field, a fielding error allowed junior Alex Lavine to score, making it 5-3.
The score remained until the seventh inning when Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly to left field, which allowed Del Ponte to score and make the score 6-3.
“Our goal is to put runs on the board,” Del Ponte said. “We want to be able to do what we did in the first inning, every inning.”
Utah threatened in the bottom of the seventh, lead off with a homerun to left field by shortstop Kelsi Hoopiiaina. But the Utes could never get it closer than 4-3 as the final three batters were retired in order to close out the game.
Junior Shelby Babcock impressed tonight in the circle, improving to 11-3 on the season while allowing one earned run off six hits and striking out two in four innings pitched. Freshman Nancy Bowling relieved Babcock and allowed three earned runs off five hits while recording four strikeouts and two walks in three innings pitched.
“I want us to take this win and get ready to come out and do it again tomorrow,” Candrea said. “I want to see the same aggressiveness at the plate. We need to get a good pitching performance on the mound and play the game without fear.”