Arizona softball falls down in the rankings after UCLA losses
It’s soul-searching time for Arizona softball after the Wildcats lost by 10 and eight runs at home in back-to-back games against rival UCLA.
No. 22 Arizona (28-19, 5-10 Pac-10) lost 13-3 Friday and 9-1 in six innings Saturday, spoiling the UA’s dramatic tenth inning walk-off win Thursday to lose the series to the 18th-ranked Bruins (30-15, 7-11).
“Whatever can go wrong, has gone wrong for us,” head coach Mike Candrea said.
Arizona has lost five of its last six, and six of its last eight, to fall into seventh place in the conference.
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Softball took on UCLA this weekend and lost the series 2-1.
To make matters worse, Arizona was run-ruled by the Bruins in the series finale. The last time that happened was in 1999, again to UCLA. The UA’s all-time record in mercy rule games is 376-12, but it lost four this year and three in the last week.
“This stuff can’t happen again,” senior shortstop Brigette Del Ponte said. “This isn’t Arizona softball at all.”
On Saturday, Arizona took a 1-0 lead in the second, but UCLA responded with three runs in both the third and fourth innings. The Bruins then scored three runs in the sixth to finish off the Wildcats.
“It’s executing the game more than anything,” Candrea said. “We have yet to execute the game on the mound, offensively and defensively … and that catches up to you in conference play.”
Junior Shelby Babcock (15-7) followed up her season high 10 strike-out performance Thursday with a sub-par five inning appearance Saturday. Babcock allowed nine runs, six earned, and eight hits while striking out six.
Junior Estela Piñon, one day after getting shelled Friday, struck out two, and didn’t allow a hit in her one inning of relief. It wouldn’t matter though, as Arizona was already behind.
The Wildcats were limited to five hits and one run before a standing room only crowd of 2,627.
UCLA scored runs on a Babcock throwing error to first and an error by Del Ponte throwing home, a rarity for the experienced infielder.
“Brigette makes that play a thousand times,” Candrea said.
After the game, Candrea’s on-field meeting with the players lasted about 20 minutes.
“It was pretty much ‘Clean the slate, you can’t do anything about it, learn and move on,’” Del Ponte said. “We gotta do some things better, everywhere, we need to do everything better, not just pitching and hitting. It’s everything combined.”
On Friday, the UA allowed a school-record seven home runs which also tied the Bruins school-record for homers. UCLA had 16 hits, the previous season-high Arizona has given up was 11.
Piñon (9-7) pitched 2.1 innings and allowed five runs on four hits, walked one and had two strikeouts. Freshman Nancy Bowling relieved her and gave up eight runs, six earned, 12 hits, five walks and struck out five in 4.2 innings.
After Babcock pitched 10 innings Thursday and sprained her foot during the celebration, Candrea was forced to put Piñon back in to finish the game.
“You can’t defend seven home runs,” Candrea said Friday. “My God. That kind of takes you outta the game.”
Freshman third baseman Lauren Young hit a two-run home run in the seventh to avoid the mercy rule. Junior catcher Kelsey Rodriguez had two hits and an RBI.
“It’s everything. You can’t defend a ball going over the fence so that’s something that needs to stop. I think we broke a freaking record,” Del Ponte said.
Candrea said he was disappointed that the UA didn’t capitalize on the momentum of the walk-off win Thursday night, just like it didn’t build off of a near upset at Oregon a week before in the opening game of a series sweep.
“It seems like when we get behind we just kinda start hitting the panic button and that’s just a very hard thing,” Candrea said.