Arizona softball rallies for successful series finale against Cal
Two big offensive innings mixed with key relief pitching made up No. 19 Arizona’s recipe for success in Wednesday’s series finale against No. 5 Cal, in which it dropped the Golden Bears 7-3 at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium.
The Wildcats (24-13, 4-5 Pac-12) scored three runs in the first inning and four in the fifth to put away the Bears (29-4, 5-1 Pac-12), who won the overall series by sweeping the Wildcats in a doubleheader Monday evening.
Cal pitcher Jolene Henderson, who pitched two complete games Monday, was on the mound for the Golden Bears again Tuesday. Henderson pitched five innings, allowing seven hits and seven runs (five earned) on 96 pitches.
“That’s a big game for us,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “We’ve been snake-bit because of our own doing. Today I thought we finally executed the game and gave ourselves a chance to win.
Carl Miller / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Softball faces Cal during a double-header Tuesday night. The Wildcats lost the first game 2-6 but "SECOND GAME SCORE."
“[Henderson] wasn’t as sharp, she was pressing some pitches and got behind in the count a little bit. We did what we needed to do.”
First baseman Hallie Wilson and second baseman Chelsea Suitos started the game off with back-to-back singles before being advanced into scoring position via a passed ball by Cal’s Lindsey Ziegenhirt. Wilson scored on a sacrifice fly by catcher Chelsea Goodacre and Suitos on a two-RBI single by senior shortstop Brigette Del Ponte.
“It was nice to walk in and score three runs in the first inning off Jolene [Henderson], and [that] kind of set the tone for us,” Candrea said.
Freshman pitcher Nancy Bowling started the game for the Wildcats but only lasted 2.2 innings, giving up four hits and two runs (both on wild pitches) in the third inning before being pulled in favor of junior Shelby Babcock, who got the win (12-5).
When Babcock entered the game in the third, the Golden Bears had two runners in scoring position, but Babcock got the Wildcats out of that jam by striking out center fielder Vanessa Alvarez, one of her two strikeouts on the day.
“I was really impressed with Babs and the job she did today,” Candrea said. “Things [were] starting to fall apart a bit, and she came in and shut the door down.”
Babcock retired eight of the next 10 batters she faced and did not allow a Cal runner to advance past second base until the sixth inning.
“I just hit my spots better and knew I wasn’t going to pitch to their strong points,” said Babcock, who pitched 4.1 innings, giving up four hits and one run.
Offensively, Henderson shut down the Wildcats from the second inning until the fifth, as they only reached base on an error in the second inning.
In the fifth, it was Goodacre hitting her 13th home run of the year, a three-run shot that brought home Wilson and Suitos for their second runs of the game each, bringing the score to 7-2.
The Golden Bears scored one more run in the sixth on an RBI single, but Babcock finished the game with back-to-back strikeouts to a standing ovation.
“Like I said to them after the game, that was the first time this year that I heard old Hillenbrand Stadium,” Candrea said. “Final out, people on their feet, clapping for the final out. That was nice to see, and I wanted to make sure they were aware of that.”
Candrea said this was a good win to show the Wildcats, who sit in sixth place in the conference, that “they can play with anyone,” Candrea said. Tuesday’s win was only the second over a ranked opponent all season, and halted a potential four-game conference losing streak.
“I noticed with our team, getting ready, we played a lot more free,” Goodacre said. “Today, we were going to go out there and play the sport that we love, instead of trying to do something. We just went out there and played the game, had fun and it turned out well for us. Today we beat them, and we are finding a way to win ball games now.”