Arizona Softball: Comeback 'Cats win series against No. 5 ASU
After getting swept by lowly Oregon State and dropping into last place in the Pac-12, Arizona softball desperately needed to rebound. That’s exactly what it did, nearly sweeping No. 5 Arizona State at Hillenbrand Stadium this past weekend.
The Wildcats (30-23, 7-14 Pac-12) won the first two games against in-state rival ASU (43-9, 14-7), after getting swept by the Sun Devils in 2011 and 2012 and came within a hit of winning all three games.
“I thought this weekend for the first time,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “We were physically ready, we were mentally ready, we were emotionally very ready and to me that’s how you can compete against good teams.”
On Sunday, Arizona jumped out to a 3-0 lead, ASU tied it, then the Wildcats took a 6-3 lead but the Sun Devils rallied to make it 7-6. In the bottom of the seventh, UA loaded the bases but couldn’t tie it.
“It was sitting right there in the palm of our hands,” Candrea said.
Senior shortstop Brigette Del Ponte said she didn’t think Sunday’s loss soured the weekend.
“It woulda been nice to sweep ASU,” Del Ponte said, “but we won the series. That’s all that really matters and hopefully that ensures we go to regionals.”
Del Ponte had arguably her best game of the year on Senior Day, getting three hits for the first time in 2013, indulging a home run and a two-run double. Her four RBIs tied a season high.
“I think that was pretty much meant to be, I haven’t hit a home run in a long time, so it felt really good,” Del Ponte said.
Candrea said he was “elated” for Del Ponte, the UA’s lone senior.
On Saturday, Arizona came from behind to take the series from its arch-rival. Freshman utility player Mandie Perez hit a three-run game winning home run in the sixth inning after the Wildcats trailed by four in the fifth.
“That team is a legit top-10 team that we beat two out of three times,” Del Ponte said. “So that’s definitely a big confidence booster.”
Perez had not homered in her last 21 games and had five all year before the round tripper.
“We’ve battled our butts off this weekend, it was awesome,” junior pitcher Shelby Babcock said. “Our bats came alive. I mean, if we hit like that the rest of the year, we can go far.”
A season-high 2,732 fans saw Arizona get the series win and a point in the Territorial Cup Series, which is tied at 7.5.
“I just like the atmosphere, for the young kids to feel what it’s like to play a big game, because I really feel like we haven’t had that all year,” Candrea said.
The UA did not have a hit until the fourth inning, but scored six on four hits in the final two innings.
Junior center fielder Alex Lavine had two doubles, her first multiple extra-base hit game of her career. She also had an RBI and scored a run.
On Friday, Arizona erased an 8-0 deficit to win 10-9 off of a two-out, bases loaded walk-off single by sophomore outfielder/first baseman Hallie Wilson in the bottom on the seventh.
“I don’t think it was just the team that rattled them – the fans, the atmosphere, everything came together at the right times,” Del Ponte said.
Sophomore Chelsea Goodacre led the comeback with a pair of two-run home runs, as the Wildcats snapped their five game losing streak and beat the Sun Devils for the first time since 2010. Goodacre, who had just one homer in her last 13 games, had five RBI.
After scoring only three runs in 22 innings the week before at Oregon State, UA scored 10. ASU had not allowed more than seven runs in a game in 2013 and this was the first time they allowed double digit runs since 2011.
Arizona scored nine runs on nine hits on junior ace Dallas Escobedo, who had a 2.16 ERA before the game, a season high in hits and runs. Escobedo, the Pac-12’s strikeout leader struck out just three Wildcats.
Sophomore infielder Chelsea Suitos had her first-career three hit game and two RBI.
Babcock gave up eight early runs but settled down to only surrender one after the third, on four hits, including retiring the last six batters she faced.
Eight of Arizona’s runs and six of Arizona State’s were scored with two out.
“This is the first weekend that I’ve felt that we played softball at the right level,” Candrea said. “It’s been a long time.”
Arizona closes out the regular season this weekend at No. 16 Stanford.