Arizona softball falls 7-0 to Baylor in NCAA Tournament opening round
Starter Shelby Babcock hammered as the Bears blank the Wildcats
Arizona softball endured a nightmare start in the opening game of the NCAA tournament and could never recover, falling 7-0 to Baylor in College Station, Texas.
Ace Shelby Babcock allowed four runs before recording an out to put the Wildcats (32-25) into an early hole. Freshman Nancy Bowling relieved the junior and helped stop the bleeding, but the damage was already done.
“It was back to just not executing for us from the very beginning,” head coach Mike Candrea said in the post game press conference. “[Babcock] wanted the ball and we gave it to her, but she just couldn’t execute. You have three walks and you’re down 4-0. That really changed the complexion of the game.”
The loss puts the UA into the loser’s bracket of the double elimination tournament and it will face Penn (30-19) at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN. The Quakers lost 12-0 to host Texas A&M in five innings.
“At this stage of the game it’s all about executing on the mound, defensively and offensively,” Candrea said. “We didn’t do that and they did.”
Babcock (16-11) started despite suffering from the flu earlier in the week and the last series at Stanford. She walked the first three Bears she faced didn’t record an out.
“I basically just came out flat,” Babcock said. “My game wasn’t on … Nothing was wrong with the grip or anything, I just wasn’t hitting my spots.”
When Bowling entered the game, there were runners at first and second and no outs. While Baylor (40-15) batted around in the first, Bowling retired three straight Bears to keep the game within reach.
In the top of the second, Arizona loaded the bases with one out, but stranded three.
Baylor scored another in the bottom of the fourth on a wild pitch by Bowling with the bases loaded on an 0-2 count and with two away.
“For them to get out of the inning, it was really disheartening,” Candrea said. “We had one out and bases-loaded and our next two hitters swung at the first pitch and didn’t show enough patience to maybe let her work herself into a jam.”
Baylor junior pitcher Whitney Canion retired 10 straight until she hit sophomore catcher Chelsea Goodacre in the sixth. Canion responded with a strike out of senior shortstop Brigette Del Ponte and the Bears’ ace finished the complete game shutout.
In the sixth inning, Baylor junior first baseman Holly Holl hit a two-run home run to take a 7-0 lead and chase Bowling from the game.
Bowling struck out four, walked three and gave up four runs on four hits in 5.0 innings pitched.
“Bowling did well,” Candrea said. “For a freshman to walk into that situation, I thought she had some good innings. The two-run home run was a not a good thing, it was a fat pitch right down the middle of the plate. At this level when you throw those pitches they tend to go a long way. That is something she’s got to learn as a young pitcher.
“You’ve got to throw quality pitches all the time. That has been our nemesis with our youth; understanding that the game is a fine edge.”
Junior Estela Piñon came in and retired three Bears, saving Arizona from the mercy rule.
In the top of the seventh, the Wildcats again loaded the bases, this time with two outs, but again stranded all three.
The Wildcats will need to win four straight games to advance to Super Regionals.
“We’re not going to look at it as having to win four games,” Goodacre said. “We’re just going to look at it as one tomorrow and then we’ll move on from there.”
Both Arizona and Baylor had six hits, but the Wildcats walked six compared to BU’s zero free passes.
If the UA wins its game against Penn, it’ll advance to play at 5 p.m. on ESPNews against the loser of the Baylor and Texas A&M game for a spot in Sunday’s championship game(s).
Wilson, Goodacre named All-West Region
On Thursday the National Fastpitch Coaches Association named Goodacre and sophomore outfielder/first baseman Hallie Wilson all-region.
Wilson was named to first-team all-west region and Goodacre was placed on the second team. It is the first all-region selection for both of the sophomores.