Arizona keeps the streak alive with a duo of five inning blowouts
A pair of nonconference wins in a double-header for Arizona softball at home on Tuesday night has the team off to its best start since the 2010 season. The Wildcats defeated the Ball State Cardinals 16-2 and 12-3, with both games ending in five innings via the mercy rule.
The No. 8 Wildcats (20-1) have now won eight consecutive games by the run rule, a school record.
The UA has won 10 games in a row, tying the longest winning streak of the season.
In the 12-3 nightcap win, junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre led the way with two home runs and seven runs batted in.
“I was just going out there and doing everything I could for my pitcher and for my teammates,” Goodacre said. “It’s a team sport, and we’re just trying to get as many runs as we can.”
The Wildcats also got considerable production from the bottom half of the lineup throughout both games. Senior utility Kelsey Rodriguez and sophomore infielder Lauren Young hit fifth and sixth in the batting order and swung the two hottest bats on the day. The duo combined for two home runs and 10 runs batted in.
On the heels of being named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for last week, Rodriguez nearly doubled her season stats with her monster performance in the two games.
“I’m just trying to do whatever I can for the team,” Rodriguez said. “Just happy I’m getting opportunities.”
The first game saw starting pitcher Shelby Babcock struggle right off the bat, as the senior loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning. Luckily for Babcock, the Arizona defense stepped up and allowed only one run in the inning.
The team huddled in between the top and bottom of the first inning and came up with an offensive strategy that paid immediate dividends. The Wildcats scored seven runs in the inning behind five hits and two Ball State errors.
Babcock started in the circle at the top of the second inning but was immediately pulled after giving up a home run to Ball State shortstop Selena Reyna. Senior pitcher Estela Piñon (4-1) took over the game and struck out six and allowed two hits over four innings of work to get the win.
They didn’t look back from that point and scored 15 of the team’s 16 runs in the first three innings of the game, further backing up the season-long trend of early offense.
“We swung the bats really well tonight,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “You take it when you can because, you know how this game is, there’s going to be moments when we’re fighting for them. Right now they’re coming in droves and things look good.”
Credit the Arizona pitching staff for limiting a Ball State team that came in averaging 6.9 runs per game to only five runs in two games. Piñon and sophomore pitcher Nancy Bowling (5-0) set the tone with their ability to keep runs off the board.
On the season the Wildcats have given up 17 runs and continue to hold opposing batters under .200. Candrea said pitching depth is one of the reasons why this season’s Arizona team has the chance to be special.
However, the two victories were not all good news for Arizona. Starting center fielder Alex Lavine had to leave the first game in the second inning after injuring her left knee while fielding a Ball State base hit.
“I believe it’s going to be a big loss,” Young said. “We lost our key center fielder, and we just have to pick her up and play for her now.”
Lavine had started 19 games in the outfield, and her .459 batting average was among the top averages on the team.
Looking forward, Arizona is off until Friday, as the team will head to Fullerton, Calif., to participate in the Judi Garman Classic over the weekend in the team’s last nonconference action before Pac-12 play begins.
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne555