Statman's 2-RBI single, Carranco's triumphant return enough to send Arizona to regional final
Mike Candrea’s faith in T Statman was rewarded Saturday afternoon when the Arizona softball coach made the decision to send in the senior during the fourth inning as a pinch hitter with two runners in scoring position.
Statman stepped into the batter’s box with two outs and rocketed a pitch to centerfield sending home Arizona’s only two runs of the game during a closely contested 2-1 win over No. 24 Auburn in front of a packed Hillenbrand Stadium.
The win moves the No. 6 Wildcats on to the Tucson Regional final of the NCAA Tournament. One win on Sunday and the Wildcats will advance to the Super Regionals for the 14th time in the last 15 years.
During his game-planning time before Saturday’s matchup, Candrea was working through scenarios of who would come off the bench in certain situations. With Auburn’s lefty Lexie Handley in the circle, Statman’s name jumped out to the veteran coach for her ability to hit left-handers and lay off bad pitches.
“I felt like she was going to be the one off the bench if needed to be and it worked out,” Candrea said. “It’s kind of nice when it works out.”
Statman worked a full-count at the plate and took the sixth pitch of the at-bat up the middle for her first RBI hit since March 29.
“Knowing that coach [Candrea] has the trust in me that I can go get it done and my teammates have my back that I can get it done,” Statman said of her confidence level. “It’s your first at bat in the game, who says you can’t get a hit?”
The end of the game wasn’t without some drama, though.
Arizona entered the seventh inning up 2-0, but Bree Fornis took the first pitch of the inning and parked it over the batter’s eye in straight-away center. The solo shot added extra tension to the final frame, yet McQuillin calmly retired the next two batters and got Auburn’s lead-off hitter Casey McCrackin to pop out to second with a runner on first.
The Wildcats were also boosted by the return of junior Reyna Carranco who had been out the last two weeks with a broken left hand and right thumb from a hit-by-pitch. Carranco, serving as the designated player, singled twice and scored on Statman’s single.
“She hasn’t missed a beat, made it look easy,” Candrea said.
One of the best moments of the day was when Carranco made her first appearance at the plate and received a standing ovation from the Hillenbrand crowd, numbering close to 3,000 fans.
“I thought that was super cool, I didn’t know what to do. I’ve never seen it before,” she said.
“And I have’t either in 34 years,” Candrea added.
After a late night in the first day of the regionals and an early start to day two, the Wildcats will have nearly 24 hours to rest up for the finals. The championship game of the regional takes place Sunday at 4 p.m. with the opponent to be determined Saturday night.
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