It was a game that will haunt the No. 11 Arizona softball team forever, falling 4-3 to No. 10 Florida State on Saturday, June 5 at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in the College World Series. With this loss, the Wildcats were eliminated from postseason contention.
Here are five notes that explain the team’s struggles and their final loss of the year:
In a year that featured one of the most talented senior classes that included Jessie Harper, Dejah Mulipola and Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, this was a game the seniors would love to forget. The seniors combined to hit .267 with one home run, two RBI’s and five of the team’s seven strikeouts. Only two of their four hits were for extra bases, making it tough to drive in runs. Mulipola, who is an Olympian and regarded as one of the game's best, went hitless in both of Arizona’s games in the Women's College World Series.
Why take out Alyssa Denham?
For the first 3.2 innings of the game, Alyssa Denham had things under control in the circle. Denham had a line of zero runs, two hits and three walks. She looked solid and shut down Florida State’s offense every time they stepped up to the plate. Then in the bottom of the fourth inning with Arizona up 2-0, Denham got into a bases-loaded jam with two outs. Rather than allow her to work out of it, Arizona elected to pull Denham and replace her with Mariah Lopez.
Lopez worked out of the jam, but the rest of her outing was a disaster. Lopez started to lose control of her pitches after hitting a batter in the fifth inning. Luckily, Lopez got out of that jam, but it only got worse.
After getting one batter out, Lopez walked the next one on four straight pitches then hit another batter. With it now two outs and Lopez looking shaky, she left a screwball over the middle of the plate, and it was crushed over the fence to give Florida State a 3-2 lead and would never lose the lead again.
Even when Arizona tied it in the seventh, Lopez was sent back to the circle. It makes you wonder why Hanah Bowen or even Devyn Netz were not used, seeing as how Lopez never looked herself the entire game.
Everybody got left on base
It was painful to see all the offensive opportunities that Arizona had and that they never fully capitalized on any of them. The Wildcats had the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth inning yet managed to score only one run. In the seventh inning, Arizona managed to tie the game 3-3 and had runners in scoring position for designated player Sharlize Palacios. Instead of possibly going up 5-3, Palacios grounded out and Arizona lost the next inning on a sacrifice fly.
Palacios finally cooled off
Going into the College World Series, Palacios was arguably the hottest hitter in the entire tournament. In both regional tournaments Palacios batted a combined .550 with two home runs, 13 RBI’s and five runs scored. It was a different story once Palacios reached the College World Series. Against Florida State, Palacios batted .250 with zero extra-base hits.
For the entire College World Series, Palacios hit .167 with zero home runs, zero RBI’s, zero runs scored and zero extra-base hits. Palacios played a major role in the team's dominant run in regionals, so when she went cold in the College World Series the team never stood a chance.
Magic mirror on the wall, was this the costliest error of them all?
The most haunting element of this game by far took place in the seventh inning. After Arizona tied the game in the top of the seventh, Lopez returned to the circle in hopes of sending it to extras. With a runner on and one out, first baseman Elizabeth Mason hit a ground ball to second baseman Reyna Carranco.
Carranco had the opportunity for an inning-ending double play and kept Arizona’s championship hopes alive. Instead, she fielded the ball awkwardly and made an errant throw that sailed over Harper’s head. The runner advanced to third and now all Florida State needed was a sacrifice fly. That happened with the very next batter, and just like that, Arizona’s season was over. One can only wonder what could have been had Carranco’s error not happened.
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