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Chambers' 86th homer highlights Wildcats' first-round win

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UA Wildcats softball

Chambers' 86th homer highlights Wildcats' first-round win

Arizona cruised to a 10-0 win over Harvard in Tucson Regional

  • Julian Ybarra/
  • Julian Ybarra/
  • Julian Ybarra/

Lini Koria's sixth-inning walk-off grand slam finished off Harvard, concluding Arizona's 10-0 rout of the Ivy League champions in front of a packed house in the opening round of the NCAA Championship.

"I wasn’t sure it was fair, but I’m glad we were able to finish the game," Koria said.

In the fifth inning, Stacie Chambers became Arizona's career home run leader, rocketing a home run to the scoreboard in right field, her 86th career jack. The amendment in the Wildcat record book will lift her over Leah Braatz and Laura Espinoza, who each hit 85 homers in their storied careers.

"Hitting my eighty-sixth home run is awesome for me. It just felt good. I knew as soon as I hit it that it was gone. It was very exciting, and having my team meet me at home plate made it very special," Chambers said.

The win was Arizona's 22nd consecutive in opening-round play. The Cats are 23-2 all-time in the first game tournament. Arizona is now 71-8 in regional play.

Arizona (41-16) registered 10 runs on 10 hits, including three doubles and two home runs in the run-rule shortened game.

Koria led the way with five RBI with two extra base hits. The junior hit an RBI double in the third and a grand slam to end the game with two out in the sixth.

Kenzie Fowler allowed just three hits while striking out four and walking two. Fowler improved to 24-7 on the season.

"Kenzie Fowler is a great pitcher. She didn’t have her groove early, but when she gets it she’s very tough to beat. Arizona’s entire lineup features some of the best hitters we’ve seen all year," said Harvard coach Jenny Allard.

Rachel Brown suffered the loss, pitching all 5.2 innings for Harvard and allowing 10 runs, all earned, on 10 hits. Brown struck out four and walked five. The Harvard hurler fell to 21-7 on the season.

Harvard (36-15) loaded the bases with a walk, error and single before the Cats could record an out in the first. Fowler struck out the next two batters before getting a frame-ending bounce out to escape with a zero on the scoreboard.

Singles by Lauren Schutzler and Brigette Del Ponte and a subsequent wild pitch would put two runners in scoring position for Chambers. The senior grounded out to first base, scoring a run in the process. After a walk to Lini Koria, Kristen Arriola doubled home two more runs with a two-out shot down the left field line. Karissa Buchanan would bat her home with a slap to center field. Arizona led 4-0 after one.

Brigette Del Ponte led off the bottom of the third inning with an infield single. Two batters later, Lini Koria nailed a double over the head of the center fielder to score Del Ponte. After two, two-out walks the bases were loaded for Baillie Kirker. The sophomore skied a fly ball to left field that was caught just before the warning track in left field.

Chambers hit her 86th career home run to lead off the home half of the fifth.

In the sixth, a pair of doubles and intentional walk to Chambers loaded the bases with two outs for Koria who launched a ball down the left field line that just stayed fair over the fence for a walk-off grand slam.

Arizona moves on to face New Mexico State, who mercied Texas Tech, 9-0 in five innings. NMSU's Newman threw a no-hitter while her team supplied nine runs including three home runs.

The two will square off at 2:00 p.m. Saturday with Texas Tech and Harvard's meeting scheduled for 4:30 p.m. The loser of the Arizona-New Mexico State matchup will play the winner of the Harvard-Texas Tech game on Sunday. The loser of the Texas Tech-Harvard contest will be eliminated.

“First games are always the biggest. We just needed to get back into the competitive mode, and score early. We had some good at bats and we had some bad at bats, but we need to swing like we’re capable. We have some great players, and this is the time of year where we really expect them to step up.”

— Coach Mike Candrea

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