UA Wildcats softball
Cats head to Oklahoma for Women's College World Series
No. 10 Cats score nine runs between third and fourth innings to defeat BYU
It took two pitchers, but just five innings, for the University of Arizona softball team to advance to the Women’s College World Series with a 10-2 win over Brigham Young University.
Sarah Akamine has struggled throughout the year but came though in the clutch Saturday afternoon in the series-clinching game of the NCAA Super Regional at Hillenbrand Stadium.
After being called upon to relive an injured Kenzie Fowler, Akamine took a cue from the Wildcat ace. Fowler had 10 strikeouts in Friday’s 2-1 win, and Akamine picked up five of her own. The UA took the best of three series, two games to none.
“(Coach Candrea) told me to be ready before the game, ready for anything, anything could happen,” Akamine said.
Fowler took a line drive come backer off her pitching arm from the second batter she faced. She was removed from the game.
Arizona coach Mike Candrea said after the game that x-rays were negative.
“Kenzie will be fine, she’s just sore right now,” Candrea said. “I think a couple of days of icing and doing what she did last week, she’s going to be fine.”
He wouldn’t comment on whether Fowler could’ve pitched had the Wildcats been forced to play a decisive game three.
Akamine entered the game with two runners on and no outs and quickly was able to get Angeline Quiocho, the Cougar’s offensive leader, to ground out into a fielder’s choice. Akamine then stuck out the next two hitters.
The Cougar’s Kristin Delahoussaye opened the game with a double down the left field line and moved to third on Quiocho’s hit. Delahoussaye scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 1.
After that, Akamine settled down and showed Candrea that she was always ready.
“I ask her everyday. ‘You ready Sarah? And she goes. ‘I’m ready, I’m ready for anything.’ Today she kind of showed me that,” Candrea said.
Akamine improved to 14-5 while giving up one run on four hits. She retired the side in the second and fourth innings.
In the third, the Wildcat pitcher had a bit of a hiccup.
With the Wildcats up 5-1, Akamine allowed a lead-off single to Jessica Dugas. Any thoughts of a big inning for the Cougars were quickly turned away as Akamine was able to get the next three hitters to ground out, ending any threat.
“I think I did build my confidence,” said Akamine about her previous struggles during the year. “I know my team is behind me and of course you're going to have confidence when your team is backing you up.”
The Wildcats provided the run support Akamine would need by scoring four in the top of the third inning and opening the floodgates in the fourth with five runs.
Kristen Arriola finished 2 for 3 with a double and four RBIs to lead Arizona at the plate.
BYU added another run in the bottom of the fifth when Delahoussaye drove home a run on a single, but she was left on base along with Jessica Dugas when Quiocho flied out to right fielder Karissa Buchanan to end the game.
Quiocho, who leads the nation with 28 homeruns was held hitless in seven at bats during the two games with Arizona.
The Cougars, the Mountain West Conference champions, wound up the season with the most wins in team history with 46 and their first trip to the Super Regional.
College World Series
With the win, the Wildcats will make their 22nd appearance in the Women’s College World Series in 23 years.
The trip to Oklahoma City isn’t new for the Wildcats, who have gone to the WCWS every year since 1988. The one exception: 2004, when they were beaten by Oklahoma and University of Louisiana-Lafayette during the Tucson Regional that year.
Arizona (48-11), the overall tenth seed in the NCAA Tournament, will face Tennessee (47-13) on Thursday. The Volunteers won the Ann Arbor, Mich. Super Regional with a sweep of No. 2 Michigan on Friday.
“I think we have a pretty good nucleus of people who’ve been there before, I think they’re tested,” Candrea said. “Tennessee is going to come right at us, obviously they have something to prove and feel like we took something away from them.”
The last time Arizona played Tennessee in the College World Series was in the 2007 championship series in which the Vols took Game 1, 1-0.
The Wildcats came back to take the next two for their eighth national championship, including a Game 2, 1-0, 10-inning victory.
“I hope they're damn ready. Because I expect to go there and be there a while,” Candrea said. “The one thing that has been frustrating for me last year is we get there and we don’t fight and we don’t challenge.”
Oklahoma City hasn't been kind to Arizona lately. The team has been two and out in their last two trips to the WCWS.