PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Fourteenth-ranked Arizona softball split with a pair of ranked SEC foes on day one of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. The Wildcats (10-1) downed 12th-ranked Texas A&M 4-2 before falling to 16th-ranked Missouri 2-0 Thursday.
Game 1 – Arizona 4, Texas A&M 2
The Wildcats took advantage of Texas A&M defensive mishaps while receiving a great effort in the circle from Shelby Babcock and Estela Piñon to down the 12th-ranked Aggies 4-2 to open the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.
Babcock (3-0) pitched the first four innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. She was relieved in the fifth by Piñon, who only allowed one hit over the final three innings of play. The senior walked three and struck out three in the outing.
TAMU (9-3) had two costly errors that led to two unearned runs as well as a miscommunication in the outfield that allowed another Arizona run to score.
Hallie Wilson’s two hits, including an RBI single, led Arizona’s offensive attack, which touched up Rachel Fox for seven hits in her complete-game effort.
Texas A&M struck first, taking advantage of a UA error in the top of the first. Cassie Tysarczyk brought in a run with an infield single to plate just the fourth run against UA pitching all season. This run, however, was unearned.
UA tied the game in the third inning when it loaded the bases with one out. Chelsea Goodacre’s sacrifice fly scored Arizona’s first run of the game.
The Cats broke the tie in the fourth with a two-out rally. After Courtney Rodriguez reached on a fielder’s choice, Alex Lavine singled to right. As Rodriguez attempted to advance to third, the throw from right field got away from Aggie third baseman Amber Garza to allow Rodriguez to score. Lavine scooted to third on the error and scored on Wilson’s RBI bunt single.
Texas A&M got one run back in the next half inning, however, when Nicole Morgan led off the fifth inning with a solo shot.
Arizona regained its two-run lead in the bottom of the inning with help from poor Aggie defense. Kellie Fox reached on an error to begin the frame. With one out, pinch hitter Kelsey Rodriguez hit a routine fly ball to right center field. The right and center fielder had a miscommunication which allowed the ball to drop between them and pinch runner Eva Watson to score to give UA a 4-2 lead.
The Aggies would threaten in the sixth when they loaded the bases with two out, and in the seventh when they were issued a leadoff walk, but Piñon got out of both situations to secure the victory for Arizona.
Game 2 – Missouri 2, Arizona 0
After averaging eight runs per game the first 10 games of the season, the Wildcats were shutout for the first time since May 17, 2013 in a 2-0 loss to No. 16 Missouri, Arizona’s first loss of the season.
Tori Finucane (3-1) tossed the complete-game shutout for Missouri (5-1). Finucane allowed five hits and did not walk a batter while striking out eight UA hitters, four more Ks than the previous season-high for UA hitters.
Arizona used a trio of pitchers in the game, who gave up a total of just five hits. Piñon (2-1) pitched the first three innings and gave up one run on three hits. The senior struck out four and walked two. She was relieved in the fourth by Kenzie Fowler who did allow a hit in three innings of work. The Tucson native walked four and struck out four in the outing. Nancy Bowling tossed the seventh inning and gave up a run on two hits.
The Wildcats had only one scoring opportunity during the game, but could not come through in a two-on, two-out situation in the third inning.
Missouri got on the board in the top of the first when back-to-back singles put two on for Mackenzie Sykes, who doubled in a run.
The teams exchanged zeros the rest of the way until the Tigers insured their lead in the seventh.
Taylor Gadbois led off the frame with a single and promptly stole second. Emily Crane’s single up the middle plated Gadbois to give Missouri a 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats went down in order in the bottom of the seventh.
Up next: Arizona returns to action Friday at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic when it takes on Fresno State and 11th-ranked Nebraska at 5:30 and 8:00 p.m. PT, respectively.