May 27, 2006
TUCSON-- Arizona made an emphatic move with a runaway 14-5 victory over LSU in the deciding third game of NCAA super regional action Saturday night to earn its 18th Women's College World Series appearance in 19 years.
Junior shortstop Kristie Fox, a probable first-team All-American for the second consecutive year, made a case with two home runs, a pair of singles and a career-high eight RBI, four of those coming on a grand slam in the Cats’ five-run second. Her first home run, a two-run shot in the first inning, put a different edge to the evening after UA had struggled to plate runs against LSU in the earlier contest that forced game three.
The Cats (49-10) won the Friday opener 5-0, and LSU (55-14) came back to win 3-2 in Saturday night's first game behind a strong pitching performance by junior Emily Turner. UA had a glimmer of hope in the last inning of that game, scoring its two runs in the top of the seventh to finally get something off Turner.
In the deciding game, UA blasted a season-high 18 hits and shortened the game to five innings due to the eight-run rule.
Arizona joins four other teams already qualified for the classic in Oklahoma City -- Texas, Arizona State, Alabama and Northwestern. UCLA needs to beat South Florida once in two chances in Los Angeles on Sunday, Tennesse has a one-game edge over Michigan in Knoxville action that will commence Sunday, and California leads Oregon State one game to none with action rained out in Corvallis on Saturday.
Fox hit her first deep ball to center off Turner, who pitched around enough jams to strand 10 Wildcat baserunners in the first game Saturday to force the third contest.
After UA chased Turner with a triple by Chelsie Mesa to open the second, Taryne Mowatt singled for a third run and with two outs, Caitlin Lowe and Autumn Champion singled to load the bases. Fox then turned on a pitch from reliever Dani Hofer for a second home run to just left of center field. It was her second career grand slam and first of the year.
Turner (28-9) took the loss and was the starting pitcher for LSU in each game of the series. She was one of three pitchers and four pitching changes for LSU in the game.
Wildcat senior pitcher Alicia Hollowell, who extended her UA career records to 1,702 strikeouts and 139 victories, improved her season record to 27-4. She gave up seven hits and struck out seven.
Arizona had one-out singles by Chelsie Mesa and Mowatt in the third to set up another rally. Hofer got a fielder's choice from Laine Roth, but then LSU shortstop Lauren Delahoussaye misplayed Adrienne Acton's ground ball to let Mesa score an unearned run to make it 8-0. Lowe singled up the middle to bring in Roth. Champion followed with an RBI single to make it 10-0 and chase Hofer in favor of LSU's third pitcher in as many innings, Megan Jolly. Fox greeted Jolly with another run-scoring hit, a sinking liner to center.
LSU got on the scoreboard with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth. Pinch-hitter Erika Sluss singled to left field to drive in a run, and the Tigers picked up another on an infield error by Fox.
Arizona answered and closed out its scoring in the top of the fifth with its fourth rally. Fox's eighth RBI came on a single to center, following hits by Lowe and Champion. Another run crossed on an RBI single by Jenae Leles to plate Champion for her third run of the game, and Mesa followed with a fielder's choice to drive in Fox.
It might have been more one sided, but the Tigers delayed the outcome with a three-run fifth. Vanessa Soto socked a two-run home run after Camille Harris drew a base on balls to open the inning. After Hollowell hit a batter, she gave up a single to Stephanie Hill and a run-scoring hit by Delahoussaye to bring in another run before retiring the side for the final score.
NOTES... The eight RBI by Fox topped her previous best of six against North Carolina State in March 2005... Mowatt, the designated player in the second game, had her first career four-hit game, two more than she'd had in a contest, with four singles... A crowd of 2,388 took in the two games, the second-largest NCAA crowd in Arizona's history... Champion scored seven runs in the series, one less than LSU in the three games. She has 190 career runs scored, 10th on UA's all-time chart .. LSU missed its chance for a return to the WCWS after its 2004 appearance... A coin toss kept UA in the first-base dugout as visitors on its home field in the third game. Teams alternate in the first two games of an NCAA super regional... Both games were telecast nationally by ESPN2, whose network also was showing the second game live on ESPNU, the college sports arm of the Bristol, Conn., media group... Arizona finished the year with a 30-3 record at home...
Arizona Head Coach Mike Candrea
On what he told the team between games: “I basically told them that we had some momentum from the seventh inning of the first game and we needed to carry that over to the second game. I think the most important thing is the mental toughness of this team and the growth we have had. It really helped us stay confident.”
On the team’s offensive outburst: “We came out scoring runs. It was tremendous. Taryne (Mowatt) had four hits. Caitlin (Lowe), Autumn (Champion) and Kristie (Fox) all stepped up. We seem to have a lot of different people stepping up, which I think is a good thing.”
On continuing to focus despite a large lead: “I told them anything can happen. You can’t go into cruise control too early. I’m proud of what this team has done. Our goal was to get back to the College World Series, and we have done that. Hopefully, we can jump on a wave and ride it.”
On the mentality of the team: “We have been playing so well. We are at a high-point in the season. We’ve been through the lows. We’ve faced the top teams, and we know we can beat anyone.”
On what she said to the team between games: “Personally, I was pretty upset (about the first game). I told all the girls that there was no way we were losing again and not going to the College World Series. We came out swinging the bats with that in mind.”
On her approach at the plate in the second game: “I wanted to hit the ball hard. I knew we needed to score some runs and I knew I needed to drive runs in.”
On what Coach Candrea said between games ”He made a statement to us that we needed to come out fired up. He said we needed to get on them early.”
LSU Head Coach Yvette Girouard
On what she said to the team after the game: “I give all the credit in the world to the team. There’s always a pit in your stomach when you’re trailing by that much. But we kept battling. When you’re that close (to advancing to the WCWS), you have to keep fighting to the last out.”
On Emily Turner’s effort throughout the series: “I think things started to catch up with her. Their hitters were used to her pitches. She had a lot of confidence and really threw well for us.”
LSU Pitcher Emily Turner
On the team’s attitude coming into today: “Our dugout was outstanding throughout the game. We kept battling. Even when we were down so much, we kept fighting.”