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UA's Final Quest for NCAA Title Starts Monday
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 06/05/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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OKLAHOMA CITY ?- Arizona responded to its earlier loss to Tennessee with an emphatic 6-0 victory over the Lady Vols in the afternoon rematch Sunday.  Alicia Hollowell tossed a two-hit, 14-strikeout performance, catapulting the Wildcats into position for the first time since 2002 to compete for their seventh national championship.

 

“This team’s come a long way the last month and a half. I remember sitting around the circle and I asked them, ?'How many of you think we can win a national championship?’ Not a hand went up and that really alarmed me," said Arizona head coach Mike Candrea. "We went on a venture from then on to convince them that this could happen. We did what we had to do today to give ourselves an opportunity and that’s all you can ask for."

 

With the two-game split coming out of the winner's bracket, Arizona advanced to face Northwestern in the championship series, a best-of-three set for the NCAA Softball Championship.

 

Monday's game one begins at 5 p.m. (MST) on ESPN2.

 

After mustering a total of three hits and no runs in their previous two meetings with the Lady Vols -- once last year in Oklahoma City and earlier Sunday at Hall of Fame Stadium, the Wildcat bats awoke from a deep slumber for six runs on nine hits. 

 

Jenae Leles singled home Caitlin Lowe and Autumn Champion in the top of the first to stake Alicia Hollowell and the Wildcats to a 2-0 lead.

 

UT's earlier victory wasn't chearp. Lowe nearly snagged the eventual game-winning HR.
Lowe catalyzed the rally with a leadoff single to left field.  Champion tried to move Lowe over with a slap, but shortstop Lindsay Schutzler fielded the grounder and threw to second baseman Kenora Posey, who was unable to handle the feed.  The defensive miscue resulted in two speedy Wildcats on base with no outs.

 

After Kristie Fox popped out to short, Arizona head coach Mike Candrea called a double steal, which paid off, as both Lowe and Champion cruised into third and second, respectively.  After Balko struck out looking, freshman third baseman Jenae Leles stepped up with a single up the middle scoring UA’s pair of All-American outfielders from Tustin, Calif.

 

Hollowell set the tone by striking out the side in the first, before striking out two of the three batters she faced in both the second and third frames.

 

The Wildcats equaled their first inning output with a pair of runs in the second.  Laine Roth and Adrienne Acton reached on a pair of one-out singles to short, and moved into scoring position on Lowe’s groundout to first.  Another Wildcat came up with a two-out, two-RBI hit to bring the UA lead to 4-0.  Autumn Champion snapped out of an 0-for-6 slump with a single down the leftfield line, scoring both Roth and Acton.

 

UA tacked on a fifth run on via three hits in the third.  Balko led off with a single, but two quick Wildcat outs made a third consecutive scoring inning unlikely.  Instead, UA’s third consecutive two-out rally ensued.  Taryne Mowatt rapped out a single to left, advancing Balko all the way to third.  Laine Roth then came up with her first RBI in nine games, as she singled to left, plating Balko.

 

Acton started up the sixth by reaching via error for the third time in today’s two games.  Lowe sacrificed her to second, and Champion drove Acton around for her third RBI of the day, bringing the game to its final 6-0 tally.

 

Up next: Arizona plays Northwestern in the first game of the best-of-three championship series Monday, June 4, at 5 p.m. (MST). The game will be shown live on national cable on ESPN2.  The Wildcats met the Wildcats once this year, run-ruling Northwestern 8-0 in a no-hit performance by Hollowell on Feb. 10 in Tempe.

 

Game notes:

-         Acton reached base via fielding error twice, giving her 12 of Arizona’s 46 reach on errors this season.

-         Autumn Champion notched her first three-RBI game of the year.

-         Arizona's six-run performance was its highest WCWS run total since scoring a half dozen runs in an 11-inning victory over Florida State in 2002.  Incidentally, that game sent UA to its most recent Title Game appearance.

-         Alicia Hollowell tossed two complete games in one day for the second time this year.  The other occurrence (4/30 vs. Washington) ignited UA's 14-game winning streak.

-         Jenae Leles' first-inning, two-RBI single was her first and only hit of this WCWS.

-    UA's victory Sunday night mirrored the resilience it showed a week earlier in super regional play after LSU beat UA to force the 'if necessary' game in that series.

 

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