TUCSON, Ariz.--Pinch hitter Jennifer Martinez slugged a three-run home run to key a four-run Arizona sixth and help the Wildcats back from the brink of disaster and a 7-6 victory for a series sweep and a 17th trip to the Women's College World Series.
The blast followed a huge fourth inning by the Sooners, punctuated by an Alison Horne grand slam that capped a rally by Oklahoma that nearly kept the Sooners alive in NCAA play by trying to force a third game in the softball Super Regional Saturday afternoon.
UA junior Leslie Wolfe (6-2) earned the win by throwing one inning of scoreless relief following Oklahoma's comeback. OU's Stacy Braddock (7-8) drew the loss by giving up four runs in three innings.
The game was marked by UA starter Alicia Hollowell earning a save after a start in a game where the Sooners' big fourth was helped by three errors by the usually adept Arizona defense.
Arizona -- with the second-rated defense in Division I -- was sailing along until several defensive lapses derailed Hollowell's perfect game in the fourth inning, costing it six unearned runs.
The Wildcats left 12 runners on base but came through in the one frame to score the winning margin.
UA ace Hollowell retired the first nine batters before a pair of miscues helped OU stage the rally. Norelle Dickson reached second on an error by first baseman Crystal Farley, and then scored when third baseman Shelly Schultz threw wide at first on Kristin Vesely's grounder. Christina Enea singled to short and Heather Scaglione lined to right field, sending Vesely to third.
Jessica Leslie followed with a single, driving in Vesely. Jamie Fox singled to load the bases, Kami Keiter struck out, and then Horne blasted her shot half way up the left field bleacher seats.
Arizona loaded the bases in the top of the first with no out, but managed to bring in only one run. Caitlin Lowe beat out a bunt single, Autumn Champion chopped a single over starting OU pitcher Kami Keiter's head and Kristie Fox walked. After Jackie Coburn struck out, Schultz' fielder's choice drove in Lowe.
Arizona loaded the bases without a hit in the second and failed to score. Courtney Fossatti reached on a one-out error, Adrienne Acton reached on an error off her sacrifice bunt and Lowe walked. Champion hit into a 6-2 fielder's choice and Fox flied out.
The Cats stranded two more in the third, but cashed in on a bases-loaded situation in the fourth when Coburn drilled a two-run single down the rightfield line to drive in Lowe and Champion and make it 3-0.
In Arizona's sixth, facing reliever Braddock for the second inning, Champion singled and Fox walked, and then Coburn singled to load the bases. This time, Schultz came through with an RBI single, but Candrea waved Fox around from second and she was cut down at the plate by centerfielder Vesely. After Balko struck out, Martinez came up with the big home run to put UA back in the lead.
Even at that, Fossatti then drew a walk and pinch-hitter Candace Abrams was hit by a pitch. Lowe singled to left center and Leslie threw Fossatti out at the plate for the third out, stranding two more.
The Sooners stranded two in the bottom of the sixth. Keiter doubled and Hollowell -- who returned after UA regained the lead -- hit Tayl'r Hollis with a pitch. Hollowell struck out Norelle Dickson to end the threat.
The Sooners did not go down without a fight. With two out in the seventh, Scaglione singled down the left field line to bring the game-winning run to the plate. Hollowell got Jessica Leslie to ground into a fielder's choice, ending the game.
Arizona will play Tennessee in Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series at 12 noon June 2 in Oklahoma City.
As the final out was recorded, a second thunderstorm in as many days hit central Tucson at full speed, sending the teams and fans scattering. Oklahoma's group was requested to enter the team bus and leave the premises as thunder and lightning blasted Hillenbrand Stadium. Friday's game -- suspended by a similar storm -- was completed earlier Saturday in six minutes as Hollowell set down the OU side in order in the top of the seventh to give the Cats a 6-0 victory.
.Arizona Head Coach Mike Candrea
“This team has just found ways to win all year. It’s not surprising to see some of the best softball of the year at this point. If you look at the contributions up and down the line up, we did just what we needed to do. The Co-MVP’s in my mind are Leslie Wolfe and Jen Martinez. They came through when called upon. This is probably the greatest comeback I’ve seen in my time here given the timing of it all.”
“This team is playing well when it needs to. You can see the difference in our lineup when we put the ball in play. We have to keep playing the game hard and loose. At this point in the season every game is competitive and we have to realize that.”
Arizona Senior Jen Martinez
“I just went up there thinking about putting the ball in play and making something happen. I wanted to move the runners and let good things happen. I thanked god when I saw it get over the fence.”
Arizona Senior Jackie Coburn
“We believe everyone in our lineup can change the pace of the game. We have to use every opportunity given to us. That is what we have to do to be good.”
Arizona Junior Alicia Hollowell
“I’m excited for everyone on the team, especially the seniors. It was a total team effort and we showed what this team can do. We battled back and never quit.”