Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Cats Shoot for Super Regional
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: May 20, 2006
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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             TUCSON--National No. 2 seed Arizona makes its bid for softball's "sweet sixteen'' -- a Super Regional appearance -- on national cable television today with an NCAA Region 2 showdown against Auburn on the Wildcats' home field at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium.


            The game will be shown on ESPN2, with first pitch at 3 p.m. (MST/PDT). Only two of the 16 Regional sites in the NCAA Championships are Thursday-Saturday venues, so the Tucson winner and the victor out of Provo, Utah ?- Washington -- will today become the first two squads to qualify for Super Regional play next week. All other sites complete initial rounds tomorrow.


            If Auburn wins the 3 p.m. game, the teams will turn around and play a tie-breaker immediately following, also scheduled for ESPN2 if applicable. UA is 2-0 and Auburn 2-1 in the double elimination tournament.


            The Division I NCAA Softball Championships switched to Super Regional action for the first time last year, and Arizona won its initial foray with a sweep over Oklahoma to earn a berth in the 2005 Women's College World Series.


            UA beat Marist College, 9-0, in its opening game Thursday and dropped Ohio State into the loser's bracket with a 6-3 victory Saturday afternoon. Sophomore catcher Callista Balko hit a home run in each game and senior ace Alicia Hollowell tossed two-hit ball in the first game and took a no-hitter into the fifth before tiring some in the victory over the Buckeyes.


            Auburn had to win a pair of games Friday after dropping its Thursday opener to Ohio State, 1-0. The Tigers eliminated Marist with a 14-0 runaway in the afternoon, then eliminated Ohio State with a 4-0 nightcap. The first game matched the mark for the second-most runs scored in 13 different years of NCAA play in Tucson. The Cats beat Niagara by the same score in May 1998 at HIllenbrand.


            UA took over the top spot in the USA Softball/ESPN rankings this week after closing the year with 10 straight victories in Pac-10 play, and was ranked No.2 in the final regular season poll by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association/USA Today.


            A victory over the Tigers on Saturday wouldn't be out of the ordinary for UA at this juncture in NCAA play. Arizona has been in the final group of 16 teams every year  since 1988 except in 2004 when it went 2-2 in regional play before the new format. UA has made it to the WCWS each year since 1988 except in 2004.