May 15, 2009
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- National home run leader Stacie Chambers cashed in for the NCAA record-breaking blast as the ninth-seeded Arizona Wildcats downed the University of Tennessee at Martin, 9-3, on Friday afternoon in their opening game at the Regional round of the NCAA Softball Championship.
Chambers' shot came on a 2-0 count with one out in the third inning - part of a three-run frame for the Cats. It was the 127th home run of the season for UA, eclipsing the previous NCAA record held by the 2001 Wildcat squad. For the junior, it was her 29th home run and 87th RBI of the campaign.
The Glendale, Ariz. native Chambers now stands alone at third place on the UA single-season home runs list, behind Laura Epinoza's marks of 30 in 1994 and 37 in 1995.
Meanwhile, Arizona scattered 12 hits, with freshman Lini Koria nabbing a trio.
UTM (38-23) put up an early run thanks to a leadoff base hit, and a two-out RBI single from Savannah Roberts.
But the Cats (42-14) tacked on four of their own in the second, all off of two-baggers. Chambers singled, then Koria doubled her in an out later. The next batter, Victoria Kemp, also doubled, scoring Koria. After Lauren Schutzler walked and Jill Malina laid down a sac bunt, Brittany Lastrapes smoked a double down the right field line, plating the sophomore duo of Kemp and Schutzler and opening up a 4-1 margin.
Arizona's three-run third was highlighted by Chambers' record-breaking jack, but Sam Banister singled and Kemp walked after the fact, then both scored on Schutzler's double into the left centerfield gap.
The Skyhawks got two back in their half of the fourth when Chelsea Cary hit a two-RBI single.
For the second consecutive year, weather played a factor in Arizona's opening Regional game. Lightning in the area caused a delay of just over one hour before the game resumed. Teams and coaches found shelter in Cardinal Park, the athletics facility adjacent to the stadium.
In 2008, the opening day of Regional play was rained out in Hempstead, N.Y.
UA's Malina tallied her first career postseason RBI on a sacrifice fly to right that scored Koria in the fifth, who had led off the inning with a double. Malina was playing in place of freshman Karissa Buchanan, who was not in the lineup because of a violation of team rules. Lastrapes followed Malina's ribbie with an RBI single up the middle that brought the margin to 9-3 in favor of the Cats.
Sarah Akamine (20-6) pitched the first three innings and the final frame, giving up a run on four hits, while striking out three and walking one. Jennifer Martinez tossed innings four through six, scattering an equal amount of hits, but giving up two runs and two walks. The senior struck out one UTM batter.
Kara Harper (20-9) took the loss for the Skyhawks, giving up eight earned runs on 12 hits. She issued four walks and struck out four.
Up Next: The Cats will take on host Louisville at 10 a.m. ET (7 a.m. Tucson time) on Saturday morning. Arizona will be the designated home team, as the result of a coin toss that followed the UL/Purdue game. The game will be broadcast on KCUB 1290 AM.