OKLAHOMA CITY ?- The Arizona softball team finds itself one victory away from its seventh national title, after an 8-0 rout of Northwestern in Game 1 of the Championship Series.
Alicia Hollowell picked up right where she left off last game, allowing only one hit, along with 12 strikeouts to shut down the Northwestern offense. Now 31-5, Hollowell registered her 19th shutout of the year, and has given up only one hit to Northwestern in 13 innings against the Wildcats this year.
The Arizona offense provided its four-time All-American hurler plenty of help, as Chelsie Mesa and Taryne Mowatt hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning; effectively putting a cherry on top of a game that appeared already in hand.
With the win, UA improves to 53-11 on the season, and looks to capture its first national title since 2001. In all, Arizona rapped out eight hits, and was aided by four NU errors, which led to four unearned runs.
After going down quietly in the first two frames, UA put the pressure on Northwestern with its speed by scoring five runs on four hits, while being aided by a pair of NU errors. Adrienne Acton and Caitlin Lowe led off the second with a pair of infield singles. On Lowe’s hit, NU shortstop Tammy Williams threw the ball past first baseman Garland Cooper for the first of four Northwestern defensive miscues during the game.
With runners on the corners and Champion at the plate, Lowe stole second, allowing her to tie the WCWS record for stolen bases in a series with four. Champion slapped to the second baseman, who gunned the ball home, but a quick-thinking hook slide by Acton allowed the UA outfielders to advance one base safely, including Champion who alertly moved all the way to second. With that, NU head coach Kate Drohan had seen enough and pulled starting pitcher Eileen Canney.
Reliever Courtnay Foster didn’t have much more help than her teammate Canney, as she induced Kristie Fox into popping up to short, but NU second baseman Ashley Crane rammed into the shortstop, allowing the ball to drop. Lowe scored on the error, while Champion remained at second and Fox reached first. Callista Balko then plated Champion with a single for UA’s third run of the inning. After Leles and Mesa were retired, Taryne Mowatt kept the rally going with a double to left-center, scoring both Balko and Champion.
Up 5-0 entering the fourth, UA tacked on another run, despite failing to register a hit in the frame. Lowe led off with a walk and advanced all the way to third, when Champion chopped the ball to third, where the third baseman threw the ball past Cooper, putting UA’s speedy slappers on the corners again. Fox then brought Lowe in to score with a sac fly to center, increasing UA’s lead to 4-0.
Up next: Arizona has an opportunity to clinch its seventh national championship with a victory over Northwestern on Tuesday night at 5 p.m. (MST) on ESPN2.
- Autumn Champion’s four RBI in the last two games match her ribbies in the previous 18 games.
- Caitlin Lowe’s third inning stolen base was her fourth of the WCWS, allowing her to tie the record for stolen bases in a WCWS. Lowe ties UA career stolen base record holder Alison Johnsen-McCutcheon’s four.
- Attendance was 4,391. With tonight’s attendance, a record 41,599 fans have passed through the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium gates for the 2006 WCWS.
- UA’s five runs in the third inning was the most for any team in a given frame during the 2006 WCWS.
- Chelsie Mesa’s seventh-inning home run broke an 0-for-16 WCWS slump the junior, in which the junior was mired.
- Mesa’s home run also marked the first home run for UA in 54.1 WCWS innings, dating back to Callista Balko’s June 4, 2005, blast against California.
- Caitlin Lowe also tied the WCWS record for five runs in a series.
- Before the game, the NCAA honored its 25th WCWS Anniversary team. Former Wildcat greats Leah Braatz, Leah O’Brien and Jennie Finch were honored, as was current head coach Mike Candrea.