TEMPE - Bradley turned its first meeting against perennial power Arizona into a cause for celebration, enveloping winning pitcher Maddie Lynch-Crumrine in a group hug along the first-base line after beating the Wildcats on the first day of the Kajikawa Classic.
"Arizona is an amazing team. We feel fortunate to get out of here with a win," said Bradley coach Amy Hayes after a 2-1 victory Friday, one of the biggest in the Braves' history.
The loss left No. 13 Arizona with a split on the first day of its traditional season-opening tournament appearance, after right-hander Shelby Babcock tied a career high with nine strikeouts in a 4-3 victory over Northwestern earlier Friday at the Tempe Sports Complex.
The loss to Bradley is part of a brand new world for the Wildcats, who are coming off a 38-19 season and are without top pitcher Kenzie Fowler, who underwent offseason back surgery, with her return date uncertain.
The few veterans who returned have changed positions, with Brigette Del Ponte moving from third base to shortstop and Hallie Wilson shifting from center field to first base. Six freshmen or transfers played their first game in a Wildcat uniform Friday.
"This team is extremely young, and we are going to go through some growing pains, that's for sure. We have to keep plugging away," UA coach Mike Candrea said.
Yavapai College transfer Estela Piñon, who started against Bradley, did not give up a hit in four-plus innings but was replaced by Babcock after walking the first batter in the fifth inning with Arizona leading 1-0. Piñon had four walks and five strikeouts.
Bradley scored its only two runs later in the inning, getting both with two outs. Bri Joseph blooped a single to center field with a runner on second to drive in a run, then stole second and scored on a scratch single off second baseman Mandie Perez's glove that tricked into center field.
"That's part of the game. That little blooper into center field … they are annoying, but that happens," said Babcock, a junior who was 21-10 last season.
The UA had runners thrown out at third base for the first out in the fifth and seventh innings, blunting two rallies. The Cats' only run scored on Wilson's single in the top of the fifth.
The UA will face Cal Poly and San Diego State today.
In the opener, Chelsea Suitos had an RBI single to cap a four-run fourth inning against Northwestern, the only hit in the inning and one of the Wildcats' two in the game.
Arizona benefitted from three walks, two infield errors and a hit batter.
Babcock struck out the final two batters of the game with the tying run on second base in the seventh.
• What: Kajikawa Classic in Tempe
• Arizona's schedule: vs. Cal Poly, 9 a.m.; vs. San Diego State, 2 p.m.