LAFAYETTE, Louisiana — After first baseman Hallie Wilson hit a leadoff home run in the first inning against Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday night, Arizona Wildcats coach Mike Candrea said he thought the Wildcats would open it up in that spot.
“I thought we had a chance to score a bunch right there,” Candrea said. “I felt like (ULL pitcher Christina) Hamilton started attacking the zone, and I thought we pitched around it. You can’t give up nine walks and expect to win many softball games.”
Arizona starter Estela Piñon (19-9) walked four batters in three innings and gave up five earned runs. For ULL, Hamilton walked four, but didn’t surrender another run until a two-run home run from Kellie Fox in the seventh inning. Hamilton struck out four, and the Ragin’ Cajuns won Game 1 of the Super Regional 5-3.
“We simply gave up too much,” Candrea said. “I think the pitchers know it. It’s not like they’re trying to do it. Estela just wasn’t her normal self tonight. Her pitches were not quite as crisp as they have been. She’s resilient, though, and she’ll come back.”
Wilson said she was happy to see Hamilton (28-2) come after her in the first inning.
“I didn’t really expect her to come after me the way she did,” Wilson said. “Once I saw one I could put a good swing on, I guess I did, and the ball went over for me.”
Wilson credited whoever calls Hamilton’s pitches as to why she was so effective Friday.
“She picks her spots and puts the ball where she wants it,” Wilson said. “Whoever is calling her pitches is doing a great job of counteracting what we have and what our strengths are.”
A questionable call in the first inning shifted momentum when Wildcats catcher Chelsea Goodacre caught what appeared to be a strike-three tip from Ragin’ Cajuns third baseman Samantha Walsh. Replay showed Goodacre dropped the ball during the exchange to her throwing hand.
The umpire ruled Goodacre dropped the ball on the catch, giving Walsh a second chance. Walsh took full advantage, crushing a two-run home run to give ULL a 2-1 lead.
“I would like to see a replay on that, but that is how the game goes,” Candrea said. “It is an emotional roller coaster, and I have been on it for a lot of years. It’s still a two-run ballgame, and I am still feeling good, but we gave up two more runs” in the second inning.
Once Candrea switched pitchers to senior Shelby Babcock, the Cajuns failed to score another run. Babcock said with the game at 5-1 in the fourth, she came in very loose.
“I was very relaxed,” said Babcock, who pitched three innings, giving up only one hit. “I was just letting things go, and I knew my defense was behind me.”
Candrea said he was pleased with how well the Wildcats swung the bats Friday against Hamilton. UA out-hit the Ragin’ Cajuns, but stranded runners in every inning.
“Our hitters did a good job of adjusting, and they hit some balls right at people,” Candrea said. “We had our opportunities, but it is about getting the key hit. It’s not how many, it’s when.”
Candrea said he thought UA had several pitches they missed, something they must not do in Game 2 Saturday at noon. Wilson said the team never gets too down — even after a tough loss — and they’ll be ready for the Ragin’ Cajuns today.
“Our team does a really good job of remaining positive,” Wilson said.
“We are going to need to feed off good at-bats. We need to stay positive and know that they are going to fall in.”