COLLEGE STATION, Texas - After losing a regional game for the first time in nine years and putting the season on life support with a 7-0 loss to Baylor, Mike Candrea gathered the Arizona Wildcats on Friday and asked them a question:
How do you climb a mountain?
"One step at a time," he said. "You just can't get ahead of yourself."
Climbing a mountain - especially "A" Mountain - seems preferable to the task that faces the Wildcats at Aggie Softball Complex.
They must win four straight NCAA tournament regional games, starting with today's 2:30 p.m. matchup against Penn, to advance out of College Station.
They have to take two today - against the Quakers and then, immediately after, either Baylor or Texas A&M - just to make it to Sunday.
"It's kinda new territory for us," Candrea said.
The Wildcats must climb a mountain because they couldn't figure out a Canion.
Whitney Canion, Baylor's star left-hander, blew past the Wildcats, retiring 12 straight batters after escaping trouble in the second inning.
Down 4-0, the UA had the bases loaded with one out when Alex Lavine grounded into a fielder's choice at home and Hallie Wilson grounded out to second base.
Both swung at the first pitch.
"It's a little bit defeating - first inning, four runs - but you gotta realize that we got six more innings to play," catcher Chelsea Goodacre said. "It's inning-by-inning …
"When things didn't go our way (in the second), when we didn't score, that just pushed us down even farther."
Baylor coach Glenn Moore noticed home plate umpire Steve Arnold was calling a tight strike zone when Canion pitched in the top of the first, and told his players to make Shelby Babcock throw strikes.
Babcock - who spent Monday in the hospital and the rest of the week trying to recover from an illness - lasted only six batters.
She walked the first three.
"I just basically came out flat - game wasn't on," Babcock said. "Nothing was wrong with the grip or anything. Just wasn't hitting my spots. I feel fine."
Candrea said she "warmed up well," but "could never get her tempo going" when it mattered.
With the bases loaded via walk, Baylor's Sarah Smith grounded to shortstop Brigette Del Ponte, who threw home too late to get a force out.
Linsey Hays singled off the middle of the left-center field wall to add another run, and Jordan Strickland singled off third baseman Lauren Young's glove to score two more.
By then, Candrea had seen enough from Babcock, removing her in favor of freshman Nancy Bowling.
"'Babs' wanted the ball and we gave her the ball, but she just couldn't execute," he said.
Bowling retired the first three batters she faced to keep the game reasonably close, but the damage was done.
"You get three walks and then you're behind 4-0, it really changes the complexion of the game," Candrea said.
Moore said the Bears "took advantage of the struggles they were having in the circle." He knew the Wildcats had a tendency to walk a lot of batters - their 200 in the regular season was the second-most in school history - even before sensing a small strike zone in the top of the first.
Baylor added a run in the fourth on a walk, single, hit batsman and wild pitch, and two more in the sixth on Holly Holl's home run.
The Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but couldn't score.
The 7-0 defeat was the third-worst in UA postseason history and the worst ever in the regional round.
The UA was 78-6 in regional play before Friday, with its last loss coming in 2004, one year before the tournament was expanded.
More immediately, the loss has dug the Wildcats in a hole, with a four-game mountain to climb.
"We're not going look at it as four games," Goodacre said. "We're going to look at it as one … and we're going to move on from there."
College Station regional
All games on ESPN2
• Game 1: Baylor 7, Arizona 0
• Game 2: Texas A&M 12, Pennsylvania 0, 5 innings
• Game 3: Baylor (40-15) vs. Texas A&M (40-15), noon
• Game 4: Arizona (32-25) vs. Penn (30-19), 2:30 p.m.
• Game 5: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3, 5 p.m.
• Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5, 12:30 p.m. (Game 7 to follow, if necessary at 3 p.m.)
• What: Arizona (32-25) vs. Penn (30-19), elimination game
• When: 2:30 p.m.
• TV: ESPN2
Contact reporter Patrick Finley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4658. On Twitter @PatrickFinley