Arizona's Mandie Perez dives safely back to first base as ASU's Bethany Kemp grabs the throw.


The Arizona Wildcats' latest pledge - to be the annoying, always-happy team - manifested itself both Friday and Saturday in the form of a 44-year-old Johnny Cash Song.

"Get Rhythm," right fielder Gabbie Sandstedt's walk-up music, has elicited clapping, dancing and singing - and that's just from the players in the dugout, who treat the moment as their own personal barn dance.

"Get rhythm," the song goes, "when you get the blues."

The UA entered the series against rival Arizona State with what could certainly be defined as the blues; losers of five straight, the Wildcats were in last place and on the edge of inclusion into the NCAA tournament.

After another comeback victory Saturday night - a 6-4 win in which the UA scored the final six runs - the Wildcats got the rhythm.

It marked only the second time in conference play this season the UA had won consecutive games.

"You got to a point right now where you gotta have some fun," UA coach Mike Candrea said.

With two straight wins and a new cheery attitude - the team stands in the dugout corner, constantly screaming - it's fair to ask: Who the heck are these guys?

"We're Arizona softball," designated player Mandie Perez said.

Perez struck the deciding blow in front of a season-high 2,732 fans at Hillenbrand Stadium, lining a three-run homer over the right-center field fence with none out in the sixth to give the UA its first lead.

Asked what pitch ASU starter Mackenzie Popescue threw her, Perez smiled.

"Something fat," she said.

It was an appropriate punctuation mark to a game that featured a collision, two coaches that came within inches of being ejected by umpires and plenty of glares between players in the postgame handshake.

"Probably one of the best feelings I've had on this field, by far," said senior Brigette Del Ponte, who, until this weekend, hadn't beaten ASU since her freshman year.

UA freshman Nancy Bowling was sharp at first, allowing only one hit - a solo home run to Bethany Kemp - and striking out six through four innings.

The UA (30-22, 7-13 Pac-12) unraveled in the fifth after a call by third-base umpire Steve Arnold.

With one out, he called Bowling for an illegal pitch on Elizabeth Caporuscio's pop out to second. She returned to the plate, singled and made it to third with two outs on an Alix Johnson single.

After Johnson stole second, Cheyenne Coyle ripped a two-out double that tipped third baseman Lauren Young's glove in fair territory. Two runs scored, and ASU (42-9, 13-7) took a 3-0 lead.

Amber Freeman then singled home Coyle for the fourth run, chasing Bowling for Estela Piñon.

The Wildcats countered with three of their own in the fifth on a series of unusual plays. Two UA hitters walked to start the inning, and one, Perez, scored on a slap double by Alex Lavine.

With runners at second and third and none out, ASU catcher Lucy Aubrecht tried to snap-throw to third to pick off Sand-stedt. The ball squirted into left field, scoring one to make it 4-2.

Hallie Wilson then chopped a ground out to second base, freezing Lavine at third.

When Wilson ran through the first-base bag, though, she collided with the right, glove arm of ASU first baseman Kemp. Kemp's arm appeared to be in foul territory, in the basepath.

Kemp collapsed. Lavine scurried home to make it 4-3.

Piñon earned the win after finishing the game with 2 1/3 hitless innings.

"This is the biggest rivalry you can get," said Del Ponte, who will play her last regular-season home game at 3 p.m. today. "Those emotions are definitely going to play a role."

With Johnny Cash as accompaniment.


• Who: Arizona State at Arizona

• When: 3 p.m.

• TV: Pac-12 Network

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at or 573-4658. On Twitter @PatrickFinley.