It looked like another “Oh, No!” game for the Arizona softball team.
It turned into an “Oh, Wow!” game.
A day after three errors helped doom the Arizona Wildcats in a four-run loss to top-ranked Oregon, Arizona atoned for two early miscues to pound the top-ranked Ducks 11-8 Friday night at Hillenbrand Stadium.
Things got off to a shaky start once again for the Wildcats, who committed two costly first-inning errors in Thursday’s loss to the Ducks, the team’s first at home this season.
With one out in the first inning and Alyssa Gillespie on first after a single, Arizona first baseman Hallie Wilson muffed a throw from third baseman Lauren Young, allowing Janie Takeda to get on base. After a Janelle Lindvall walk, Alexa Peterson flied out to center field and this time, Young couldn’t corral the ball, letting two runs score.
Luckily for the Wildcats, their tremendous lineup dug them out of trouble.
Arizona scored six in the first inning to take control and added three runs in the second inning for an early power surge to give itself some breathing room.
“It definitely was a big momentum-changer for sure,” Kelsey Rodriguez said. “It’s great to have that power, because we just build off it.”
A day after feeling like they were “on” Oregon’s star pitcher Cheridan Hawkins, despite registering just six hits, the Wildcats were indeed dominant against the Ducks’ other devastating starter, Karissa Hovinga.
Arizona piled up 11 hits to go along with the 11 runs, making up for four errors, and they capitalized on Oregon’s five errors, as well.
With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning, Katiyana Mauga — who was named a finalist for national freshman of the year honors — singled up the middle, driving in two runs. Fellow freshman phenom Mo Mercado followed with a two-RBI single, and Courtney Rodriguez and Alex Lavine both delivered RBI hits to extend the lead.
“I can’t remember playing a Pac-12 game with nine errors,” Arizona coach Mike Candrea said. “It was really strange, but it was a little on their side. It was nice to jump ahead.”
Arizona kept up the pressure in the second inning, as Kelsey Rodriguez kept up her hot streak with a leadoff home run, her third straight game with a homer. Lauren Young added an RBI single, and Courtney Rodriguez followed with an RBI double to put the Wildcats up 9-2, and Mauga added her 20th home run of the season in the fourth inning.
Things got a bit worrisome for the Wildcats in the top of the fifth inning as Oregon saved itself from the mercy rule with five runs to cut Oregon’s lead to 10-8. After inducing a Gillespie groundout to start the inning, Arizona starter Estella Pinon allowed either a hit or a walk to the next seven batters before being pulled for Shelby Babcock. Babcock got the next two outs, then six more to close out the game, and Chelsea Goodacre added a sixth-inning home run for good measure.
“I know it was huge for me and for my team; I haven’t thrown like that all season,” Babcock said. “When I went on the mound, I just said that was my time. It’s huge — this whole season we’ve been riding our offense because it’s been amazing, but it’s nice to be able to shut it down in the circle.”
Candrea echoed Babcock’s sentiments after the game.
“To tell you the truth, the player of the game tonight was Shelby Babcock,” Candrea said.
“She came in and wheeled and dealed and did a hell of a job. If we can get that from her, we’ve got some options.”