Heat becomes factor
College softball players are used to the rigors of travel, used to game after game after game. Some club teams sometimes play up to eight games in a single weekend, battling fatigue and bodily wear.
This weekend at the Tucson regional of the NCAA softball playoffs, the four teams added another nemesis.
Temperatures topped 100 degrees during Arizona’s 9-8 win over LSU on Saturday afternoon, though by the time the Tigers played for a second time, against Boston University Saturday night, it had cooled off a bit.
LSU coach Beth Torina made sure her players got enough down time to be ready for the Terriers, though five straight scoreless innings to open the game made it appear the Tigers’ offense was still sweating.
“We’re going to get them out of the heat, off their feet,” Torina said about the team’s plans while Boston played Louisville in the other regional matchup. “It’s a pretty quick turnaround and we’re warming up quickly.”
The Wildcats were sitting on easy street, having won their first two games to postpone their play until this afternoon.
The player with perhaps the biggest need for a cool-down? Arizona’s Estella Piñon, who pitched four innings on Friday and all seven on Saturday.
“We have a little advantage,” Piñon said. “It’s about trying to stay healthy, get stretched out, do a little ice cold bath.”
The LSU softball team came to Tucson and apparently charged up all its power.
The Tigers, who hit 52 home runs during the regular season, had six in their first two playoff games, three in each game. The offense has been in full force through Saturday’s games, with teams averaging better than eight runs a game.
“Kids get stronger and stronger, swings get better, athletes are better,” Torina said. “It is the evolution of the game.”
47 How big of an offensive explosion has there been in Tucson? The winning team has accounted for 47 runs in five games. Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise for Arizona, which scored 79 runs in its previous nine Tucson regional games.
Seen it all
LSU’s Torina has seen it all in her years as a softball coach.
But even she knows the rarity of an inside-the-park home run, which sparked Arizona on Saturday after Hallie Wilson drilled a ball off the center-field wall. LSU’s A.J. Andrews gave chase and ran into the wall before accidentally kicking the ball into the left field corner.
“That Hallie Wilson hit ... 100 times you try to catch the ball; not even one of them do you accidentally kick to the corner,” Torina said. “It was kind of a fluke thing.”
“That was a tremendous ball game. For us, that’s a big victory. This time of year, no matter one run or 10 runs, we did what we needed to do to put ourselves in position tomorrow.” – Arizona coach Mike Candrea
Tweet of the Day
“Two out runs have been critical (or detrimental) to both Arizona and LSU this afternoon.” – ESPN Tucson’s Zach Clark (@ZachEClark)