Comeback Cats Punch Tickets to Supers
TUCSON, Ariz. — After a slow start and a 6-0 hole, No. 11 seed Arizona put together an improbable eight-run fifth inning against three Ole Miss pitchers to pound the Rebels, 12-6, Sunday evening and move to Super Regional play in the NCAA Softball Championships next weekend.
Arizona (39-13) collected a season-high 19 hits in the game – 12 of those in the fourth and fifth innings – and overcame some early weak pitching and defense by turning the tables on Ole Miss (36-22). The Cats sent 22 batters to the plate in the two frames.
Jessie Harper led UA with three RBI and had three hits along with Dejah Mulipola and Carlie Scupin. UA had six doubles in the game.
The Wildcats will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., next weekend to meet the host Arkansas Razorbacks in best-of-three Super Regional action.
Arizona put a runner in scoring position in the first after Reyna Carranco drew a walk off and Dejah Mulipola singled to center, but pitcher Anna Borgen got a ground ball to strand the pair.
Ole Miss fared way better in the bottom of the inning off UA starter Hanah Bowen, batting around. Blaise Biringer reached on an error by shortstop Jessie Harper and Rebels catcher Autumn Gillespie continued a hot weekend streak with a double to left to put two in scoring position. Abbey Latham hit a two-run single to open the scoring, one unearned.
Paige Smith lined to Carlie Scupin at first base for a double play, and then Sydney Gutierrez singled up the middle. Jessica Puk drew a walk and Nyomi Jones singled to load the bases. Mikayla Allee blooped a single to left to knock in a pair of unearned runs to make it 4-0.
Arizona stranded two more runners in the second. Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza and Carlie Scupin opened with singles, but Borgen retired the next three.
The Rebels opened with two more hits by Biringer and Gillespie to chase Bowen in the bottom of the second. Reliever Mariah Lopez took over and struck out Latham for the first out, got Smith to pop out to the catcher and then Janelle Meono made a running catch over her head in left field for the final out.
Mulipola and Sharlize Palacios hit two-out singles halfway up the fence in left center in the third to put runners at the corners for UA, but Borgen struck out Palomino-Cardoza to strand two more.
Another error cost UA when Carranco mishandled a throw at second on a fielder's choice to put two aboard with no outs in the third. Then Lopez hit Allee with a pitch to load the bases. Tate Whitley singled to left to drive in two, both unearned.
Arizona got something going and batted around in the fourth. A leadoff double by Carlie Scupin and Malia Martinez' 11th home run of the year cut it to 6-2. With one out Meono raced for a double just inside the line behind the bag at third base and and out later Jessie Harper singled to left to make it 6-3. Mulipola was hit by a pitch and an error by Allee at shortstop loaded the bases but Palomino-Cardoza fouled out to left to end the rally.
The Cats broke through again in the fifth with one out on another error by the shortstop, a pinch single by Bella Dayton and an RBI double by Meono. Carranco followed with a single to right to drive in Dayton – chasing Borgen -- and Meono scored when the rightfielder's throw went into the UA dugout, putting Carranco on third. Harper followed with an RBI single, Mulipola was hit by a pitch again and Palacios doubled to the gap in right for two more to make it 9-6.
Scupin singled to left to make it 10-6, a second unearned run in the inning. Malia Martinez singled up the middle and Dayton doubled to left for an 11th run. Meono ended the glut with a grounder to second off reliever Landyn Bruce.
Ole Miss got singles from Jones, Whitley and Biringer to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the fifth. Lopez got a huge called third strike on Gillespie for the second out. With Latham at the plate, an argument of some proportion ensued in the field, with order restored, and then Lopez struck her out swinging.
UA picked up an RBI double by Harper after a Carranco walk in the sixth to make it 12-6.
Lopez entered the game with two on and no outs in the second and won in relief for the Cats to improve to 9-2. She scattered seven hits, struck out three and walked one. Ole Miss starter Borgen (12-8) took the loss in 4-plus innings, giving up seven runs, six earned.
UA's comeback victory averted a tough home loss in NCAA play, where the Cats are now 76-7 in Regional action and 89-13 overall including Super Regionals.