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Pac-12 Women's College World Series Notebook: Teams ready to bounce back after tough first day

Jun 3, 2022

OKLAHOMA CITY — All three Pac-12 teams will try to stave off elimination at the Women's College World Series on Friday after dropping their openers on Thursday.

No. 5 UCLA fell to Texas (7-2), Oregon State was defeated by No. 14 Florida (7-1) and Arizona lost a heartbreaker to No. 7 Oklahoma State (4-2).

Here's a rundown of the action...

Arizona nearly pulled off another big win

Hanah Bowen has been a wizard in the postseason, escaping jam after jam to keep the Wildcats in games.

The same was holding true for five innings in their WCWS opener. Bowen left the bases loaded in the fifth, preserving a 2-1 lead that Arizona grabbed earlier in the frame when Sharlize Palacios laced a two-run homer to left.

Eventually, the Cowgirls did what no team had been able to do. Karli Petty's three-run homer in the sixth handed Bowen and the Wildcats their first loss of the postseason. 

"We played an amazing game, and it was one pitch that changed the difference, and you take away that pitch, and it's a different game," Palacios said. "I think the great thing is that we're an amazing team. We're meshing when we need to mesh. Our pitchers are still doing amazing. There's nothing lacking. That's just the way the games are when you get to the College World Series. There's only eight teams left. It's the best of the best, and that's what's going to happen. I think we just have to play our best game and just focus on the next pitch."

The Wildcats will take on Oregon State in an elimination game on Friday at 6:30 p.m PT on ESPN2. The Beavers won the regular-season series in Corvallis in mid-April, though the Wildcats run-ruled them in the finale.

"We prepare for all of their pitching staff, and we have plans on whoever is going to be in the circle, and I'm sure they have the same thing for us," said Arizona head coach Caitlin Lowe. "We know it's going to be a tough game. They hit well. They pitch well. They come out with a lot of energy. We're really looking forward to playing our game, hunting our zone at the plate, and getting back to what we do well."

Candrea returns to the WCWS...as a spectator

Seated among a gaggle of Arizona greats, former UA coach and eight-time national champion Mike Candrea returned to Oklahoma City to support Lowe as she embarks on her first WCWS as head coach.

Candrea told ESPN that he has been impressed by the way the Wildcats have improved over the course of the year, taking on the calm, confident demeanor of their leader.

"For her to do what they've done to feed this team this confidence to play at a high level right now, I'm just really proud of her," Candrea said.

RELATED: Arizona pieced together an improbable run to the Women’s College World Series

Mazon-less Beavers fall to the Gators

Oregon State suffered a major blow before its matchup vs. No. 14 Florida, announcing that star two-way player Mariah Mazon was unavailable due to what head coach Laura Berg later described as "some unfortunate circumstances out of her control."

Losing an All-American is always a big deal, but especially in the postseason. This is Mazon's first time at the WCWS and was supposed to be her chance to show a national audience why she's one of the best players in the country.

Still, the Beavers competed admirably without their lone senior, grabbing a first-inning lead thanks to an RBI single from first baseman Frankie Hammoude.

Hammoude said Mazon's absence "didn't really faze us too bad."

"I think we all have a lot of confidence in Sarah (Haendiges)," she said. "So obviously we lost a bat in the lineup, but we all knew it was going to take all of us to win here, so I don't know. I think we've been dealing with this kind of stuff all year with injuries, all that type of stuff."

Oregon State had a chance to break the game open in the second inning but came away empty-handed from a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation. (Partly because Kiki Escobar was the victim of some bad luck, stinging a line drive at the right fielder for the first out of the frame.)

While Berg disagreed that it shifted the momentum of the game, the Gators scored seven unanswered runs from there, immediately taking the lead in the bottom of the inning when a sharp grounder skipped under Hammoude's glove.

The error plated two of the seven runs surrendered by Haendiges, though three of them were unearned.

"I thought Sarah did an incredible job," Berg said. "I thought there was maybe some strikes that were not called, but she dealt with it. Sarah is just like this. You'll never see her up too high. You'll never see her too low. I thought she accepted the pressure very well and did a great job."

As for Mazon's status, which Berg referred to as the "big elephant in the room," Berg is hopeful that she will return to the lineup for Friday's elimination game vs. Arizona.

"Any time you don't have a kid like Mariah in your lineup, it's going to suck, but it is what it is," Berg said. "We didn't have her, you have to deal with it and play ball, and we didn't play ball the way we're capable of playing.

"Obviously, you can't have four errors and expect to win a ball game at this point in the season and leave bases loaded with nobody out. You just are not going to win a lot of ball games that way."

A heartwarming moment

Though the Beavers lost, it will be a day sophomore pitcher Tarni Stepto will never forget. Not only did she make her WCWS debut, her father made a surprise visit from Australia.

UCLA ready to bounce back

The Bruins find themselves in a rare spot, dropping their WCWS opener for the first time since 2017. The 12-time national champs know not to hit the panic button.

"The bracket is built this way and (we're) ready to fight tomorrow," said senior shortstop Briana Perez. "That's what our game is all about."

Texas' Hailey Dolcini allowed just six hits in a complete-game effort, while Megan Faraimo was touched up for four runs on six hits in 2.1 innings in her first major WCWS action.

UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez thought her team could have made quicker adjustments to Dolcini's screwball, but she was proud of them for fighting until the final out. Delanie Wisz continued her productive postseason, crushing a two-run homer to left to get the Bruins on the board in the seventh.

It only put a minor dent in the deficit, but could serve as a springboard for Friday's elimination game vs. No. 9 Northwestern.

"Huge, absolutely," Inouye-Perez said. "It's awesome to be able to see Lanie do what she does. Kinsley (Washington) finding a way to get on base, and Lanie coming up big in big moments, those are the things that we hold on to. We've got to be able to play our game and get back to doing the things that we do. We got to see a piece of that."

Friday's schedule

  • No. 5 UCLA vs. No. 9 Northwestern — 4 p.m. PT, ESPN2
  • Arizona vs. Oregon State — 6:30 p.m. PT, ESPN2