Pacific Softball: Upset Big Falls Short As Pacific Drops An 8-6 Decision To No. 4 Arizona
Looking for the upset of the No. 4 team in the country the Pacific softball team came up short against the University of Arizona falling 8-6 in the final game of the Hillenbrand Invitational on Sunday, February 20. The Tigers loss dropped the team to 4-2 on the year and 2-2 at the tournament while the host Wildcats improved to 10-1 on the year and 5-0 at the invitational.
After giving up a leadoff home run to Brittany Lastrapes in the bottom of the first inning, the Tigers took the lead against Arizona in the top of the second inning, pushing across three runs in the frame. In the inning, the Tigers made good on a pair of mental mistakes by the Wildcat infield, loading the bases on three straight bunts, while trying to give up an out to advance the runners.
With the bases loaded, junior Alexa Rivera delivered the first blow of the game to Wildcat starter, Shelby Babcock, with a two-RBI double into the left-center gap. The Tigers would plate their third run of the inning on another mistake by the Wildcats, as an error by Arizona's first baseman allowed sophomore Amy Moore to score from third. The Tigers had a chance to break open the game with two outs in the inning, but a ground ball ended the rally for Pacific.
An inning later, the Tigers threatened Babcock again, starting the inning with a pair of singles by sophomores Nikki Armagost and Moore, but the duo would be stranded on base with no runs to show for it. The two innings by the Tigers chased Babcock from the game as the Wildcats' would bring in their sophomore ace, Kenzie Fowler to try to keep Pacific in check the rest of the way.
Fowler would stifle Pacific's bats for two more innings until the Tigers broke through once again, loading the bases with no outs in the inning for the middle of the order. A walk, an error and an infield hit by senior Lindsey Pierce set the inning up while junior Nicole Matson brought home the first runs of the inning with a two-out two-RBI single up the middle. Getting herself off the hook in the circle, Armagost drove home the tying run with a single to center that plated Pierce and knotted the game at 6-6. The single was her third hit of the afternoon, tying her for the game-high with Lastrapes.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers would see their upset hopes come to an end in the bottom half of the inning when Brigette Del Ponte dashed Pacific's hopes with a one-out home run to left-center, giving Fowler back the lead. They would add an insurance run later in the inning to take the two run lead that would hold against Pacific in the seventh.
Earlier in the game and in the bottom of the third inning the Wildcats erased Pacific's early lead by taking advantage of a pair of singles and an error by the Tigers on a ball Pacific thought was foul but ruled fair to load the bases with no outs in the inning. On the play, Pacific head coach Brian Kolze was ejected from the game, forcing the Tigers to finish the final four innings of the game without their leader.
The bases loaded situation would prove to be too much for the Tigers and Armagost to overcome in the circle as Stacie Chambers tied the game at 3-3 with a two-RBI bloop single to left. Two batters later Kristen Arriola gave the Wildcats back the lead with a single up the middle to push across the third run of the inning.
An inning later, the Wildcats struck for two more as Lastrapes belted a two run home run to right-center that would put her team up three runs. In addition, the home run would run Armagost from the game and bring in sophomore Gabby McDaniel. For the sophomore pitcher, the outing would be short lived as McDaniel walked the bases loaded on 13 pitches.
Called upon to get the Tigers out of the jam, freshman Tori Shepard entered the contest and proceeded to pitch her way out of the danger. The Lodi, Calif. native struck out the first batter she faced before inducing a ground out and a line out to end the inning.
The freshman had a strong showing against the Wildcats striking out four of the first seven batters she faced until making one bad pitch to Del Ponte. She finished the game with four hits relinquished in three innings pitched while striking out five to suffer her first loss of the season and fall to 1-1.
The winning pitcher for the Wildcats was Fowler who moved to 8-0 on the year as she went four innings in relief of Babcock while giving up four hits and three runs, none earned, while walking one and striking out seven.
Pacific will be back in action on Friday, February 25 when the team hosts the Libby Matson Tournament back home at Bill Simoni Field. The Tigers open play with a game against Oregon at 12:00 pm.