UA softball makes College World Series, ASU heads home

Arizona will be represented in this year’s softball College World Series.  But just one team will be making the trip to Oklahoma City.

The University of Arizona softball team earned a berth in the CWS by beating Bringham Young University in the super regional, 2-1 and 10-2, in the best-of-three series played in Tucson.

But Arizona State, the No. 13 seed in its super regional in Gainesville, Fla., dropped two straight to the Florida Gators, 8-0 and 5-2, and will be heading back to Tempe instead of to Oklahoma City.

For the Wildcats, this marks the 22nd time in 23 years that the softball team has played in the CWS, and they did it without their mound ace, Kenzie Fowler, who was injured at the start of the second game.

Fowler, the outstanding freshman from Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson, struck out 10 in the first game and throttled BYU’s Angeline Quiocho, who leads the nation in both home runs and RBIs per game.  She retired the Cougar star four times in the game, putting her down on strikes three times.

The Cougars picked up their lone run in the sixth inning to tie the game at 1-1, but the Cats went back up for good in the bottom of that inning when Brigette Del Ponte doubled and Lini Koria singled to make it 2-1.

Fowler started the second game, but got clipped by a line drive by the second batter in the first inning.  The ball bounced off her right forearm and she went to the dugout for ice and trainer attention.

The concern over the injury was magnified since that same arm has been giving her trouble lately.  Fowler has suffered from a pinched nerve in her neck that began to give her trouble during the final series of the regular season, causing her hand to swell.

Fowler was given X-rays at the game and indications are that the two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year will be ready when the Cats meet No. 15 seed Tennessee in their first game of the World Series.

Senior Sarah Akamine took over for Fowler, and retired 11 of the first 12 batters she faced, and was solid throughout the 10-2 win.  The senior struck out five and allowed three hits, with no walks.

But she had a lot of help at the plate, as the Wildcat offense helped put the game away in just five innings.  The Cats jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back, scoring nine runs in the third and fourth innings to put the game away in five innings.

UofA and BYU entered the game with identical records, 46-11.  But the Cats held a huge edge on experience; this was the first time since the softball program started in 2000 that the Cougars had advanced to a super regional round.

The Wildcats remain undefeated in five games of NCAA play, but will face a team that eliminated No. 2 Michigan and has momentum.  The match-up with Tennessee will take place Thursday.

And once again, the Cats will ride the banged-up arm of its freshman phenom as far it will take them.