UA misses first trip to College World Series in 22 years
How ironic. Arizona State’s first opponent in the Women’s College World Series will be Oklahoma – the school that just eliminated ASU’s in-state rival, University of Arizona, in the Super Regional.
This may be the first time ever that the Wildcat squad will actually be rooting for a win by the No. 1 Sun Devils. ASU beat Texas A&M two straight in their Super Regional to punch their trip ticket.
The Sooners made short work of the No. 8 Wildcats, winning the first two games in the best-of-three series – and, to make matters worse, it was played on Arizona’s home field.
The Cats are smarting. No. 9 Oklahoma limited them to just two runs over the 14 innings played and the Sooners’ ace pitcher, Keilani Ricketts, struck out 20 batters to post a 6-0 shutout Friday and a 5-2 finale yesterday. She went 13.2 innings before giving up a run.
Not only did Ricketts dominate on the mound, but she made huge contributions at the plate. The 6’2″ southpaw, who is hitting .529 in the post-season, smacked a couple of home runs and drove in three runs herself.
She put a blanket on the Cats’ power game, but Arizona did manage to get runners on. They just couldn’t bring them home.
In yesterday’s game, Arizona (43-18) stranded one runner in the first inning, two more in the second, and a full load on the bases in the third. In the sixth, the Cats put runners on the corners and had just one out. But Ricketts fanned the next two would-be hitters to spoil another opportunity.
The Cats didn’t get their two runs until the bottom of the seventh, when Lini Koria cleared the right-field fence to score the only two runs.
When the dust cleared in yesterday’s game, Arizona had left a total of 11 runners on base and was 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
In Friday’s opener, the Cats stranded two bases-loaded opportunities and left two runners on base on two more occasions.
After the second game, head coach Mike Candrea was very candid about the way his team played, admitting that he didn’t feel he had done his job adequately. He was clearly frustrated with missing a trip to the WCWS, the first time in 22 years an Arizona team will be staying home. Last year they played for the NCAA Championship.
But he also made reference to the fact that his team didn’t get the job done throughout the line-up.
“There are definitely weaknesses in our line-up,” he said, “and to go to the World Series, you have to produce, one through nine. Oklahoma’s eight and nine hitters produced, and that’s what you need to happen to be successful.”
He even took a shot at the bat work of his power-hitting senior catcher who set a school home-run record this year with 86 round trips.
“Stacie Chambers set records for us, but she struggled in the big games,” he pointed out. “I thought we’d gotten her past that, but it just didn’t happen.”
Lauren Schutzler, the senior outfielder who Andrea praised and said “played her butt off this weekend,” laid the blame on the team’s work ethic. “This season has taught me a lot as a person,” she offered. “You get what you deserve, and we just didn’t put the work in during the off-season.”
Chambers and Schutzler will graduate this year, as will Brittany Lastrapes, and Victoria Kemp. But the squad will be able to begin rebuilding, since they return six regular starters, including their ace pitcher, sophomore Kenzie Fowler.
But things are going to change before next season, says Candrea.
“Nothing is going to stay the same. It’s our job to get better.”
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)