The University of Arizona softball team couldn’t get a handle on a freshman pitching phenom from LSU, and their head coach is still looking for the solution to getting past the super regionals.
And the result is another year of sitting out the Women’s College World Series as the LSU Tigers rolled past the Wildcats over the weekend with 8-0 and 10-5 wins in the best-of-three series to earn a trip to Oklahoma City, where they will make their second appearance in the last four years at the WCWS.
But for the Cats, it’s just deja vu all over again, to quote Yogi Berra (the Yankees hall of famer, not the cartoon bear).
Arizona failed to get out of the super regionals last year as well, getting swept in two straight games on that occasion by another team from the Bayou State, Louisiana-Lafayette University. So last year’s game was played in Lafayette and this year LSU hosted in Baton Rouge. The Cats just don’t seem play well in the hot and humid subtropic climate.
This year it was all about pitching, or, in Arizona’s case, the lack thereof.
At first, it looked like the Cats might have some success getting past LSU’s freshman ace, Carley Hoover, in the opener. She walked the first two batters to face her, so Arizona had a runner in scoring position right out of the chute.
But the big hurler (6’2′) from South Carolina settled down quickly and allowed just three base runners the rest of the way as she pitched a complete game that was cut to just five innings, based on the NCAA mercy rule that ends a game after five innings if one team is up eight or more runs.
Unfortunately for Arizona, Hoover had just transferred in to the LSU program last summer from Stanford, where she pitched just the first few games of last season before an injury cut her season short. Several recruiting services had her rated as the No. 1 softball prospect in the country coming out of high school.
Arizona sent two pitchers to the mound in Saturday’s opener, with Trish Parks and Siera Phillips splitting the chores. Each pitched two innings, with Parks, who started the game, getting tagged for three hits and Phillips for a pair. Together, they walked eight batters and the only strike-out went to Phillips. Not the kind of performance by either that will get their team to Oklahoma City.
LSU’s fourth-year head coach, Beth Torina, started Allie Walljasper in the circle for the second game, but Hoover came in to bail her out in the fifth inning after Walljasper had allowed two runs by walking two batters. Hoover put the fire out by fanning the next two batters to end the inning and pitched the final two innings, allowing three hits and striking out three of the 11 batters she faced.
UA head coach Mike Candrea split the pitching duties up again, starting his towering right-hander, Michelle Floyd, in the second game. The 6’3″ sophomore went three innings, giving up five hits, walking four, and striking out one.
Parks took over in the fourth inning and finished out the game, allowing seven hits, walking one, and posting a single strike-out as well.
Control was a significant issue throughout both games. In the opener, the Tigers collected four runs in the first inning, thanks in large part to four walked batters that helped keep the bases loaded, and a wild pitch that scored a runner. And in the finale, LSU scored four runs again in the first. The Tigers began the surge as a couple of runners got on base via walks and a single loaded them up with no outs on the board. A single and double then moved four runs around the bases.
Arizona responded in the bottom of the first by using a ground-out and sacrifice fly to push runs across and make it a 4-2 game, but a two-run LSU homer in the third pushed the margin to 6-2, and the Cats couldn’t climb back in after that.
A couple of seniors closed out their college careers on a high note during Sunday’s final game. Chelsea Goodacre contributed two RBIs in that game, which brings her total to 86, a number that leads the NCAA charts this season and brings her career total to 239, which puts her at No. 8 on the school’s all-time list. The catcher from California also hit 71 home runs for the Cats, which is the fifth-most in program history.
Hallie Wilson collected three hits in yesterday’s game, which give her 285 hits for her career, and Kellie Fox tripled to left center in the third and then scored on a ground ball to narrow the gap to 6-3. Fox finished her final season as the only player in the Pac-12 to hit at least one home run in every conference series.
Arizona closes out the season with a 41-20 record.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)