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Great escapes: Arizona’s Fowler strikes out 15 in shutout of New Mexico State

Kenzie Fowler struck out 15 hitters, three off her career-best. Photo by Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com

It wasn’t Kenzie Fowler’s best game. It sure wasn’t her worst. It was certainly one of her strangest.

Any which way, there is no argument with the results.

Fowler shut out an aggressive, power-hitting New Mexico State lineup, striking out a season-high 15 batters as the Arizona Wildcats won 8-0 at an NCAA regional game on Saturday afternoon at Hillenbrand Stadium.

Those numbers make it appear it was a vintage, dominating performance for Fowler, who earned All-American honors last season as a freshman. But she also allowed eight hits, walked three batters, hit two others and let the Aggies put a runner in scoring position in six of seven innings.

“The zero on the board doesn’t really show how many times they had scoring opportunities,” Fowler said, “but we did make some good plays at the right time.

“You really have to try to buckle down. I thought I did a good job of not getting tight in that situation. A lot of times I tend to overthrow when the pressure is on.

“But for some reason today, I was just feeling very loose when they had runners on. So, I think that is a good sign for me to have those kind of situations for down the road … or tomorrow.”

Arizona on Sunday will play at noon against Texas Tech, which won twice Saturday. The Wildcats will have two chances to win one game against the Red Raiders in the double-elimination regional.

Fowler said her ability to stay loose came in part from being staked to an early lead. Stacie Chambers hit a three-run homer in the top of the first inning. The score stayed that way until the fifth when Brigette Del Ponte’s two-run home run made it 5-0. Arizona when through four New Mexico State pitchers, collecting 11 hits.

“I thought Chambers’ three-run homer really was a big one to kind of get us going,” said coach Mike Candrea.

Stacie Chambers gets ready to connect on a three-run home run in the first inning. Photo by Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com

Fowler faced New Mexico State twice in Las Cruces in March, when Arizona swept a double-header. She picked up both victories, including one in relief.

This time around, she used more off-speed pitches to counter the Aggies’ aggressiveness.

“She did a great job of varying the speed today,” said NMSU coach Kathy Rodolph.

“That might be a little bit stronger than what we saw in March. I felt like she was around the zone all day and truly kept us guessing. I respect good pitching when I see it, and I definitely felt like Kenzie did a great job today.”

New Mexico State, which entered the game averaging 7.1 runs per game, was shut out for the first time this season in a seven-inning game. The Aggies failed to push across a run despite loading the bases with one out in the sixth and seventh innings.

“I felt like we continued to get sparks,” Rodolph said, “we just couldn’t get the fire to light.”

Fowler struck out 11 batters when New Mexico State had runners in scoring position. The Aggies stranded 12 runners.

So, it ended up being a glass-half-full kind of day.

“The bottom line at this time of year is a victory,” Candrea said, “so I’m not going to overanalyze what just happened.”


Game 1, 4 p.m. — New Mexico State 9, Texas Tech 0 (5 innings)
Game 2, 6:30 p.m. — Arizona 10, Harvard 0 (six innings)

Game 3, 2 p.m. — Arizona 8, New Mexico State 0
Game 4, 4:30 p.m. — Texas Tech 7, Harvard 0
Game 5, 7 p.m. — Texas Tech 6, New Mexico State 4

Game 6, noon — Arizona vs. Texas Tech
Game 7, 2 p.m. — Repeat Game 6, if necessary

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