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Fowler, Wildcats need to have a ‘special’ Saturday to advance to Series

The past 21 Arizona teams coached by Mike Candrea have advanced to the College World Series. Photo by Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com

The Arizona Wildcats softball team booted a ball in the field, had an outfielder slip and allow a two-run single, failed to deliver any key hit … and didn’t pitch all that well, either.

But, hey, there’s always today, right?

That might be all Arizona has after a 6-0 loss to Oklahoma on Friday night in the first game of a best-of-three Super Regional at Hillenbrand Stadium. (Read the game blog here.)

The Wildcats have to sweep two games today to advance to the College World Series. It will be all on the line — including coach Mike Candrea’s personal streak of 21 consecutive years of taking Arizona to the Series — beginning at 2 p.m.

“It’s not going to take a good effort,” he said, “but a special effort.”

For sure, Arizona is going to need sophomore ace Kenzie Fowler to be special, to deliver two outstanding performances in 100 degree heat.

Fowler retired the first eight Sooners, but she wasn’t helped by her defense after that, and she struggled the second time through the order against OU’s surplus of left-handed hitters. The Sooners, who featured seven left-handed batters Friday night, had five hits in four innings of Fowler, who left the game with the Cats trailing 5-0.

Fowler struck out four, walked two, hit a batter and was called for an illegal pitch for leaping off the pitching rubber, bringing back bad memories of last season’s World Series.

“That’s a tough lineup for her to face because she is facing so many lefties,” Candrea said. “I would say her repertoire is matched better with righties than lefties. …

“But she’s a pretty bright kid who will have a little bit of thought about what she went through tonight and what she can change. That’s all you can do.”

While Oklahoma scored its first five runs with two outs, Arizona failed to deliver a key hit, leaving the bases loaded in the third and sixth innings. The Cats also had a runner on third with one out in the seventh, and failed to score.

Although OU sophomore left-hander Keilani Ricketts finished the shutout and struck out 13, Arizona did have seven hits and went down in order only once. That could be something of a confidence-builder for Saturday.

Many of these Arizona players have been in this position before. The Wildcats lost the first game of a Super Regional at Stanford in 2009 and came back to sweep both games the next day.

Oklahoma also has been in this position. The Sooners won at Washington in the first game of a Super Regional last year … and were then shut out twice the following day.

“We’ve always been on the grind this whole season,” said Arizona junior Lini Koria, the designated player. “We need to just understand that we have to play it like it’s our last.”

Game 1: Oklahoma 6, Arizona 0
Game 2: Saturday — Arizona vs. Oklahoma, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3: Saturday — Arizona vs. Oklahoma, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN), if necessary

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