The Arizona Wildcats softball team will have to try to win an NCAA regional the hard way.
Arizona dropped its opening game of a double-elimination regional Friday afternoon, falling 7-0 to Baylor, and will have to win four games in two days to advance to a Super Regional.
The Cats take on Penn at 2:30 p.m. Tucson time Saturday in an elimination game to be telecast by ESPN. The winner will face the loser an earlier game between Baylor and host Texas A&M. That game, scheduled for 5 p.m., will be shown on ESPNEWS.
A&M defeated Penn 12-0 on Friday.
Junior pitcher Shelby Babcock, who had been suffering from illness earlier in the week, got the start against Baylor, but failed to record an out, walking the first three batters and allowing four runs.
“Babs wanted the ball and we gave it to her, but she just couldn’t execute,” coach Mike Candrea said in the postgame press conference. “You have three walks and you’re down 4-0. That really changed the complexion of the game.”
Arizona missed a chance to answer in the top of the second inning. The Wildcats loaded the bases against Whitney Canion with one out, but two ground ball outs ended the threat without a run.
“When you have opportunities like that, especially against somebody like Whitney — because you know you’re not going to get many of them — that can really change the game if you can get a couple of base hits. You can get in her head a little bit,” Candrea said.
“But for them to get out of the inning it was really disheartening. We had one out and bases loaded and our next two hitters swung at the first pitch and didn’t show enough patience to maybe let her work herself into a jam.”
From there, Canion was dominant. The left-hander allowed six hits, striking out seven and walking none, in the shutout.
Arizona used all three of its pitchers, with Nancy Bowling pitching five innings of relief and Estela Pinion coming in for one inning, and will need a huge effort from the trio if the Cats are to survive the regional in College Station, Texas.
“You can’t think about four,” Candrea said of the potential path of games over the next two days.
“You’d better think about one. It’s kind of new territory for us. It’s like I told the girls, ‘How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time.’”