TUCSON, Ariz. – Sixteenth ranked University of Arizona Wildcat softball earned a two-game sweep in its first two games of the Hillenbrand Invitational. Arizona was victorious in its tournament opener 1-0 over Nebraska before a 5-3 dramatic win over Drake to close the night.
The Wildcats improved to 5-2 on the season while Nebraska fell to 6-1 and Drake dropped to 4-2.
Game 1 – Arizona 1, Nebraska 0
Shelby Babcock pitched a four-hit shutout as Arizona narrowly defeated Nebraska to open the tournament.
The previously undefeated Cornhuskers were averaging nine runs a game in their six prior games, but ran in to the Babcock buzz saw. The UA junior struck out five and walked two in her shutout and improved to 3-2 on the year.
UA had five hits of own, coming off the bat of five different Wildcats. Hallie Wilson's double in the fourth, though, proved to be the difference.
Arizona got on the board with help from a Nebraska defensive blunder in the fourth inning. Chelsea Suitos' bunt to lead off the inning was gathered in the pitcher Tatum Edwards. Edwards sailed the throw to first and Suitos headed to second. Hallie Wilson doubled off the centerfield wall to score Suitos and give the Cats a 1-0 lead.
Game 2 – Arizona 5, Drake 3
A three-run sixth inning propelled Arizona over Drake in a dramatic, come-from-behind 5-3 victory over the Bulldogs.
Drake used a two-run homer in the top of the first to draw first blood against the Cats in freshman Nancy Bowling's first collegiate start. Arizona would have to fight from behind the remainder of the night until Brigette Del Ponte's sac fly plated the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Bowling lasted two innings in her first start since suffering a concussion 13 days ago.
Bowling allowed two runs on three hits while walking one in two innings of work. She was relieved by Estela Piñon, who tossed five innings, allowed one unearned run on four hits while striking out five Bulldogs. Piñon earned the win and improved to 2-0 on the season.
Del Ponte's go-ahead sac fly in the sixth marked the second time in four games that Del Ponte that the senior has given Arizona the lead late in a game. Del Ponte hit a walkoff solo shot against San Diego State last Saturday at the Kajikawa Classic.
The Cats were outhit by Drake as the DU pitching combination of Jordan Gronewold and Rebekah Schmidt limited Arizona to six hits. Schmidt, who entered in the sixth inning, walked two batters, what would be the tying and go-ahead run in the sixth and was charged with the loss to drop to 1-2.
Drake added on to its lead in the fourth when an unearned run came around to score. Lindsey Vande Wall reached on an Arizona error and moved to second on a groundout. Nicole Randel registered a pinch-hit RBI single up the middle to give Drake a 3-0 lead.
UA would respond, though, when Hallie Wilson doubled to lead off the bottom half of the inning. Kelsey Rodriguez singled her home to put the Cats on the board.
Arizona added another in the fifth on Wilson's sac fly to score Mandie Perez to bring Arizona within a run.
In the bottom of the sixth, after Schmidt struck out the first batter she faced, Lauren Young and Piñon drew back-to-back walks to put the go-ahead run on which signaled the end for the Drake pitcher. Gronewald re-entered and allowed a grounder to the second baseman Vande Wall, who booted it to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Darcy Taylor drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game and Brigette Del Ponte hit a sacrifice fly to give Arizona its first lead of the game. Chelsea Suitos provided UA with some insurance when she singled to left field to score Perez.
Piñon stood her ground in the seventh, retiring the Bulldogs in order in the top of the seventh, and retired the final seven batters she faced.
Up Next: The Hillenbrand Invitational continues tomorrow with another six games. Arizona plays at 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. MST against Southern Utah and Purdue, respectively.
Complete Hillenbrand Invitational Schedule:
Friday, Feb. 15
Nebraska 7, Southern Utah 0
Southern Utah 6, Utah State 4
Purdue 2, Utah State 1
Arizona 1, Nebraska 0
Arizona 5, Drake 3
Purdue vs. Drake (late)
Saturday, Feb. 16
9:00 a.m. Utah State vs. Nebraska
11:00 a.m. Utah State vs. Drake
1:00 p.m. Drake vs. Nebraska
4:00 p.m. Arizona vs. Southern Utah
6:00 p.m. Arizona vs. Purdue
8:00 p.m. Purdue vs. Southern Utah
Sunday, Feb. 17
9:00 a.m. Southern Utah vs. Drake
11:00 a.m. Nebraska vs. Purdue
1:00 p.m. Arizona vs. Utah State