TUCSON, Ariz. – For the second consecutive night, Arizona needed a late-inning rally to defeat third-ranked Arizona State. For the second consecutive night, the Wildcats prevailed. Down four runs in the fifth inning, the Cats scored the game's final six runs, punctuated by a three-run, go-ahead Mandie Perez home run in the sixth inning to give Arizona the eventual 6-4 victory in front of a season-most 2,732 fans at Hillenbrand Stadium.
The Wildcats (30-22, 7-13 Pac-12) used a three-run fifth and a three-run sixth to earn their second straight come-from-behind victory over the Sun Devils. Arizona, which had just three top-25 victories entering the series, has ensured itself a series victory over the third-ranked Devils (42-9, 13-7 Pac-12).
The victory also gave Arizona the Territorial Cup Series point to knot the series at 7.5 points apiece.
The Cats, who did not have a hit until the fourth inning, plated six runs on four hits in the final two innings after getting just four total base runners in the first four innings.
Down a run in the sixth inning, Kelsey Rodriguez was hit by a pitch with one out. Brigette Del Ponte followed with an infield single. Perez, who had just a single home run in her last 21 games and five all year, took an 0-1 pitch over the right-center field fence to give the Wildcats the lead.
While the offense came alive to give the Wildcats the win, the pitching was phenomenal, limiting Arizona State to four runs on five hits. A three-run fifth inning for ASU, all of which would have been wiped out if not for an illegal pitch call that negated an out, represented nearly all of the Sun Devils' offensive production. Other than a solo home run to lead off the second inning, ASU did not have a hit outside the fifth.
Nancy Bowling allowed five runs on four hits in the start. The freshman struck out six of the 21 batters she faced while walking just one. Estela Piñon pitched the final two and a third innings and was nearly perfect. The junior allowed only one base runner on a defensive error and improved to 10-8 on the year.
The Cats scored six runs on five hits on Mackenzie Popescue (17-5), who took the loss for the second straight night. Popescue had four strikeouts and five walks.
Alex Lavine knocked two doubles for the Cats. Lavine had seven career doubles entering the game and had never had a game with multiple extra-base hits in her career. The junior drove in a run and scored another in the contest.
ASU struck first with a Bethany Kemp home run to lead off the second inning and added to its lead with three in the fifth.
It appeared that Bowling was poised to sail through another inning and record her sixth consecutive out when she induced a one-out groundout off the bat of Elizabeth Caporuscio in the fifth. An illegal pitch was called, negating the groundout and Caporuscio promptly singled on her second chance. Bowling induced a groundout from Bailey Wigness for what would have been the third out of the frame. Instead, the Sun Devils put together back-to-back-to-back two-out hits to give ASU a 4-0 lead.
Popescue issued back-to-back walks to lead off the fifth inning to Arizona's seven and eight hitters. Lavine doubled in a run to put runners at second and third with nobody out in a 4-1 game. ASU catcher Lucy Aubrecht attempted to pick off Gabbie Sandstedt at third and threw it into left field. Sandstedt scored and Lavine replaced her at third. Hallie Wilson followed with a groundout to second base to score Alex Lavine.
A one-out hit-by-pitch of Rodriguez got the Wildcat rally started in the sixth inning. Del Ponte followed with a single. Perez slammed her sixth homer of the season to put the Cats up 6-4.
Arizona State had one base runner in the top of the seventh when Wigness reached on an error, but was left stranded.
Arizona goes for the series sweep, Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.
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