TUCSON – Arizona softball run-ruled fourth-ranked Alabama before shutting out Grand Canyon to sweep the Hillenbrand Invitational and improve to a perfect 9-0 on the season.
In the early game, UA became the first team since Florida in 2011 to run-rule Alabama with an 8-0, five-inning victory over the Crimson Tide. Shelby Babcock threw a two-hit gem while Mo Mercado supplied five RBI, including a grand slam.
In the tournament-cap, Kellie Fox and Katiyana Mauga homered in Arizona's 5-0 victory over Grand Canyon.
The two shutouts give Arizona pitchers seven for the season in nine games. The pitching staff, which boasts a remarkable 0.41 ERA, has given up a total of three hits this season and gave up just a single run this weekend.
UA bats were at it again, blasting three homers on Sunday. For the weekend, UA hit 14 home runs, four off the bat of Fox. On the season, Arizona has 17 homers and is hitting .408 as a team.
Game 1 – Arizona 8, Alabama 0
Alabama had not been run-ruled since the 2011 Women's College World Series. Arizona had not run-ruled a top-10 team since 2010. Both of those things changed, Sunday, when Arizona defeated Alabama for the second consecutive game, 8-0 in five innings.
Babcock (2-0) threw a two-hit complete-game shutout. The senior struck out seven Alabama hitters and walked three in the contest.
UA took advantage of eight Alabama walks, six of which came from the starter Leslie Jury (3-1), who lasted just 1.2 innings and gave up six runs on six hits. Reliever Sydney Littlejohn allowed two runs on two hits in 2.1 innings of work.
Mercado's first-inning grand slam set the tone for Arizona, which added two runs in the second inning and two more in the fourth. It was the freshman's first-career homer.
Alabama threatened in the top of the first when it put two runners on against Babcock. A great defensive play by Fox at shortstop and two Babcock strikeouts would get her out of the inning unscathed, however.
In the bottom half, Arizona took advantage of inaccuracy by Jury. The Alabama pitcher walked the bases loaded, but was one strike from getting out of the jam until Mercado took a 1-2 pitch to left for a grand slam.
The Crimson Tide would not get a runner into scoring position the rest of the way against Babcock, while the Cats continued to attack.
In the second, after retiring the first two hitters of the inning, Jury allowed a hit and walked two batters to load the bases for the second straight inning. Chelsea Goodacre drew a bases-loaded walk to chase Jury in favor of Littlejohn, who was greeted with an RBI walk of her own when she threw four straight balls to Mauga.
In the fourth inning, A pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases for Mercado, who grounded into a fielder's choice to make the score 7-0. Lauren Young followed with an RBI single to left to give UA an 8-0 lead.
Babcock walked one in the fifth, but did not let Haylie McCleney advance past first as she secured the 8-0 run-rule victory.
Game 2 – Arizona 5, Grand Canyon 0
Nancy Bowling struck out a career-high 13 batters as Arizona cruised to a 5-0 victory over Grand Canyon to close the Hillenbrand Invitational. It was Arizona's second 5-0 win over Grand Canyon in the event.
Fox hit her fifth homer of the season while Mauga added her second of the year.
Bowling's 13 strikeouts are the most since Kenzie Fowler struck out 15 New Mexico State batters on May 21, 2011. The sophomore tossed the complete-game shutout and did not walk a batter. Bowling allowed seven hits while improving to 3-0 on the year.
Mauga led off the second inning with a solo homer to open the scoring. Later in the inning, Mercado, who singled, and Lavine, who reached on a fielder's choice, were on the corners. Mercado scored on a double steal to give Arizona the 2-0 lead.
Arizona was back at it in the third. Chelsea Suitos led the frame off with a walk and scored on Fox's two-run homer. Kelsey Rodriguez followed with a single, moved to second on a fielder's choice and scored on her sister Courtney Rodriguez's single to center.
UA would only get one baserunner the rest of the way, but Bowling shut the door to secure the Wildcat victory.
Arizona will look to continue its hot start when it heads to Palm Springs for the Mary Nutter Invitational Feb. 20-22.