SB: Pinon pushes Cats to winner's bracket - Tucson News Now

SB: Pinon pushes Cats to winner's bracket

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© (Cover photo courtesy: ESPN) © (Cover photo courtesy: ESPN)
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Tucson, AZ -

Estela Pinon struck out eight to win in four innings of relief and help lead host Arizona (42-13) to a 9-6 victory over Boston University (35-20). It put the Wildcats in the winner's bracket of the NCAA Softball Championships regional here at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium. 

Arizona will play LSU in Game 3 at 1:30 p.m. (MST/PDT) Saturday for the right to play in Sunday's championship game. The Terriers will play Louisville in the first elimination game at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Arizona collected 11 hits and was aided by a pair of miscues that cost the Terriers. Kelsey Rodriguez drove in three runs, with Chelsea Suitos knocking in a pair. Pinon improved to 18-7 on the year. Pinon allowed two runs on three hits, walking a pair. 

UA took an early, short-lived, lead with four unearned runs in the second. Mo Mercado reached on a one-out error by shortstop Brittany Clendenny, and Lauren Young doubled. Courtney Rodriguez hit a grounder to third and defender Brittany Younan threw out Mercado trying to score. But Chelsea Suitos singled in Young, Hallie Wilson got a hit to load the bases and Kelsey Rodriguez cleared them all with a double to right field. She was thrown out trying to stretch it into a three-base hit.

The Terriers struck back with hits by Emily Feinbaum and Amy Ekart and a walk issued to Clendenny by UA's starter, Shelby Babcock. With two outs, Chelsea Kerr slugged her third homer of the season, a grand slam to tie the contest. But in the bottom of the frame, a sacrifice fly by Mercado and a run-scoring single by Young put UA back on top, 6-4.

UA pulled Babcock before the start of the third, bringing in Pinon. She struck out the first two batters she faced, but BU put the tying run at the plate after an infield bunt single by Jayme Mask. Pinon then struck out Younan to end the threat.

"We played them here last year, and (Babcock) threw a three hitter, said Wildcats head coach Mike Candrea. "We really feel like we needed to get some innings out of someone, so we were hoping to get a solid performance of about four or five innings out of her. I felt that after (Babcock) gave up the four runs, that we had to make a switch."

In the fifth, the Wildcats put three more on the board, also all unearned. Chelsea Goodacre singled to lead off the frame, and with two outs Young's high fly ball was dropped near the fence by center fielder Moriah Connolly to allow Goodacre to score and Young to reach third. Connolly couldn't get to a deeper ball off the bat of Courtney Rodriguez and it turned into an RBI triple. Suitos singled her in to make it 9-4.

BU brought in reliever Makinna Akers to pitch the UA sixth in favor of starter Melanie Russell (12-4). Akers gave up a leadoff hit but the Terriers turned a nifty 7-4 double play to end the inning.

The Terriers added two runs in the top of the seventh on an RBI double from Clendenny and a sacrifice fly by Kehr, who led all players at the plate with the five RBI. 

Arizona is an at-large pick making its 28th consecutive NCAA appearance, the nation's current best and an NCAA Division I record. Boston University, winner of the Patriot League Tournament for an automatic bid, is playing in its 7th tournament.

UA improved to 80-8 overall in NCAA Regional action in its 28 appearances and has lost a first-round game at home only one time, in 1990 to Arizona State, 1-0.

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