SB: Another freshman powers Cats to sweep

SB: Another freshman powers Cats to sweep
(Cover photo courtesy: Arizona Athletics)
(Cover photo courtesy: Arizona Athletics)

TUCSON, AZ - Ashleigh Hughes hit a pinch-hit, two-run triple with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3, extra-inning victory to give Arizona the season-opening sweep of Oklahoma State on Sunday at Hillenbrand Stadium.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, trailing by a run and down to its final out, Arizona head coach Mike Candrea called upon the freshman Hughes to pinch hit with runners at first and second. In just her fifth career at-bat, Hughes fell behind 0-2 to Oklahoma State pitcher Whitney Whitehorn before working the count even. Hughes sent the next pitch to the wall in left. Pinch runner Aireal Sakasegawa scored the tying run from second before Trish Parks, whose two-out single extended the inning, scored the winning run from first.

It was another clutch two-out hit that created the opportunity for the Cats (3-0) in extras. In the bottom of the fifth trailing by two, Chelsea Goodacre doubled down the right field line with two down to plate a pair and tie the game.

Otherwise, OSU pitchers Meagan Lively and Whitehorn (0-2) were very effective against the UA offense which outscored the Cowgirls (0-3) 17-2 over the first two games of the series. Arizona was just 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners.

Arizona used a trio of pitchers in the circle to pick up the victory. Nancy Bowling started and pitched one scoreless inning before being relieved by Siera Phillips. In her UA pitching debut, Phillips retired nine of the 10 batters she faced, allowing just a third-inning single. Parks (2-0) closed out the game, striking out five over the final four innings. The freshman allowed three runs, two earned on three hits in the outing.

Mo Mercado remained hot at the plate, going 2-for-4. It was the sophomore's third multi-hit game in as many tries. She leads the Wildcats with a .600 batting average after the first weekend of play.

Arizona fell behind in the top of the fourth inning when former Wildcat Darcy Taylor hit a pinch-hit two-run single to put the Cats in their largest deficit of the season.

The Cats were able to get the two back in the bottom half. Alexis Dotson led off the bottom of the fourth with a double. After Lively retired the next two batters, Kellie Fox walked to bring up Goodacre, whose double down the right field line tied the game.

The game remained tied after a pair of scoreless innings pushed the game into extras.

In the top of the eighth, a leadoff single followed by a two-base error put the Cowgirls in business. Facing a no out, runners at second and third situation, the freshman Parks got the next two OSU hitters out before inducing a groundball that appeared was going to get UA out of the jam. It was misplayed by Fox to allow the go-ahead run to score.

Mauga led off the bottom of the eighth with a single, but two consecutive groundouts put Arizona on the brink of defeat. Parks extended the game with a single up the middle before Hughes hit a pinch-hit walkoff triple to end the game.

Arizona returns to action on Thursday for the first game of the Hillenbrand Invitational. Arizona hosts Drake at 6 p.m. for its first of six games at home next weekend.

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