TUCSON, AZ - Arizona used three late-inning home runs for a 4-1 comeback victory over St. John's in both teams' opening NCAA Softball Championships regional play here at UA's home Rita Hillenbrand Stadium Friday night;
UA (39-17) stays in the winner's bracket while St. John's (28-18) faces an elimination game Saturday. Michelle Floyd (19-12) took the victory over SJ's Tori Free (11-7) in what had been a scoreless game through three innings.
The Red Storm threatened in the first, with three hits off Floyd. Leadoff hitter Hannah Anderson singled, but was thrown out trying to steal. An out later, Krystal Page singled and Erin Burner doubled her to third. Floyd got a ground ball from Brittany Garcia to end the inning.
Arizona got a pair of baserunners in its half after a one-out single by Chelsea Suitos and a walk to Kelly Fox, but SJ's Free got Katiyana Mauga to ground into a 6-3 double play.
UA had two runners in scoring position with one out in the second after a Lauren Young walk and a double by Hallie Wilson, but Free got a pair of line drives to quell the rally.
SJ scored in the fourth with one hit. Garcia reached on an error by UA shortstop Fox, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Yvonne Rericha, and scored on a single by Savannah Warren, who moved to second when left fielder Suitos added another error. Floyd got out the jam with a ground ball.
The Wildcats had a chance to knot the score in their half of the frame. Mauga drew a walk, but pinch runner Aireal Sakasegawa was thrown out trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt. Chelsea Goodacre and Mandie Perez drew two more walks. Mo Mercado reached on a fielder's choice and with runners at the corners Free struck out Lauren Young.
Mercado turned a nifty double play off a liner in the fifth to erase another Red Storm baserunner in scoring position.
Wilson tied the game with a home run to left-center in the Cats' fifth. It was her 12th of the year and only the seventh off Free in 113 innings pitched to that point. But, an inning later, Goodacre took the first pitch and hit it over the videoboard 40 beyond the right field fence for her 23rd homer and a 2-1 Arizona lead. After a walk and a sacrifice, Lauren Young slugged her sixth home run of the year to make it 4-1.
St. John's came right back with a single by Rericha and a double by Warren to open the vistor's half of the seventh. An error by second baseman Mercado let in a run. A fielder's choice cut one runner at the plate on a throw by Fox and after another ground out, Monique Landini drew a walk to load the bases. Floyd struck out Krystal Puga to end the game.
Arizona will play Minnesota in winner's bracket action at 12:30 p.m. Saturday while St. John's faces New Mexico State in the first elimination game of the regional at 3 p.m.
The Golden Gophers beat New Mexico State 10-2 in the regional opener. A third game Saturday will eliminate a second squad in the four-team regional.