TUCSON, AZ - Tucson, AZ - No. 16 Arizona put together four mini rallies to slip past No. 15 Minnesota, 5-1, here at UA's Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium to move into Sunday's NCAA Softball Championships regional title round.
Minnesota (47-8) will play the winner of the game to follow, New Mexico State vs. St. John's, in the second elimination game at the site tonight.
Arizona (40-17) got a credible pitching performance from freshman Trish Parks (15-5), who scattered five hits, struck out five and closed the game with four scoreless innings in her 10th complete-game of the year. Minnesota's Sara Groenewegen (29-6) took the loss, missing out on a potential 30th victory in the circle.
UA's Katiyana Mauga snapped a hitless game in the second inning, launching a 1-1 pitch into the left field stands for her 26th home run of the season, solo fifth on Arizona's single-season record chart. UA got a walk from Chelsea Goodacre and Mandie Perez was hit by a pitch to put two on with no out, but Minnesota ace Groenewegen got a pair of popups and a strikeout to thwart the rally.
The Gophers tied it with a hit and three ground balls in the third, capped by a RBI by Danielle Parlich to plate Erika Rozell, who had led off with an infield single off Parks..
UA had a chance to make a move in the bottom of the third. Hallie Wilson singled and a walk to Chelsea Suitos opened the frame, and after a strikeout by Kelly Fox, Mauga drew a walk to load the bases. Goodacre drew another walk to bring in a run, and Minnesota switched to pitcher Nikki Anderson, who got a 6-4-3 double play ball from Perez to end the inning.
Minnesota loaded the bases with a walk, a Taylor LeMay single and a fielder's choice that didn't work out for Arizona in a potential run-down with Kaitlyn Richardson rounding third. But Parks got out of the jam by striking out Rozell and getting an infield ground ball to stop the challenge.
The Cats stretched it to 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth with three hits by Suitos, Mauga and Goodacre, the last of those driving in Suitos, and then after Perez was hit by a pitch, Mo Mercado's grounder brought in pinch runner Payton Kornfeind.
Hannah Granger and LeMay singled to open the sixth for the Gophers, but Parks got a popout, groundball and a strikeout to strand them both, the Gophers' eighth LOB of the game to that point.
Fox, who had struck out three times, blooped a single off second baseman Parlich's glove to drive in Suitos and make it 5-1 in the Cats' half of the inning. Suitos had reached on a fielder's choice and stole second. Mauga followed with a single to right to put runners at the corners but Anderson struck out Goodacre to strand two -- UA's ninth of the game.
Arizona moves to Sunday's 4 p.m. regional championship game, with the team emerging from the loser's bracket having to beat the Wildcats twice. The "if necessary" game would be at 6:30 p.m.