Happy Birthday Ms. Harper

Happy Birthday Ms. Harper

TUCSON, Ariz.— Jessie Harper snapped a streak of 13 at bats without a hit by singling in the final score to give Arizona a 3-2 victory over Baylor in game one of  the best-of-three Super Regional of the NCAA Softball Championships.

UA (52-7) needs one more victory to earn its first trip to the Women's College World Series since 2010. Baylor (46-13) must win Saturday to force a third game on Sunday.

UA's Danielle O'Toole  won her 30th game against four defeats, giving up six hits and walking none while Gia Rodoni (17-3) took the loss for Baylor in relief.

Arizona posted the first run with back-to-back one-out doubles by Katiyana Mauga and Mo Mercado in the bottom of the first.

The Cats collected their third double of the game when Dejah Mulipola led off the next inning with a smack off the left field fence, but Baylor starting pitcher Kelsee Selman got a ground ball and struck out two to strand her.

Baylor had a runner on second with two outs after a Maddison Kettler single and a sac bunt by Lindsey Cargill, but UA's O'Toole got a grounder to end the threat.

With one out in the third, Mauga took a 3-1 pitch and slugged an opposite-field home run to right-center for her 25th of the year and 92nd overall, three shy of the NCAA career record. Mercado followed with a single up the middle, forcing a pitching change. Reliever Gia Rodoni induced a double-play ball to stop the rally.

Rodoni, who threw two no-hitters last week in Regional play, gave up her first post-season hits the next inning. With one out, Mulipola walked on a 15-pitch at bat, then Reyna Carranco and Ashleigh Hughes had infield singles to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Hillary Edior and Mandie Perez struck out to strand three.

UA stranded its sixth overall and fifth in scoring position in the fifth when Mauga collected her third hit, a single to left, was sacrificed to second by Mercado, but was left on base with a liner and a  strikeout.

BU's Kyla Walker tripled off O'Toole to open the Bears' sixth and Arizona's lead vanished a moment later when Ari Hawkins socked her fifth home run of the year to knot the score 2-2. It was the first runs allowed by Arizona in the postseason.

Perez led off the UA seventh with an infield single and after a wild pitch during Mauga's at bat moved her to second, Rodoni intentionally threw ball four. Mercado followed with a single to left to load the bases with no outs. Harper, a freshman, followed with her first postseason hit to win the game.