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Softball: Schultz, Wildcats rain on UCLA's parade, twice

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Shelly Schultz, center, is congratulated by Jackie Coburn, left, Samantha Quintero, right, and other teammates after drilling the game-winning hit in the bottom of the seventh inning of Arizona's 5-4 win over UCLA. Schultz' s walk-off was her second in two days against the Bruins.
By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, April 5, 2004
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One day after the UA softball team beat No. 2 UCLA, much of the Wildcats' typically rabid fan base left yesterday's matchup between the nation's two best teams early.

Those who did missed another amazing finish.

The No. 1 Wildcats (38-1, 2-0 Pacific 10 Conference) came back from a three-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat the Bruins 5-4. Just hours earlier, Arizona rallied from a 5-0 seventh-inning hole to beat UCLA 7-5 Saturday night.

Sophomore utility player and pitcher Shelly Schultz provided both game-winners - a two-run walk-off home run Saturday and a seventh-inning single with runners on first and third and no outs yesterday. Saturday's homer came after senior Mackenzie Vandergeest started the game-winning rally with a grand slam.

"It felt great," Schultz said. "I knew we had runners in scoring position, and all we needed was a run at third base. So I was just looking to hit it hard."

The comebacks were reminiscent of past victories over the Bruins. The Wildcats beat UCLA after trailing 9-1 with five outs left in 2000, and won the Pac-10 title last year on a walk-off home run by then-sophomore third baseman Jackie Coburn.

Schultz was 0-for-3 in the game before Saturday's walk-off.

"We had a little meeting before (yesterday's) game. I kind of did a little gut check as to who honestly felt we were going to win that game, and they all raised their hands," acting head coach Larry Ray said. "I'm really proud of this group."

"(Yesterday was) not as dramatic, but still good - still won the game. That's all that matters," Schultz said.

Yesterday's win was all the more impressive considering that UCLA ace Keira Goerl (15-2) seemed to regain her form, holding the Wildcats hitless through the first five innings after losing her first game of the year Saturday. After giving up a run early on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, Arizona tied the game at 1-1 when freshman center fielder Caitlin Lowe scored on a wild pitch after a walk and a pair of stolen bases.

The Bruins took the lead when sophomore third baseman and outfielder Andrea Duran took UA ace Alicia Hollowell (25-0) deep, and senior first baseman Claire Sua followed suit with a two-run homer to make it 4-1.

The Wildcats broke up the no-hitter off back-to-back hits by senior second baseman Samantha Quintero and junior left fielder Allyson Von Liechtenstein, followed by a three-run homer by the slap-hitting Lowe to tie it.

"These are the two most exciting games. It's great," Lowe said. "Keira's a great pitcher. We just had to make sure we went up to the plate and had good at-bats out there, because we're still working on the counts."

After Lowe's home run, the Bruins snuffed out Arizona's rally. Sophomore left fielder Autumn Champion, who reached base via a bunt single, was thrown out trying to get an extra base after senior utility player Wendy Allen's sacrifice bunt.

In the bottom of the seventh, freshman shortstop Kristie Fox led off with a single and advanced to third after Coburn laid down a sacrifice bunt. Coburn was safe at first on an error.

"I don't know what it is. We always just have a way to come back," Schultz said. "We don't say die."

Yesterday, the Wildcats bailed out Hollowell for the second straight game. On Saturday, the ace gave up a walk and three singles, plus a grand slam to Bruin sophomore infielder/outfielder and Arizona native Caitlin Benyi.

"Everyone stepped up, not just the upperclassmen," Ray said. "I thought when the pressure was on, this team really responded well."

Game notes

Friday's Pac-10 game opener against No. 7 Washington, the only NCAA team to beat Arizona, was rained out. It is unclear whether it will be made up. Had yesterday's game been rained out, UCLA would have stayed and made up the game ... UA and Team USA head coach Mike Candrea attended both games ... The game was broadcast live on the independent channel College Sports Television, with former Bruin great and Olympic team member Stacey Nuveman handling play-by-play duties.

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