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Softball Analysis: Weekend full of surprises ends with No. 1 UA sweeping Bruins

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Outfielder Autumn Champion dives to take a hit away from a UCLA batter during the top-ranked Wildcats' 5-4 come-from-behind victory yesterday over the second-ranked Bruins.
By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, April 5, 2004
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Power hitters bunting, slap hitters belting home runs, clutch hitting and surprisingly spotty pitching added up to a two-game sweep for the No. 1 UA softball team against No. 2 UCLA this weekend.

Both games had everything to do with pitching, but not in the way that most would have expected, as UCLA pitcher Keira Goerl came into the weekend with an 0.39 ERA, and UA ace Alicia Hollowell came into the series at 0.52.

For the most part, Goerl and Hollowell were their dominating selves, with two-game strikeout totals of 16 and 18, respectively.

However, in each game, both pitchers had an inning in which they weren't throwing strikes - and when they gave up hits, they were big ones. Luckily for Hollowell, her off-inning always came sooner rather than later.

On Saturday, Hollowell gave up two singles, a double, a walk and a grand slam to give the Bruins a 5-0 lead in the second inning. With Goerl on the mound, that would usually be more than enough for a UCLA win.

With just two outs left in the game, Goerl gave up a single to center fielder Caitlin Lowe, four walks, a grand slam to catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest and a two-run walk-off homer to Shelly Schultz to end the game.

Goerl gave up just six runs in 15 games before this weekend. She allowed 12 runs in two days against the Wildcats.

"It gives us confidence to never give up," acting head coach Larry Ray said on Saturday. "Generally, UCLA doesn't give up runs. It's going to be a dogfight from here on out."

Yesterday's game saw Hollowell give up one run in the first after hitting a batter while the bases were loaded and two home runs in the fifth inning - a solo and a two-run shot.

"It just seemed like everything I pitched was served on a silver platter for them," Hollowell said.

Goerl started out strong again yesterday, keeping the Wildcats hitless for five innings. The UA's only run came from Lowe in the fourth, when she stole second and advanced to third and home on passed balls.

The Wildcats gave themselves a little more time to make their comeback yesterday, getting started offensively in the sixth inning on a three-run home run by Lowe that tied the game at four. Lowe, Arizona's leadoff batter and a slap hitter, is well known for her bunting ability and speed, not her power.

Third baseman Jackie Coburn took a page out of Lowe's book and bunted shortstop Kristie Fox over to third, and was safe at first when the first baseman dropped the ball. That set the stage for Schultz again, who hit the ball down the left field line to score Fox and end the game.

While the unexpected occurred in many forms this weekend, Schultz's clutch hitting is becoming the norm. Not only did she have the two walk-off hits this weekend, but she also hit the game-winning homer against Stanford in the championship game of the UA's Worth Wildcat Invitational Feb. 29. She also had a solo shot earlier in that game that started Arizona's offensive attack.

"I kind of had the same feeling (as the Stanford game) when I was at bat," Schultz said Saturday after her game-winning homer. "I knew I was going to get a hit - not necessarily a home run, but a single at least. I didn't even look (after the hit)."

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