By Tom Knauer
PHOTO COURTESY OF The State Press
Junior pitcher Alicia Hollowell struck out 15 batters on the way to Arizona's 1-0 win over in-state rival ASU last night in Tempe. Hollowell allowed only two hits in the course of the night.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 7. 2005
TEMPE - Making her sixth straight start for the No. 2 Arizona softball team last night at Farrington Stadium, Alicia Hollowell showed she's only heating up.
The junior allowed two hits and struck out 15 in seven innings, as the Wildcats (29-3, 3-1 Pacific 10 Conference) defeated ASU 1-0 in front of a season-high 1,094.
The Sun Devils (26-10, 1-3) couldn't find an answer to Hollowell (20-2), who fanned 11 of the last 15 ASU batters only three days after giving up a season-high five runs to No. 3 California.
"Hollowell was on fire," said Arizona head coach Mike Candrea, who with the win moved into a tie for fourth place on the NCAA all-time victories list with 1,011. "She was throwing well and gave us a chance."
Arizona took the lead for good in the first inning by taking advantage of an ASU defense that entered the game in a tie with UCLA for the second-worst fielding percentage (.966) in the Pac-10.
Sophomore center fielder Caitlin Lowe led off by reaching base on a dropped ball by first baseman Sharee Zaleski.
Lowe tried to steal with junior left fielder Autumn Champion at the plate, and catcher Heidi Knabe threw the ball off Lowe's foot and into the outfield.
Center fielder Himmita Hixson fell to the grass after outrunning the ball, and Lowe rounded the bases for the score.
The Wildcats' bats went silent for most of the game, thanks to a steady diet of pitches up in the strike zone from freshman Katie Burkhart (10-5).
Burkhart, who gave up four hits in seven innings and struck out six, retired eight consecutive Arizona batters after a Champion single in the first, and turned away six straight before senior outfielder Allyson Von Liechtenstein singled in the fifth.
"I just think we're trying too hard to get things done in the early innings than we are, like we have been, in the last two innings," said senior third baseman Jackie Coburn. "We're just trying to find ways to put runs on the board early, so we don't have to depend on the walk-off home run or the heroics."
Hollowell provided plenty of those for Arizona after a shaky start. She fanned the first two ASU batters in the fifth before left fielder Valerie Sevilla knocked her Pac-10-leading 11th double.
Sevilla advanced to third on Hollowell's 11th wild pitch of the season, also a conference high, but the junior struck out Knabe to end the threat.
"I didn't say a word to her (before the game)," Candrea said of Hollowell, whose 101st career victory ties Susie Parra for fifth all-time at Arizona. "I just said, 'Fours, you ready to go,' and she said, 'I'm ready.' She always gives us great performances."
Champion led the Wildcats at the plate, going 2-for-3, giving her five hits in 12 at-bats in conference play. Champion raised her season average to .379.
Lowe went hitless in four at-bats for the second consecutive game, but almost cleared the bases with three on in the bottom of the seventh on a long fly ball to Hixson.
"Caitlin had some good at-bats, and we had her swinging away a couple of times, and I think that's going to be a huge thing for us down the road," Candrea said.
Arizona won in its first game since taking two of three in its conference home-opening series against No. 9 Stanford and the Golden Bears.
The Wildcats face No. 12 Oregon State (25-6, 4-0) at Hillenbrand Stadium Friday at 7:30 p.m. and meet Oregon (22-11, 2-2) Saturday and Sunday.
The Beavers, after a 2-1 victory over the Ducks last night, have won a team-record 19 straight games.
"Any victory, after that weekend, is good," Candrea said. "This is a tough week, because we were on the road for three weeks, and then had a tough series last weekend and having that fourth game this week. Sure, it's tough. But everyone's done it."
Arizona sophomore shortstop Kristie Fox, Hollowell and Lowe were named yesterday as part of 25 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award. Hollowell and Lowe etch a place on the list for the second year in a row.