By Amanda Branam
JOSH FIELDS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Junior second baseman Shelly Schultz throws to first base in Arizona's 10-3 win over in-state rival ASU Saturday. Barring a playoff appearance against the Sun Devils, the game was ASU head coach Linda Wells' last against the Wildcats.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, April 25, 2005
Awakened bats give long reliever Wolfe support
Maybe the lightning that delayed the game nearly an hour put some much-needed electricity into the bats of the No. 3 Arizona softball team Saturday.
Whatever it was, in its 10-3 win over ASU (26-18, 1-11 Pacific 10 Conference), the Wildcats finally found the offense that assistant coach Larry Ray said was "non-existent" earlier this week.
They were happy to have a game they knew they were capable of offensively, but the player who received most of the high-fives, pats on the back and "great game" comments from teammates was senior pitcher Leslie Wolfe.
Wolfe took the mound in the third inning with no outs and two people on base to relieve freshman pitcher Taryne Mowatt, who gave up three earned runs and four hits in two innings.
The first batter Wolfe had to face was catcher Heidi Knabe, ASU's clean-up hitter who already smoked a two-run home run in the first inning. Wolfe struck her out and then struck out nine more over the five innings she pitched. She gave up three hits and walked none, giving the Wildcats (33-6, 7-4) their 13th consecutive win over the Sun Devils.
"Tonight Wolfe came in and gave us one hell of an effort," head coach Mike Candrea said. "We've talked a little about opportunity and she came through."
Opportunities this season have been few and far between for the senior from Scottsdale. Prior to Saturday, Wolfe made just four appearances this season and just one in conference play. She pitched 2 2/3 innings in the 6-3 loss to California April 3. The loss in that game went to junior Alicia Hollowell.
"It was just exciting. I was so hungry for it. I was ready," said Wolfe of her pitching performance. "The one word I would use would be hungry."
Wolfe said being a drop-ball pitcher as opposed to a rise-ball pitcher, like Hollowell and Mowatt, worked to the Wildcats' advantage. Teams are used to facing Hollowell and her rise ball when they step in the batters box against Arizona, so having to face a drop-ball pitcher likely threw the Sun Devils off balance.
While Wolfe provided the dominating pitching performance, the Arizona bats made quite a statement as well.
"The one thing I was proud of was the way we swung the bats. It was a good team effort," Candrea said.
ASU freshman pitcher Katie Burkhart came into this weekend with a 1.04 earned run average, fourth-best in the conference. The Wildcats roughed her up Saturday with 16 hits and 10 earned runs.
Half of those runs came off the bat of sophomore shortstop Kristie Fox, who went 2-for-4. Sophomore center fielder Caitlin Lowe went 3-for-3, with two of her hits being triples. She also walked twice. Burkhart also hit four batters this weekend, with senior third baseman Jackie Coburn getting hit on the outer thigh Friday and on the head Saturday.
"I think this was a huge game for us all around," said Wolfe. "We've been lacking that fire underneath us."
On Friday night, Arizona squeaked out a 3-1 win. After ASU went up 1-0 in the first inning, the Wildcats failed to score in the first four innings. They took a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning after Fox scored on a wild pitch by Burkhart. The first run in the inning came off a single by senior third baseman Coburn. The final run came in the next inning, when Crystal Farley slid under the tag at home on a fielder's choice off the bat of junior Autumn Champion.
ASU head coach Linda Wells faced the Wildcats for the last time in her career barring a playoff meeting. After 16 years at the helm of ASU, Wells is retiring. Wells was given a standing ovation from the crowd Saturday night.