By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

There could be no better person to have standing at the plate with two outs and the UA softball team trailing by a run in the final inning than Laura Espinoza.

Espinoza, the Wildcats' home run leader, slapped the first pitch down the left- field line out of play. She ducked to avoid the next pitch and then hit a high foul pop just outside of the third base line that was caught for the final out.

"I didn't think I had another homer in me," said Espinoza, who hit her 22nd of the year on a solo homer in the fourth inning. "I just wanted to put it in play somewhere. I was just trying to get a clutch hit somehow."

The result was No. 1 Arizona's second loss of the season. The Wildcats fell victim to No. 13 UNLV 7-6 in game two of a doubleheader before 1,016 at Hillenbrand Stadium. Earlier, the No. 1 Wildcats beat the Runnin' Rebels 9-1 in a five-inning game shortened by the eight-run mercy rule.

Trailing 7-4 in the seventh inning, UA second baseman Jenny Dalton hit her second home run of the second game, a two-run blast that landed in the top of the left-field bleachers and narrowed the game to a one-run difference.

Espinoza followed with what would be the Wildcats' last hope.

"When she hit it out, my heart started pounding a little quicker and I said, 'OK, here we go again,'" said Espinoza of the possibility of providing the tying run. "I'm not really disappointed in myself. I'm disappointed in the outcome, but I did what I could."

UNLV pitcher Amie Stewart kept the Wildcats off balance for most of the game, getting 15 of the 21 outs on pop flies. Stewart held on for the win despite allowing the Wildcats back into the game with four homers in the final few innings.

"They just have such good hitters that you just have to come back tough to the next person and try not to worry about it," Stewart said.

Carrie Dolan (8-1) suffered the loss despite watching an error result in two runs after she had left in favor of a reliever.

However, Stewart would sympathize with Dolan's frustration since she appeared in relief during a sloppy third inning in game one. Arizona had just two hits in that inning but scored six runs with the aid of four UNLV errors.

Arizona coach Mike Candrea continued his belief that the process of preparing and playing each game is the key.

"You have to be able to play the game loose and you have to go out and play with some emotion," he said. "You can never not respect your opponent."

After the second game, there was no time for the team to sit and ponder the misfortunes of their second loss. They scurried to get their equipment packed for a flight bound for northern California which departed two hours later.

NOTES _ Almost as quickly as they left town, the Wildcats rebounded with a pair of wins over seventh-ranked Cal yesterday afternoon. Arizona swept the Bears 10-1 and 4-3 in Hayward, Calif.

Susie Parra (18-1) struck out seven in a four-hitter for the win in the first game. Despite allowing a run in the seventh inning, freshman Nancy Evans (11-0) held off Cal to complete the sweep.

The only homer of the day came on a three-run shot off the bat of UA center fielder Leah O'Brien, her second of the year.

The Wildcats improved to 40-2 overall and 10-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference. Read Next Article