By Eric Wein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
One week after suffering the first loss of her collegiate career and wiping the tears from her eyes afterward, Carrie Dolan had trouble hiding a smile.
The freshman pitcher had been a picture of sorrow after losing to UNLV a week ago.
In her first start since that dreadful outing, Dolan threw a three-hitter for the top-ranked Wildcats to lead them to a 9-1 win in game two of a doubleheader against No. 18 Long Beach State. A regular-season-record 1,823 fans were in attendance Saturday night at Hillenbrand Stadium to see Arizona beat the 49ers 7-0 in the first game.
"I get real down on myself and I don't have a lot of confidence like I used to," Dolan said. "Tonight, I went out and said, 'I'm just going to go right at them.'"
Dolan (9-1) struck out four and walked none overall, facing just three batters in each inning except for an error-filled fourth.
Coach Mike Candrea had counseled Dolan to get her mind back on the task of winning.
"The biggest problem she has sometimes is trying too hard and getting down on herself," Candrea said. "In her last performance she lost her composure. I told her tonight, 'If I see you lose your composure or you start pouting out there, you're gone.'"
Needless to say, Candrea liked what he saw.
Susie Parra comforted Dolan with the thought that she struggled in her first year. Parra advised her to listen to the advice of assistant coach Jody Pruitt, Parra's catcher as a freshman.
"She was kind of struggling and she asked me about my freshman year," Parra said. "I told her I did the same thing _ I didn't see my ball moving, I threw everything in the dirt. I didn't trust it."
It was not as if there weren't times when Dolan could have panicked. Two UA errors led to a run in the fourth inning, narrowing the score to 2-1 and making another loss appear to be a possibility.
But the Wildcats (42-2) came back in the fifth by loading the bases when the 49ers intentionally walked Laura Espinoza, which brought Leah Braatz to the plate. The freshman catcher had been mired in a terrible hitting slump which saw her go 2 for 13 in five prior games.
With a full count, Braatz sent a pitch over the wall in center field for a grand slam, her 10th homer of the year. She also hit a two-run double in the first inning.
"I didn't think I'd be in this big of a slump, but it happens. I'm glad I pulled myself out of it," said Braatz, who changed her batting stance and grip in the hopes of escaping a 2 for 14 slump in five prior games. "I was desperate. I was trying anything."
Hitting behind cleanup hitter Laura Espinoza gave Braatz two opportune moments in the second game.
Espinoza hit a towering three-run homer to center field at the start of the first game, extending her NCAA record to 23 this season. The ball landed next to where the flags were blowing toward home plate. In the second game, she was walked intentionally twice, allowing Braatz to follow with two key hits to drive in runs. Read Next Article