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Arizona Survives Scare, Auburn Rallies Past Colorado State

(Photo Courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

TUCSON, Arizona – A packed house with an early-arriving and raucous crowd of 2,648 at Hillenbrand Stadium fell silent with a crack of the bat.

Harvard designated hitter Erin Lockhart’s crushed line drive well over the left-center field wall in the first inning signaled the Regional opener would be no walk in the park for No. 6 Arizona.

“Being able to feed off some of that energy [from the crowd] and stay fired up, it was incredible,” Lockhart said.

As the game crept late into the evening, the crowd held its breath. Every Arizona out was antagonizing, and even when Hannah Martinez tied it with a two-out RBI-single in the fifth, those uneasy feelings didn’t go away.

The clock had ticked past 11 p.m. when Hannah Bowen woke up the Wildcats with a loud thud. Her one-out double off the right-center field wall was just what they needed. One batter later, Martinez delivered another RBI single, and after scoring, Bowen held both her fists high while the crowd rose behind her.

The sequence unleashed a four-run rally in the sixth to seal Friday’s 5-1 victory, clinching Arizona a spot in the regional semifinal against No. 24 Auburn at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

In the circle, Taylor McQuillin never faltered for the Wildcats (43-12). Lockhart’s bomb was the only hit she allowed, and Harvard didn’t get a runner into scoring position after the second inning. The offense whiffed on many chances, unable to fully take advantage of 13 hits against Harvard pitcher Katie Duncan. Seven Wildcats reached base multiple times

“Harvard is a very feisty team, and I was impressed with how they came out,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “There is so much parody around this country that that’s the way it is. If a team makes it to postseason, they deserve to be here, and they are going to compete.

“That’s a lesson for everybody to learn. You can’t play the name game anymore.”

No. 24 Auburn Crushes Its Way Past Colorado State

With each team scoring three runs in an action-packed first inning, it looked like the early game at the Tucson Regional could turn into a fireworks show.

In the end, No. 24 Auburn (38-19) just had too much firepower, winning 10-5 over Colorado State (38-11). Led by Alyssa Rivera, who went 4-for-4 with a double, a homer and two RBIs, the Tigers racked up 14 hits, forced three errors and didn’t have any strikeouts.

Yet the designated home team still never led until Tannon Snow hit her 14th homer of the season in the fourth inning. From there, the Tigers never looked back. Carmyn Greenwood went 3-for-4 and Brittany Maresette went 2-for-4, as Auburn hammered away at Colorado State starter Jessica Jareki, chasing her after just three innings.

After being pulled in the second inning, Auburn starting pitcher Chardonnay Harris returned to finish the game with nearly three scoreless innings. She replaced Ashlee Swindle, who was hit in the face by a line drive with one out in the fifth inning. Swindle, who led the Tigers with 129 innings pitched in the regular season, was transported to a medical facility, “for X-rays and further evaluation,” according to a team official. Coach Mickey Dean said she could talk and was in good spirits.

“It's hard to talk about,” Dean said. “I don't even know if I can, because that's a kid who works so hard and we're not here without her. She was scared, but I was proud of her teammates for finishing it out.”

Colorado State, which plays Harvard at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, held a team prayer as the athletic trainer tended to Swindle. Ashley Ruiz, who hit the line drive, said it was a reminder that softball is larger than the outcome of a game.

“We took a moment to step back,” Ruiz said. “Yes, it’s a game, but it is also a community, and being a part of the softball community is a lot bigger than the game itself.”

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