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Statman Comes In Clutch For Arizona

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(Photo Courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

TUCSON, Arizona – Reyna Carranco, returning from a broken left hand and thumb, received a standing ovation as she stepped into the batter’s box for the first time in six games.

But even as she had a banner afternoon, going 2-for-3, another Wildcat came off the bench to steal some of her thunder.

In her first at bat in two weeks, and just her 10th in the last month, Tamara Statman delivered the biggest hit of the game, a two-out single to plate No. 6 Arizona’s only runs in a 2-1 victory over No. 24 Auburn at Hillenbrand Stadium. Statman, who lost the starting designated player spot after being hit in the face with a pitch against Utah on April 5, said she tried to stay ready, knowing that a big moment like this could come.

“What I’ve learned over the past four years is there isn’t much of a difference between [being the designated player] and pinch hitting,” Statman said. “The only difference is when you pinch hit, you see a lot of pitches from other people’s at bats.”

Having both Carranco and Statman contribute in Saturday’s win serves as a reminder of Arizona’s potential.

Without them, the Wildcats took two of three at No. 2 UCLA to end the season. With them, they won in very un-Arizona-like fashion Saturday.

Through two regional games, coach Mike Candrea’s team, which entered the weekend with the second-most home runs in the nation, has scored all of its seven runs off singles.

“Yeah, isn’t that neat,” Candrea said.

Getting back-to-back strong performances from Taylor McQuillin has been key.

The senior lefty has allowed just two earned runs, both on solo homers, over 14 innings with 13 strikeouts. She delivered a moment of brilliance in the third inning Saturday as she worked out of a bases-loaded one-out jam by striking out Tannon Snow on three pitches and getting Kendall Veach to pop out behind home plate.

“I can tell I’m getting a lot older,” McQuillin said. “The defense today was the key for me, being able to go out there and really use my defense and trust them. Later in the game, I was trying to really get them to swing earlier in the count to limit the pitches that I’m throwing.”

Carranco, who leads Arizona with a .442 batting average, wore a soft brace on her left hand. She said she’s “taking it day-by-day” in the field, trying to make her return to second base. She started Saturday at designated player.

“It’s more mental, because physically it’s fine,” Carranco said.

Arizona is trying to win its 23rd regional title in 24 tries at home. Its only loss came in 2004, to Oklahoma and Louisiana-Lafayette. It will face Auburn in the 4 p.m. regional championship Sunday.

After losing to the Wildcats, the Tigers jumped all over Colorado State in the final game Saturday, scoring four runs in the second inning of an 8-0 five-inning run-rule victory. Alyssa Rivera belted her 10th homer of the year, her third extra-base hit of the regional, and Chardonnay Harris shut down the Rams to pick up her 11th win of the season.

The Tigers are going to need Harris, and Lexie Handley, who picked up the loss against Arizona, to carry the load Sunday. They are without innings-leader Ashlee Swindle, who left Friday’s game against Colorado State after being hit in the face by a line drive. Swindle was taken to Banner University Medical Center, and diagnosed with a concussion, according to team officials. She will miss the remainder of the regional.

“I just want to thank my Auburn family and the Arizona doctors for checking up on me and taking care of me,” Swindle said in a statement. “I am truly blessed to be a part of such a great family. War Eagle!”

Colorado State advanced to the regional semifinals despite a strong effort from Harvard pitcher Katie Duncan.

After starting Friday’s game against Arizona with nearly four scoreless innings, Duncan carried a shutout into the sixth Saturday against the Rams. However, just like in Friday’s 5-1 loss, the sixth inning spelled doom for the Crimson as Colorado State racked up six runs, clinching its first NCAA postseason win since 1997 with a 6-0 win.

Opposite of Duncan, Bridgette Hutton polished off a three-hit gem, allowing no runs while walking two and striking out four.

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