Arizona’s Kristie Fox hit a first pitch solo home run in the ninth inning to lift the defending champion Wildcats to a 2-1 win over Baylor Thursday night at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Arizona (45-12-1) jumped on top 1-0 in the fourth inning in front of a crowd of 6,812 that ranked as the second-highest Session 2 attendance in series history. Fox, who finished 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, led off the inning with a double, and following a Jenae Leles single that advanced her to third, scored on a ground-out by Laine Roth.
Taryne Mowatt silenced the Baylor bats until the fifth, when the Bears (50-15) took advantage of a pair of passed balls. With one out in the inning, Kirsten Shortridge beat out a bunt single. Two batters later, she advanced to third and later scored on a passed ball. BU looked prepared to seize the lead as Courtney Oberg lined a ball up the middle. The possible lead-seizing hit was robbed, however, by an outstanding diving grab by Fox.
“It was a great ball game,” UA head coach Mike Candrea said. “Obviously when you get to this stage, you expect games like this. Baylor played their butts off and we played our butts off. I had a vision in the last inning. I told the kids in the dugout, ‘Now when we hit a home run, make sure you stay back behind home plate.’ I took a gamble and made a call on (Kristie) Fox. It was just a very hard fought game for us. Taryne (Mowatt) did an outstanding job and we hung in there, and that’s what you have to do in games like that. We look forward to playing tomorrow.”
Mowatt held the Bears to a run on two hits with 15 strikeouts as she improved to 37-10 on the year.
The two teams looked poised to battle into the early morning hours of Friday, but Fox took the first pitch of the ninth she saw from Baylor starter Lisa Ferguson and drove it just over the fence in left field.
“Sometimes you just take a chance, and I took a chance. I swung the bat hard and that’s what happened,” Fox said. “The inning before that she threw me a rise ball and I happened to miss it and then she ended up walking me. Sometimes you just have to take a chance. I went up there with the mentality just to get on base for my team and let them do the job. But every once in a while I like to take a big swing and that’s what I did. After that I was going to work the count and settle down and put the ball in play.”
Ferguson fell to 25-8 as she allowed both runs on six hits with seven strikeouts and a walk in the losing effort.
“It is bad because you are in the losers’ bracket. It is just one game and we are going to have to fight back through the losers’ bracket now and play well,” Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said. “It is going to be a test of our endurance and our ability to regroup, as well as the leadership on this team. Somebody has to win them and someone has to lose them. There are teams that have come out of losers’ brackets before. This was a tough way to lose a game.”
The Wildcats face Tennessee Friday night in a rematch from a year ago when UA knocked off the Lady Vols to advance to the championship series.
The opening day of action saw an attendance of 12,107, making Thursday the highest first-day figure in WCWS history.