Arizona used a five-run third inning, and Alicia Hollowell hurled a one-hit shutout as the Wildcats defeated Northwestern 8-0 to claim a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three championship series at the Women’s College World Series.
Hollowell faced two hitters over the minimum, and Taryn Mowatt finished a triple shy of the cycle to put UA one win away from its seventh national title and first since 2001. Mowatt went 3-for-4 at the plate and drove in three runs while scoring once.
“I was seeing the ball really well,” Mowatt said. “It was a good time for me to have a break-out game.”
Hollowell moved to 31-5 on the year as she allowed the single hit and struck out 12. Eileen Canney took the loss to drop to 26-8. She allowed a pair of runs on three hits and struck out one. Courtnay Foster pitched the final five innings for NU, giving up six runs, two earned, on five hits with four strikeouts.
“I definitely feel that I’m on top of my game right now,” Hollowell said. “I feel like I am ready to go every day.”
The game’s attendance of 4,391 helped this year’s championship set a new attendance record. A total of 41,699 fans have filled the stands for eight sessions in Oklahoma City this season, breaking the previous mark of 41,683 set last season in 10 sessions.
Northwestern still has a chance to fight back if 2005’s championship results are any indication. Last year’s final, also a Big Ten/Pac-10 match-up, saw Michigan drop the opening game 5-0 to UCLA only to rally and win the next two for the national title.
Mowatt’s double and two Northwestern errors helped cap the five-run third inning. Adrienne Acton led off with a bouncer that she beat to first. Caitlin Lowe followed by laying down another infield single. Tammy Williams attempted the putout, but the ball got away at first, allowing Acton to advance to third.
“It was a great way to open the championship series,” UA head coach Mike Candrea said. “The first game is very important, and I felt that we had great energy like we did last night (versus Tennessee). We made some things happen offensively, and Alicia was very good tonight. I was pleased, but we’re not going to let our guard down.”
The Big Ten regular season champions got Autumn Champion to ground out to second, but Acton slid around the tag of NU catcher Jamie Dotson for the game’s first run. Kristie Fox followed with a pop-up to shallow left. Williams had a bead on it, but Northwestern second baseman Ashley Crane collided with her to allow the ball to drop and Lowe, who stole second to claim the WCWS record with five, to score.
Callista Balko singled to score Champion, and Mowatt, the only UA player in the series with an extra-base hit, added her second of the tournament with the double off the left field wall that plated Fox and Balko.
The Wildcats added another run in the fourth to make it 6-0. Lowe walked, and Northwestern’s third error of the game put Champion on and advanced Lowe to third. Lowe scored on a Fox sacrifice fly to center.
UA added to Northwestern’s trouble as Chelsie Mesa and Mowatt made it 7-0 with back-to-back home runs that snapped an Arizona streak of 54 and two-thirds consecutive WCWS innings without a round-tripper. Strangely enough, the last time the Wildcats homered in a series game was last year against California as UA had two homers from Jackie Coburn and Callista Balko.
“It was a tough day for us,” Northwestern head coach Kate Drohan said. “It seems that we do everything as a team. There was a weird energy out there today. We tried to mix things up with the pitching change, but we have to forget about this one and come out tomorrow ready to play. Sometimes you have an off day, and it seemed like it happened to everyone.”