Danielle Rodriguez received the best 21st birthday gift she possibly could. Rodriguez scored the winning run in the 10th inning as Arizona kept its national title hopes alive with a 1-0 victory over Tennessee Tuesday night at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Rodriguez, who was pinch-running for Sam Banister (2-for-3) at second base following a leadoff single, advanced to third on an error by Lady Vols second baseman Kenora Posey. Acton then hit a ground ball to shortstop Liane Horiuchi, who made a good throw to catcher Shannon Doepking. Rodriguez slid to the outside of the plate, and she managed to sneak her left hand in on the edge of the plate just before Doepking could apply the tag, ending Monica Abbott’s series scoreless streak at 37 innings.
“I think about an inch of my finger touched the plate,” Rodriguez said. “When I got to third, coach (UA head coach Mike Candrea) told me to get a good jump because I was going to be going on a ground ball. I knew I had to go over her to get to the plate, and I guess I did. It’s amazing, but even more amazing to win the game. This was a great gift.”
Taryne Mowatt made the slim lead stand up, as she slammed the door on Tennessee to even the best-of-three series at one game apiece and force the deciding game Wednesday night at 7 p.m. CDT.
“It was a pretty exciting game. In those types of games, you have to match pitch-for-pitch and get an opportunity,” Candrea said. “We got one and we made something happen. We still have to come back and play one more tomorrow. That’s what it’s all about. We’re where we want to be. We need to bring our best game we’ve ever played. I can’t say enough about the performance Taryne has given us. The Cats are still alive.”
Mowatt matched Tennessee’s Monica Abbott pitch for pitch, as both pitchers struck out 11 hitters apiece. Mowatt moved to 41-12 on the year as she allowed seven hits and walked six. Abbott (50-4) walked two as she allowed the unearned run on four hits.
The Tennessee junior broke the WCWS record for strikeouts, amassing 68 to surpass the total set by UA’s Alicia Hollowell last season. Mowatt also surpassed Hollowell for a strikeout record, bettering her former teammate’s 2004 mark for single-season K’s with her 511th of the year as she claimed 65th strikeout of the series.
Tennessee had plenty of chances to claim its first national title, but Mowatt was able to work out of jams in the second, fourth, fifth and seventh innings to leave 14 Lady Vols stranded on the bases.
“It was definitely disappointing to lose the game, but it wasn’t the last game of the season,” UT co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “We have another game tomorrow, and it is for the national championship. We told the kids to get their heads up, rebound, and get ready for tomorrow.”
Working out of the fifth inning proved to be a huge momentum boos to the Wildcats defense. A walk by Horiuchi and back-to-back singles from Posey and India Chiles loaded the bases with no outs.
Mowatt got Lindsay Schutzler to ground out for the force out at the plate, and she proceeded to get pop-outs of Tiffany Huff and Tonya Callahan to silence the threat. Huff’s pop-up appeared ready to drop into right field, but Chelsie Mesa made an amazing over-the-shoulder catch. Callahan’s hit looked as if it might drop in left, but this time Fox made a great catch sprinting into the outfield.