They had two games to win one in the Auburn Super Regional, but unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. The Tigers took both games on Sunday, sending Arizona home empty handed.
One thing that really stood out during the broadcast was Jenny Dalton-Hill, one of the best offensive players in Arizona history, calling the team out constantly for a lack of emotion throughout the day. One wonders what next year will bring with almost all of these players slated to return.
Game Two (4-1 Auburn)
Arizona kept up the small ball mentality from Saturday to manufacture a run in the second inning. Nancy Bowling started the Wildcats' at bat with a hit by pitch, and was moved to second with a sac bunt.
That brought Alexis Dotson up, who hit an opposite field double, driving home Bowling for the game's first run.
Auburn's first hit of the day off of Danielle O'Toole came in the third, but the Tigers were unable to do anything with it, stranding the runner at first base.
The Tigers' second hit of the game came in the fourth. Emily Carosone grounded a single through the 3.5 hole. But as she was rounding first base, she went out of her way to run into Bowling. Carosone was awarded second base on the interference call.
O'Toole hit the next batter, putting runners at first and second with no out. A foul pop up on a bunt to Lauren Young gave Arizona its first out of the inning.
But Haley Fagan would do much better, lining a 2-2 pitch over Eva Watson's head in center to give Auburn the 2-1 lead. That was only Fagan's second hit of the season after returning from an ACL injury, but it was a big one.
Another single forced Mike Candrea to pull O'Toole, sending freshman Taylor McQuillin to the circle in a similar situation Arizona faced in its second game against Tennessee the weekend before.
McQuillin hit the first batter she faced to load the bases. A popup to short left was caught by shortstop Mo Mercado for the second out of the inning. But a two-out, two-run single by Tiffany Howard made the score 4-1. Another popup to Mercado ended the inning.
The Wildcats tried to answer in the bottom half of the inning. Katiyana Mauga reached second to start the team's at bat on an error by the right fielder. But she would stay there thanks to back-to-back-to-back groundouts by Bowling, Young and Tamara Statman.
McQuillin was able to escape a big jam in the 5th. With the bases loaded, Whitney Jordan watched strike three go by, keeping the score 4-1.
Arizona also put two runners on in the fifth, but were unable to score.
The bottom of the sixth saw another chance for an Arizona run or two, but again, the team wasted the opportunity. With two runners in scoring position, Dotson grounded out to the second baseman, who took the ball to the bag herself. A collision popped the ball out, but the umpire ruled the out had been recorded, ending the inning and keeping the Wildcats off the board again.
Another Arizona runner got on in the seventh, but was stranded at first to end the 4-1 loss.
Game Three (6-1 Auburn)
Arizona had won its previous three Game Threes in Super Regional play in 2006, '08 and '09. That trend is over though.
Auburn dominated this one from the start, putting two early runs on O'Toole in the first inning. The Tigers eventually took a 5-0 lead in the fifth.
The Wildcats finally got on the board in the 6th inning. Bowling came up with two runners on, and was able to drive in Mercado with a single off the first baseman's glove.
That would be it though. Arizona loaded the bases in the 7th without recording an out. A couple lineouts and a weak grounder ended the threat, game, Super Regional, and season.
Next year should be the year Arizona returns to the WCWS. Only catcher Lauren Young graduates. Everyone else is back, and the Wildcats add one of the best players in the country in Alyssa Palomino. The freshman missed this season with an ACL injury suffered in fall practice. When you add her into the middle of the lineup with Mauga and Bowling, all of the sudden you have a potent offense that should be able to compete with any team in the country.