The Arizona Wildcats will have to wait another day to clinch a spot in the Women’s College World Series.
Behind a four-run sixth inning, the Baylor Bears came from behind to beat the Wildcats 6-4 on Saturday night to force Game 3 in the Tucson Super Regional.
“I’m really proud of this team for fighting back the way they did, backs against the wall, seasons almost over,” Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said. “And they came out and fought against a very good team and a lot of kids contributed in this lineup.”
Arizona, the designated road team, led 4-2 in the sixth, but a pitching change backfired.
After a one-out double by Shelby Friudenberg, Danielle O’Toole relieved Taylor McQuillin and quickly surrendered the lead.
An infield single by Shelby McGlaun put runners on the corners, then Jessie Scroggins hit a slow chopper to shortstop, which Mo Mercado had no play on, to cut UA’s lead to 4-3.
Sydney Christensen then roped an 0-2 changeup down the left field line to tie the game and Taylor Ellis followed it up with a looping two-run double into left center to make it 6-4.
“I thought it was our advantage to have brought her (O’Toole) in when they chose to,” Moore said. “Because… I thought out of all our lineup, Shelby [McGlaun] saw her the best yesterday and was on her the best.”
O’Toole (30-5) threw a complete game in Arizona’s win on Friday, but allowed three runs on four hits in 2⁄3 of an inning on Saturday.
McQuillin tossed 5 1⁄3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out three and walking one.
“Taylor did a good job tonight. I thought she gave us a solid performance,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “There were a couple loud hits that inning and I felt it was time to make a change and show them some off-speed pitches and it came back to bite us.
“I’ll take the blame for it.”
Having seen O’Toole two other times this season, Baylor players said they were expecting plenty of changeups and they were right on them when they got them.
Well, actually it took a pitch or two.
“I actually knew that she was going to throw me a changeup first pitch and I still whiffed really, really bad,” Christensen said, referring to the at-bat she hit a game-tying double. Then “threw me a changeup (on 0-2) and I hit it pretty solid.”
Kelsee Selman (24-8) picked up the win for the Bears, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits in seven innings.
Tied 2-2 in the top of the sixth, UA left fielder Mandie Perez blooped a single to center off Selman, scoring Reyna Carranco to put the Wildcats ahead 3-2.
Then, after the Bears walked Katiyana Mauga for the fourth time, Mercado chopped a single over the third baseman’s head to score Perez and extend UA’s lead to 4-2.
Three of Mauga’s four walks were intentional. The other was on five pitches.
“The game is not played with one person, so I felt like they were giving us a free base,” Candrea said. “Is it frustrating? Yeah. Did I understand what they were doing? Yeah. It’s a matter of the rest of our kids picking up the slack.”
Jessie Harper, a night after hitting a walk-off single, did just that.
With the Wildcats trailing 2-0 in the fourth, she lined a 1-2 pitch off the right field wall to bring home two runs and tie the game.
Harper appeared to get hit by a pitch from Selman earlier in the at-bat, but it was ruled a foul ball.
“She did a wonderful job. That’s Harp,” Candrea said of the UA first baseman. “She’s a battler and a fighter as this whole team is.”
Harper’s game-tying single came shortly after Scroggins put the Bears ahead.
The Baylor center fielder laced a single up the middle to score Riley Browder and Maddison Kettler to put the Bears on top 2-0 in the fourth.
Kettler was able to score from second after UA center fielder Eva Watson bobbled the ball, capping off a shaky defensive inning for the Wildcats.
Earlier in the frame, Kettler singled to right to move Browder to third, and Mercado tried to pick off Kettler at first, but her throw skipped past Harper.
Kettler was able to advance to second, putting her in position to score on Scroggins’ single.
“The game got a little quick on us today for some reason,” Candrea said. “Sometimes that happens and usually when that happens that’s when miscues happen. But there were some plays that could’ve been made, should’ve been made but weren’t made.”
Arizona was outhit by Baylor 10-8 and hit just 3 for 19 with runners on while leaving 10 batters on base. The Wildcats stranded two runners in both the second and third innings.
Tamara Statman singled to lead off the seventh, but the Wildcats’ rally fell short as Selman retired three in a row to end the game.
“It was obviously a tough night for us, but we’ve got another one tomorrow,” Candrea said.
The rubber match is set for Sunday at 4 p.m. with a trip to the WCWS on the line. It will be broadcast on ESPNU.
You can follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire