After drubbing Ole Miss 12-6 on Saturday, Arizona softball will rematch the Rebels on Sunday in the Tucson Regional final.
The Rebels bounced back from their loss to beat Villanova 6-2 in an elimination game later in the evening. The final out was recorded at 10:32 p.m. Arizona time, well past midnight in Mississippi.
“Obviously we’re feeling the two games today,” said senior outfielder Abbey Latham. “We poured a lot of energy into the first game, it was a high-scoring game, so that always is gonna take a little bit more of a toll. ... But it just doesn’t really matter like how we feel. This is the postseason, we have nothing else to worry about other than stepping on that field and giving it our all.”
The good news is they have plenty of time to rest.
Sunday’s game isn’t slated until 5 p.m. PT on ESPN3. If the Rebels win, they will face Arizona again in a winner-take-all game at 7:30 p.m.
After tallying 12 runs and 21 hits in two games Saturday, the Rebels are confident heading into the rematch.
“The great thing about our game today is that we saw all three of their main pitchers,” Latham said of Arizona. “That is awesome for us. Tomorrow, we already know what their scout is on us, what they throw, what their sequences are, how they are on the mound, what our feel for them is.”
The Rebels have been spraying the ball all over Hillenbrand Stadium, their hitters benefitting from the thin, dry air in Tucson. Latham led the charge Saturday with five hits, including a two-run homer against Arizona. Even her foul balls were missiles. Against Villanova, she smoked a ball off a car parked outside the stadium.
“I got off the field and they’re like, ‘you set off an alarm’ and I was like, ‘oh stop it,’ and they’re like, ‘no, you actually set off an alarm,”’ Latham laughed. “I think that all of us can for sure see a difference of how the ball comes off our bat and it’s just giving us a confidence boost. I enjoy it and I know all my teammates do too.”
Well, maybe not the pitchers. Ole Miss surrendered five home runs on Saturday—three to Arizona and two to Villanova.
“At home, that doesn’t happen, so it’s just mentally knowing those things are gonna happen and being able to bounce back,” said senior Ava Tillmann.
Tillmann did just that, logging two scoreless innings against Villanova after allowing four runs, including a homer, in 3.2 innings against Arizona.
“I would say stuff was working a little bit better for us for sure, keeping the ball down and getting the first batter out every inning,” Tillmann said.
Ole Miss expended four different pitchers on Saturday, so head coach Jamie Trachsel said the Rebels will need “all hands on deck” on Sunday. Arizona head coach Mike Candrea described his pitching staff the same way, meaning it could be another slugfest at Hillenbrand Stadium.
“I think we gave up a few too many free passes against Arizona and then obviously our goal is always to keep the ball in the park,” Trachsel said. “Three multi-run home runs is a big difference...so I could probably narrow it down to that, but our offense was great today. We were aggressive, we had a lot of hard hit balls, a lot of people in scoring position.”