If there’s one thing that both Oregon and Arizona softball can do it’s hit home runs. The Wildcats won game one of the series in a game where the two teams combined for seven home runs. Game two was another exhibition of power, but it was mostly on the part of the Ducks as they evened the series with an 11-3 win in five innings.
Just like the first game, things got off to a bad start for Arizona pitching from the beginning. Oregon scored two in the top of the first on a home run from Allee Bunker. Once again, Hanah Bowen was chased early when she gave up a second two-run homer in the top of the second inning, giving the Ducks a 4-1 lead.
Arizona looked like it was going to fight back just like it did on Friday. A solo home run by Sharlize Palacios in the bottom of the first and a two-run shot by Sophia Carroll in the bottom of the second sent the game into the third with Oregon leading 4-3.
For Palacios, it was her second home run in as many games, providing further evidence that the slump she was in at the beginning of Pac-12 play is lifting. She is 11-for-24 in her past eight games with four home runs. The difference for her was in simplifying things and thinking about the team.
“I just had to keep it super simple,” Palacios sad. “I think at the beginning it’s kind of hard to tell and pinpoint what it was, but I just had to get back to being supportive, taking the pressure off of myself, and thinking about the person behind me and the person in front of me and how I needed to get done for them.”
Arizona wasn’t able to build on the early success of Palacios and Carroll like they were on Friday. The Wildcats stalled after cutting the lead to one. Oregon pitcher Stevie Hansen was able to put up zeros in the third and the fourth, allowing her offense time to give her more breathing space.
In the top of the fifth, the Ducks did just that. Madi Elish and Jessie Fontes combined to give up three home runs, resulting in five Oregon runs.
Arizona had to get at least a run in the bottom of the fifth to extend the game. Instead, they went down quietly in order.
As has been the case in many recent outings, the Wildcats hit one high popup after another that Oregon defenders were able to camp out under. To be successful on Saturday, that needs to change.
“We gotta work in the dirt, keep the ball out of the air,” Carroll said.
Her coach agreed, but thought the biggest issue was the inability to let the pitcher’s pitches go by.
“I think nine of the balls we put in play were all in the air and not competitively in the air,” head coach Caitlin Lowe said. “And I think more than that, is the pitches that we’re swinging at. I think if you give a good pitcher a really, really big strike zone, then she’s not really gonna throw anything hittable over the plate. You know, the two times that we got something good to hit, I thought they were over the fence. So just having a little bit more discipline and you know, this one looks great to the eyes right now, which it’s hard to let that one go, but you have to trust that you’re gonna get something a little better.”
The teams will meet for the rubber game on Saturday. Arizona is trying to win its first Pac-12 series this year.
“It’s ours for the taking tomorrow,” Palacios said. “And I think that should light a fire under our butts and get us ready to play tomorrow. I think it’s gonna take us having to walk out with a little bit of swag and stepping on the field like we want to win, not like we don’t want to lose. You know, there’s a difference between those two.”