Twelve hits for Arizona normally means an average of 10 runs and 2.3 home runs in the 21 games the Wildcats have reached double-digits in hits this season.
Arizona had 12 hits Friday night — the most allowed by Ole Miss starter Brittany Finney all season — but the Wildcats came away with only five runs without a home run. A symbol of how Arizona has grown this season to be dangerous in different ways, the Wildcats (46-12) manufactured the 5-2 win over the Rebels (41-19) at Hillenbrand Stadium in the Tucson Super Regional game.
The Wildcats are now 21-0 when they reach double-digit hits.
Ole Miss coach Mike Smith acknowledged that the Wildcats “beat us at our own game.” The Rebels are in the Super Regional based on their small game — getting on base with singles, stealing bases, getting people over on infield hits, and hoping the opposition makes mistakes with errors, wild pitches and passed balls.
Of the Rebels’ 424 hits this season, only 128 have gone for extra bases (30.2 percent), including a mere 39 home runs — only 11 more than Arizona’s Jessie Harper has on her own. Ole Miss has 127 stolen bases. Arizona has 14. The Wildcats have 181 extra-base hits out of their 503 hits (35.9 percent). They have produced 103 home runs.
ARIZONA’S DOUBLE-DIGIT HIT GAMES THIS YEAR[table “” not found /]
“I mean, I don’t know how many balls were hit hard deep or to the outfield (by Arizona on Friday),” Smith said. “Of the 12 hits, I’m going to say probably six or seven of them were infield singles, so they kind of beat us at our own game.
“We just need to do a better job of fielding those ground balls and being a little more crisp.”
Ole Miss committed three errors which led to two unearned runs.
Only twice has Arizona had more than 10 hits without hitting a home run and both games were wins — in the postseason against Harvard last week and Ole Miss on Friday.
Shutdown Performance by McQuillin
Ole Miss did not have a hit off Arizona ace Taylor McQuillin after Tate Whitley’s infield single with two outs in the third inning. McQuillin then hit Amanda Roth with a pitch (a questionable call because Roth did not move and the ball was right over the plate) to load the bases before pinch-hitter Gabby Alvarez struck out to end the inning keeping the game tied at 2.
The Rebels had four stolen bases in the first inning, two by All-SEC outfielder Kylan Becker, who set the school record with 79 stolen bases. She scored after singling in the first and second innings. Her runs put Ole Miss ahead 1-0 and 2-1.
“We kept them on their heels (early),” Becker said. “Those last couple of innings … we put the ball in the air a little too much. We need to use that ground. It’s hard. It’s fast, and we’re a fast team. When we put pressure on teams, sometimes they can’t handle it.”
Ole Miss Facing Elimination Again
Arizona and Ole Miss play today at 5 p.m. in Game Two of the Super Regional. The Wildcats will advance to their first Women’s College World Series since 2010 with a victory. Ole Miss would force a winner-take-all third game Sunday at 5 p.m.
Saturday’s game will be the Rebels’ fourth elimination game of the postseason. They won elimination games against Southeast Missouri and Louisiana (twice) last week to reach the Super Regionals.
“I feel like our game plan is pretty solid (with the short game),” said Ole Miss first baseman Abbey Latham. “I think we can tweak a few things to get the ball in play more and get people over, a few more clutch hits. That’s one thing we’re going to go back on and tweak a little bit.
“I really feel good about how we approached (McQuillin) today. I just feel we have to take it up to a different level.”
The Rebels will also see if they got the nerves out of the way vying for their first WCWS berth. Smith said his team “looked like they were deer in a headlight” after Arizona took a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning.
“That’s not characteristic of this ball club. I just kept telling them to fight. That’s what we do. I didn’t see that in those middle innings there.”
Ole Miss is playing in only its second Super Regional in the history of its program, which started in 1997. By that time, Arizona already won half of its eight national titles.
The Rebels are competing in their fourth straight NCAA Tournament, the only four appearances in program history.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.