The seventh road trip in the Super Regionals for Arizona started in a promising way Friday night with Hanah Bowen’s “bulldog” complete-game performance in a 10-4 win at Arkansas.
“Bulldog” is how Bowen was described, fist clinched after striking out Arkansas’ last batter, by former ace Danielle O’Toole-Trejo on Twitter in response to a Mo Mercado post.
BEEEN KNOWIN THIS 🔥🙌🏼🧨 https://t.co/pL9ksyciLg
— Mo Mercado (@MercadoMo) May 29, 2021
Another victory Saturday at Fayetteville, Ark., with Mariah Lopez likely taking the circle — judging from her impeccable performances last week in the Tucson Regional — would place Mike Candrea and the Wildcats in the Women’s College World Series for the 24th time.
This is Arizona’s 15th Super Regional appearance since the NCAA instituted that round in 2005, and seven of them have been on the road.
In the eight Super Regionals at Hillenbrand Stadium, the Wildcats have gone 11-6 and have advanced six times to the WCWS.
Arizona is now 4-11 in Super Regional road games. The win on Friday night snapped a four-game losing streak on the road in the Super Regionals dating to the 2016 series at Auburn.
The Wildcats have advanced only once to the WCWS from a road Super Regional, in 2009 against Stanford at Palo Alto, Calif.
Arizona (40-13) can become Candrea’s second team to achieve that feat Saturday at 2 p.m. on ESPN2. Arizona All-American Jenny Dalton-Hill, a three-time WCWS champion, will be a broadcaster analyzing the game.
The Bowen Win
Bowen’s effort on Friday night against Arkansas (43-10): seven innings, 26 batters faced, 120 pitches (79 of them strikes), four hits and four runs allowed (in three different innings), one walk allowed and eight strikeouts.
“I love Hanah in the circle because she’s highly competitive, she’s very active, very confident and throws the ball in four different planes. I mean, she’s got a lot of stuff,” Candrea said. “Sometimes you look at her stature (listed at 5-foot-4) and you think, ‘Ah,’ but she brings up pretty darn good for her size.
“And the thing I love about her is that she’s a really active part of the whole defense. I think our defense kind of feeds off her … she threw some good pitches that were hit hard, but Arkansas is a good hitting team and we knew that coming in, so I tip my hat to Hanah Bowen for a great performance.”
Her performance as the No. 3 pitcher entering this season calls to mind the heroic performance of Arizona’s No. 3 pitcher Lindsey Sisk when the Wildcats shocked Stanford with her in the circle in the deciding Super Regional game in 2009.
Bowen can be considered the ace of the staff now, providing Candrea with confidence to go along with Alyssa Denham’s dominance from the start of the season. Lopez has showed signs of late of pitching at a high level as she did at Oklahoma before transferring entering the 2020 season.
In the 2009 Super Regional at Stanford, Jennifer Martinez and Sarah Akamine combined for a 7-3 win in the second game against the Cardinal to avoid elimination and tie the Super Regional series at one win apiece.
Akamine started the decisive game but Candrea replaced her with Sisk in the first inning after Akamine allowed three hits and two runs with no outs against the first four batters she faced.
Sisk delivered a complete-game performance as a reliever, striking out 14 batters in seven innings. She scattered six hits and walked two.
“I told her that it was her game,” Candrea mentioned to reporters about what he said to Sisk, who only pitched 1 1/3 innings in the previous three weeks.
Sisk weathered Stanford’s three-run rally in the sixth that cut the lead to 6-5. She remarkably struck out the side in the seventh to secure the win.
“I kinda just told myself they weren’t going to beat me,” said Sisk, who eventually transferred to Texas A&M for her last two years of eligibility.
The other Arizona pitcher to win a road Super Regional game other than Martinez, Sisk and Bowen was O’Toole-Trejo against Auburn five years ago. She improved to 26-10 limiting Auburn to two hits and one earned run in a 5-3 complete-game win over the Tigers. She struck out five and walked two.
After giving up a home run to Auburn’s leadoff batter in the seventh, O’Toole-Trejo retired the next three batters.
Auburn would go on to win the next two games to eliminate the Wildcats, but Candrea’s team showed some mettle first winning at the Tennessee Regional and then taking Auburn to its last game.
Candrea commented at that time — and he has repeated this phrase throughout his 36 years at Arizona — that “it is not about the past, so take care of what you can right now.”
Harper’s Home Runs
— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 29, 2021
Jessie Harper has hit her 90th and 91st career home runs in the postseason, including one in the victory Friday night against Arkansas. She is one of only three players in NCAA history with at least 91 home runs in her career.
She now trails former Arizona standout Katiyana Mauga by one to tie for the school and Pac-12 record and three from matching the 95 hit by Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain for the NCAA record.
NCAA Softball Home Run Career List
Mauga hit her 91st home run on May 20, 2017, against South Carolina in the Tucson Regional:
— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 21, 2017
She hit her 92nd six days later in the Super Regional against Baylor:
Katiyana Mauga is not kind to softballs. Here’s the ball from #92 pic.twitter.com/jQG0lrM3Dj
— Ari Alexander (@AriA1exander) May 27, 2017
Candrea mentioned that he was “very proud” of Harper, who gave her coach the ball from the last out against Ole Miss last week.
“If you were with us every day during practice, you’d find a kid that never takes a rep off,” he added. “No matter what we’re doing, she’s giving you 110 percent. And I think as a hitter she’s worked really, really hard to be the hitter that she is today.
“To be able to be as consistent as she is, I think is a tribute to her hard work, her preparation, and her skill set. She’s got pretty good hands, quick hands and squares the ball up a lot.”
.@jesss_harperr with her 91st career home run last night, one shy of @katiyana_13‘s @ArizonaSoftball record & four shy of the @NCAAsoftball record held by Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain (📸: Dan Netz/@AllSportsTucson) pic.twitter.com/zQjhlpdYa5
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) May 29, 2021
Arizona’s defense one of nation’s best
Oh my, Giulia Koutsoyanopulos‼️ 😲
— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 29, 2021
Arizona’s .984 fielding percentage entering this weekend’s Super Regional games ranked third nationally behind Oklahoma (.986) and Washington (.984, slightly higher percentage). The Wildcats are on pace to set the Arizona school record for fielding percentage — .981 set in 2001.
The Wildcats did not commit an error in Friday’s game.
Freshman first baseman Giulia Koutsoyanopulos, who has no errors this season in 76 putouts, made highlight-reel diving stab a week after another freshman, Janelle Meoño, made a running over-the-shoulder catch near the left field fence in the Tucson Regional final against Ole Miss.
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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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District