Arizona shortstop Jessie Harper blasted her 89th career home run over the right field wall on an 0-2 count in the third inning to lead the No. 7 Wildcats to a pivotal 2-0 win at No. 12 Oregon on Sunday.
The home run for Harper brings her one away from tying former UCLA hitter Stacey Nuveman for third in NCAA history at 90. She now is six from tying Lauren Chamberlain of Oklahoma for the record.
After dropping the first two games against Oregon of the four-game series, Arizona bounced back with two wins to finish the weekend.
Sunday’s gritty victory improves Arizona to 35-10 overall and 12-7 in the Pac-12.
Arizona coach Mike Candrea went with ace pitcher Alyssa Denham to close out the series against the Ducks.
Denham made her third appearance after starting the second game and pitching in relief during the third game Saturday.
The third time facing Denham didn’t help Oregon. She kept the Ducks offense off-balanced by tossing a complete-game shutout. She threw 115 pitches while giving up six hits and collected six strikeouts.
In three appearances against the Ducks, Denham allowed just one run over 15 innings (0.47 ERA). She went 1-1 with a save in the series.
She helped the Wildcats win what felt like a must-win situation for their chances of hosting a Super Regional.
Offensively, Arizona struggled for most of the series to get the critical hits, with runners on base, going a 1-for-13 through the first two games.
The Wildcats were able to get some hits, with seven scattered throughout the lineup. Both teams struggled to hit with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-12 in those situations.
The biggest hit was Harper’s two-run blast in the third inning. The homer scored Reyna Carranco, who singled on a two-strike pitch.
Here’s an updated chart showing where Harper is on the career home run list:
NCAA Softball Home Run Career List
Arizona will now host No. 2 UCLA in the final series of the season starting Thursday night. The Wildcats likely must at least split the four-game series to keep alive their hopes of hosting a Super Regional at Rita Hillenbrand Stadium.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Troy Hutchison hails from Tucson and is a lifelong Arizona Wildcats follower. He has been involved in sports journalism over the last two years while taking communications courses at Pima Community College.