No. 4 Softball knocks off top-ranked Arizona, 1-0
CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. -- The top-ranked Arizona softball team entered Sunday's highly-anticipated game against fourth-ranked Texas riding the nation's longest winning streak -- 15 games. By the end of the day, however, it was the Longhorns who had assumed the nation's best streak after UT handed the Wildcats a 1-0 loss in the final game of the Palm Springs Classic at Big League Dream Sports Park.
Desiree Williams gave the Longhorns the only run they would need the first inning when she hit her fifth home run of the year. Cat Osterman, fresh off setting the NCAA record for career strikeouts on Saturday night, responded by throwing her eighth shutout of the season with 18 strikeouts to push the Horns' winning streak to 15 games.
Texas' (17-1) only loss on the season came to Arizona, a 1-0 loss at the Kajikawa Classic on Feb. 11. The Longhorns were one of three teams to go 5-0 at the Palm Springs Classic, joining second-ranked UCLA and 11th-ranked Oregon State who also went undefeated at the tournament.
Arizona (15-1) earned its third loss to Texas in the last two seasons, its third such 1-0 defeat in that time frame. Each of the teams' last four meetings has been a 1-0 contest.
Osterman (10-0) threw the three-hit gem, striking out 18 while walking one. Arizona's Taryne Mowatt (7-1) suffered her first loss of the season after topping the Horns earlier this year. She threw a seven-hitter in the loss, striking out 11 and walking one. The seven hits she gave up were more than half the total she had given up this season entering Sunday's game. In 45.0 innings prior to Sunday's game against UT, Mowatt had allowed just 13 hits.
After Tina Boutelle popped out to open the game, Williams took a 2-1 pitch and sent her fifth home run of the year over the left-center fence. Arizona's Caitin Lowe nearly stole the run from the Horns, however, much like she did two weeks ago in Tempe to Boutelle. Lowe made a leaping grab after the ball and went through the collapsible fence, but the third-base umpire ruled Lowe had left the field of play before making the catch, ruling the hit a home run. Two weeks ago, Lowe made a similar grab on Boutelle's shot to right center, but she was able to make the grab while still on the field before crashing through the fence.
After gaining the 1-0 lead, Osterman went to work. She gave up a one-out single to Autumn Champion in the first, but after setting down the next two batters, she came back out in the second and struck out the next eight batters. Kristie Fox broke the strikeout string with a two-out single in the fourth, but Osterman got Jenae Lelas to ground out to second to end the inning.
UT looked to have another threat in the top of the fifth when Shannon Thomas and Boutelle reached on consecutive bunt singles with no outs. However, after Williams fouled out behind the plate, Mowatt got Amber Hall and Megan Willis to strike out to end the inning and strand two runners on base.
Arizona put two runners on base in the sixth inning after Lowe singled up the middle with one out and Chelsi Mesa drew a two-out walk. However, with Fox up at bat, Osterman lured her into a deep infield fly at short to get out of the inning and preserve the 1-0 score. Osterman then struck out the side in the seventh, closing the game with Sam Bannister looking at a called third strike.
Texas returns to action on Wednesday, March 1, when the team hosts UT-Arlington in a doubleheader at McCombs Field beginning at 5 p.m.