Arizona softball wins twice at Mary Nutter tourney

PALM SPRINGS, Calif.A near-perfect performance from Nancy Bowling highlighted a pair of shutouts as Arizona cruised to a pair of wins Friday on the second day of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.

Bowling retired the first 18 Nebraska batters she faced in the Wildcats’ 7-0 victory over the 11th-ranked Cornhuskers. The sophomore would allow two hits in the seventh inning to spoil the perfect-game bid.

In the early game, Michelle Floyd and Shelby Babcock combined to toss a three-hit shutout in Arizona’s five-inning, 8-0 victory over Fresno State.

The pair of shutouts gave UA pitchers nine on the season in 13 games. The Wildcats have outscored their opponents 93-7 on the year.

ARIZONA 8, FRESNO STATE 0

Michelle Floyd allowed just two hits in four innings as Arizona cruised to an 8-0, five inning victory over Fresno State to open the second day of play at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.

Floyd (2-0), who has not allowed an earned run in 11 innings this season, allowed just two hits, walked two and struck out two in her third career start.

Floyd was relieved in the fifth by Shelby Babcock, who allowed a hit but no more in her single inning of work.

Offensively, UA was led by Mo Mercado and Courtney Rodriguez, who each drove in a pair of runs. Hallie Wilson, Katiyana Mauga and Lauren Young also provided an RBI apiece.

Arizona plated a pair of runs in the top of the first inning when a single, walk and hit batter loaded the bases with two out. Young and Mercado then drew consecutive walks to give the Cats the early 2-0 lead.

UA added another two-spot in the third inning. Chelsea Goodacre knocked a one-out single before Mauga tripled pinch-runner Payton Kornfeind home. Young would reach on an error that allowed Mauga to score to give Arizona a 4-0 lead after three.

In the fifth, a walk and an error put two on for Mercado with no one out. Her single to left plated one run before Courtney Rodriguez followed with a two-RBI double down the left-field line. Rodriguez moved to third on Alex Lavine’s groundout and scored on Wilson’s sacrifice fly.

ARIZONA 7, NEBRASKA 0

Nancy Bowling’s bid to become Arizona’s first pitcher since Kenzie Fowler in 2010 to throw a perfect game came up three batters short. It would have been the first seven-inning perfect game since Alicia Hollowell’s in 2005; Fowler’s perfect game was during a mercy-shortened victory.

Bowling (4-0) retired the first 18 Nebraska hitters she faced, including seven strikeouts, before allowing two hits in the bottom of the seventh inning. The two hits were the only base runners she allowed in the outing.

The Wildcats plated seven runs on eight hits to overwhelm the 11th-ranked Cornhuskers. With the win, Arizona improved to 12-1 on the year and 4-1 against ranked opponents.

Alex Lavine tied a career high with three RBI, two of which came on a bases-loaded single in the sixth inning. Lavine also chipped in defensively with a spectacular diving catch in the bottom of the sixth inning to preserve, at the time, Bowling’s perfect-game bid.

The Wildcats took advantage of two Nebraska errors that helped score two unearned runs in the contest.

In the first, UA had two on with one out when Chelsea Goodacre’s single ended up in shallow left field. The relay back into the infield was mishandled to allow Hallie Wilson to trot home to put the Cats on the board. UA would strand two runners in the frame.

In the fourth, after Nebraska pitcher Emily Lockman had retired eight consecutive hitters, Goodacre led off the inning with a double. After a Kelsey Rodriguez walk, Mo Mercado singled to right to bring in the pinch runner Payton Kornfeind. The ball would get past the Nebraska right fielder to allow Rodriguez to score and Mercado to get to third. The UA second baseman would then score on Katiyana Mauga’s subsequent groundout.

In the sixth, Arizona loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk with nobody out. Lavine singled up the middle to bring two runs in and give the Wildcats a 6-0 lead. Arizona would leave the bases loaded in the frame.

The Cats added to their lead with four straight walks in the seventh inning.

Bowling would head out in the bottom of the inning trying to throw just the ninth perfect game in Arizona history and just the second against a ranked opponent. She allowed two hits to start the inning before retiring the next three batters in order.