The New Mexico State softball team fell in the winner's bracket final 8-0 to No. 8 national seed Arizona at the Tucson Regional hosted by the Wildcats' at Hillenbrand Stadium Saturday afternoon.
In its second NCAA tournament game in program history, NM State (44-16) faced Arizona All-American pitcher Kenzie Fowler in the circle. Fowler set a season high with 15 strikeouts in the game against the Aggies. However, NM State did produce against Fowler with eight hits including two singles each from junior Tiare Jennings and sophomore Teresa Conrad. The Aggies left 12 runners on base in the ball game.
New Mexico State will await the winner of game two this afternoon between Texas Tech and Harvard. The Aggies and their opponent will play at 8 p.m. MT Saturday night. The game will be called live over the air on KSNM 570 AM and over AggieAccess by Kyle Doperalski of the Aggie Sports Radio Network. Aggie faithful can also tune into a live video webstream of the game at no cost with ambient crowd noise by clicking the live video link for the game on ArizonaWildcats.com. Live stats are also available during the game and linked on NMStateSports.com.
"I have to tip my hat to Arizona today, they are very talented" said head coach Kathy Rodolph. "I was pleased with our batting today. We continued to battle throughout the game and never gave up. I think Kenzie (Fowler) is an outstanding pitcher with championship experience. I thought she had good stuff today and kept us guessing a little bit."
Arizona (42-16) snapped the Aggies' win streak at seven games. UofA advances to the regional championship game on Sunday against the winner of the Aggie game Saturday night in the double-elimination tournament.
NM State's current win total of 44 now stands as the program record. This season's record marks just the sixth season of 30 wins or more in NM State history. The Aggies have now won 25 of their last 31 games.
NM State was the designated home team versus Arizona as Aggie freshman right hander Celisha Walker took the circle for the Aggies while All-American Kenzie Fowler started for Arizona.
UofA got to Walker early with a leadoff walk and a bunt single. NM State got a force out on a fielder's choice before a three-run home run by senior Stacie Chambers to put the Wildcats up 3-0.
In the bottom of the first, the Wildcats' Fowler posted three strikeouts to get out of the inning despite giving a walk up to senior Kandis Jones and a single through the left side to Jennings.
Neither team scored in the second. In the top of the frame, Walker and the Aggie defense gave up a leadoff single but retired the next three Wildcats in order. NM State posted two singles by Conrad and junior Brittany Clifton against Fowler but could not bring any runs across as UofA maintained its 3-0 lead after two.
Walker and the Aggies retired the Wildcats in order in the top of the third. Fowler and Arizona did the same to the top of the Aggie lineup in the bottom of the frame.
In the top of the fourth, Arizona stranded two runners as sophomore Alex Newman came into the game to notch the final out of the inning. In the Aggie half of the inning, NM State stranded two runners after a walk and hit-by-pitch.
Arizona extended its lead to 5-0 after a two-run shot by Wildcat third baseman Bridgette Del Ponte off of Newman to begin the fifth inning. Subsequently, junior Kelsey Schueler came into the game in relief of Newman. In the bottom of the frame, Randall drew a walk and stole her record 39th stolen base of the season but was stranded after Fowler struck out the next two batters.
In the sixth inning, Arizona led off with a single but Schueler and the Aggie defense retired the next three Wildcats that came to the plate. The Aggies loaded the bases against Fowler in the bottom of the sixth. Nohara walked to open the NM State half of the inning. Amber Olive came into the game to pinch run. Freshman Valerie Swedberg singled and Conrad posted singles to load the bases but Fowler struck out the next two Aggies at the plate to get out of the inning.
The Wildcats added two more runs in the top of the seventh after a pair of doubles and a single combined to help score the final two UofA runs for an 8-0 lead. NM State threatened in the bottom of the seventh and again loaded the bases after singles by senior Kandis Jones and sophomore Amber Olive. However, Fowler and the UofA defense retired the next two Aggies to secure the win.
Walker took the loss to fall to 9-5 this season while Fowler improved to 25-7 in 2011.
New Mexico State faced Texas Tech in an elimination rematch Saturday night and lost 6-4 and was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. The Aggies finish their season with a program best 44-17 record.