TUCSON, Ariz. – Arizona ace Danielle O’Toole shut out Baylor in the opening weekend of the season and appeared to be on her way to doing it again in Friday’s Super Regional.
But things changed when Baylor's Ari Hawkins blasted a two-run homer to tie the game in the sixth.
The No. 2 Wildcats came back to score the winning run as Jessie Harper hit a bases-loaded single with no outs in the seventh to pull off a 3-2 win before a packed house at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium.
Now the Wildcats (52-7) are one win away from reaching the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2010. No. 15 Baylor (46-13) needs to win the second game of the Super Regional at 8 p.m. Saturday to force a third game Sunday at 6 p.m.
O’Toole (30-4) spun a five-hit shutout against the Lady Bears on Feb. 11 in the Hillenbrand Invitational before shutting out Baylor through five innings on Friday.
“We’re playing one of the best teams in the country, and you’ve got to be on your game,” said Baylor coach Glenn Moore. “Everything’s got to be clicking and you can’t make mistakes. O’Toole was on her game, her changeup was as expected. We prepared for it, I thought we got better with it as the game went on.”
The Lady Bears had just four infield singles through the first five innings as they trailed 2-0. But the game changed quickly when Kyla Walker led off the sixth with a triple before Hawkins pounded her game-tying two-run homer over the left-field fence.
Walker collected a pair of hits to set the Baylor single-season record with 83.
But Baylor reliever Gia Rodoni (17-3) quickly got in trouble in the seventh as Arizona loaded the bases with Mandie Perez’s single, Katiyana Mauga’s walk and Mo Mercado’s single. Harper drilled her game-winning single to end the game.
After throwing a pair of no-hitters in last weekend’s Waco Regional, Rodoni allowed seven hits in 3 2/3 innings after relieving Kelsee Selman. Moore expects the Lady Bears to bounce back Saturday.
“We’ll come back and fight,” Moore said. “These are warriors I have right here, they’ve put up fights every time they go out there. We’ve seen some great pitching, we’ve seen some great lineups this year. So I’ll expect them to come back and fight, and I know they will.”
Mauga collected three hits for the Wildcats including a solo homer in the third inning off Selman for her 25th of the season and 92nd of her career. She needs just three more homers to tie the NCAA career record of 95 by former Oklahoma star Lauren Chamberlain.
Mauga also scored Arizona’s first run in the first inning when she doubled and scored on Mercado’s double.
After Selman allowed five hits in 2 1/3 innings, Rodoni stepped in and forced Harper to hit into a double play on her first pitch.
Rodoni allowed hits singles by Reyna Carranco and Ashleigh Hughes and walked Dejah Mulipola to load the bases in the fourth. But she struck out Eva Watson and Perez to get out of the jam.