Look at this score, and you'd figure Arizona beat Northwestern with power and pitching. An 8-0 throttling tends to lead to that conclusion. Thing is, Arizona won the first game of the best-of-three championship series at the Women's College World Series on the same fulcrum that swings just about every athletic competition.
Speed. "Speed in this game is tough to defend because it does put a lot of pressure on the defense, Arizona coach Mike Candrea said. "It forces them to do things quicker than they're used to doing them. "Speed kills. Arizona's did Monday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. No doubt it had some timely hitting when it busted open the game in the third inning. The desert 'Cats scored five runs in the frame, demoralizing the city 'Cats and giving pitcher Alicia Hollowell more than enough cushion. But the rally started because of Arizona's speed. It was the snowball that started the avalanche. Adrienne Acton, the nine-hole hitter, led off the inning. You'd think starting with the bottom of the lineup would've given the advantage to Northwestern. Thing is, Acton is like a second leadoff hitter. She is speedy. And when she laid down a pretty bunt, she beat the throw to first. Up next: Caitlin Lowe. Acton might be speedy, but Lowe is downright ridiculous. She doesn't have wheels. She has afterburners. She is a slap hitter, too. That means she takes a running start when she hits. And that means she's about halfway to first before the ball leaves her bat. Hitting that way with that kind of speed is a criminal act in 47 states. Lowe might be the fastest player the college game has ever seen. Natasha Watley, who played at UCLA before joining the Olympic team, had amazing wheels. Sarah Fekete, Tennessee's leadoff hitter, could get down the first-base line in a hurry, too. Put them in a 60-foot race and my money's on Lowe. She can get to first before the ping of the bat stops echoing around the stadium. And opponents know it. You could tell Northwestern shortstop Tammy Williams did when Lowe pounded a chopper to her. Williams fielded it on the run, snagged it cleanly, but when she looked toward first, Lowe was practically there.
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