May 27—STARKVILLE — Mississippi State won twice at Florida State to propel itself into a historic softball season.
If that season is to continue, the Bulldogs will have to win twice in the next two days.
Arizona's Izzy Pacho launched a solo home run just inside the left field foul pole in the eighth inning to rally the Wildcats past MSU 3-2 in Game 1 of their super regional before a Nusz Park record crowd of 2,209 on Friday.
First pitch for Game 2 is Saturday at 3. Arizona (37-20) can advance to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City with a win.
Pacho's home run gave the Wildcats their first lead of the day. Arizona began the day with 92 home runs, ninth nationally.
"I took a deep breath and saw my pitch. It felt good off the bat. There are no words to describe it. You hit it, and it's one of the best feelings in the world," Pacho said.
The Bulldogs used three pitchers in the seventh but were unable to protect a 2-1 lead.
"We can lay our heads down and know we competed in every phase. A lot of the little things we work hard to do and we focus on, we did well today. It just didn't end up in our favor," MSU coach Samantha Ricketts said.
Arizona tied the game on a sacrifice fly by Sharliez Palacios off Aspen Wesley. The game would have ended then, but a catcher's interference call against MSU's Mia Davidson earlier in the inning gave the Wildcats an extra out to work with.
"I just remember trying to get the ball. She bunted right in front. I happened to beat her out of the box. It just didn't go our way," Davidson said.
MSU had taken the lead at 2-1 in the sixth on a solo home run by Matalisi Faapito, her 14th of the season.
Faapito drew a leadoff walk in the eighth, but the Bulldogs could not advance her.
The teams were scoreless against starting pitchers Annie Willis of MSU and Hanah Bowen of Arizona until a solo shot by Davidson, the SEC's career home runs leader, gave the Bulldogs (37-26) a 1-0 lead to start the fifth.
"It took a while to get going because they were comfortable, they were grooving," Arizona coach Caitlin Lowe said.
It was the 23rd home run of the season, the 92nd of Davidson's career.
Willis went six innings and 100 pitches. Bowen went the distance and threw 156 pitches.
Only one batter from either team had reached third base before Davidson launched a shot just left of straight-away center for the first run of the game.
The ball hit off a temporary power lift in center and bounced back inside Nusz Park.
The lead didn't last.
Arizona's Allie Skaggs got a fly ball over the wall in right to tie the game again.
The Wildcats threatened to do more than that.
Pacho doubled down the left field line, and there were still no outs.
Willis, who threw five innings of shutout relief at Florida State on Sunday, responded with a swinging strikeout of five-hole hitter Carlie Scupin.
The inning ended when Paige Dimler barreled up a ball that seemed destined for center field, but MSU shortstop Madisyn Kennedy made a diving catch to her left and quickly tagged second to double-up pinch-runner Amber Toven.
PARRISH ALFORD is the college sports editor and columnist for the Daily Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.