6th-Inning Squeeze Bunts Burn Wildcats in 2-1 Loss - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

6th-Inning Squeeze Bunts Burn Wildcats in 2-1 Loss

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CHICO, Calif. (May 13) -- Two squeeze bunts in the bottom of the sixth inning by UC San Diego overshadowed a great pitching performance by Central Washington University's Lauren Hadenfeld (Vancouver, Wash./Evergreen HS) as the Wildcats lost to the 16th-ranked Tritons, 2-1, in the opening game of the 2011 NCAA Division II West Regional at University Softball Field on Friday afternoon.

The Wildcats will now play elimination games the rest of the way in the double-elimination tournament after seeing their record fall to 33-15 on the season. UC San Diego, the top seed in the regional, improved to 37-13 and stays in the winner's bracket of the tournament. Each team will learn of its next opponent at the conclusion of the 2:30 p.m. game between Western Washington and Chico State.

Hadenfeld (23-10) pitched masterfully through the first five innings, escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the first without allowing any scoring. Meanwhile, the Wildcats' offense had its share of woes against UCSD's Camille Gaito, managing just three hits over seven innings, of which just one -- a monster home run by senior Kelsey Haupert (Olympia, Wash./Black Hills HS) in the fourth -- left the infield. After Haupert's blast, which was her 21st of the season to take over sole possession of the Division II national lead, Gaito (27-4) retired the next 12 Wildcat hitters in succession.

The decisive sixth inning was a tumultuous one for the Wildcats, and took place without a batted ball leaving the infield. Sarah Woofter was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, followed by a bunt single from Charly Swanberg and a sacrifice bunt by Esther Strom. Then, Jennifer De Fazio squeezed home Woofter from third and Rhiannon Ousley followed with another squeeze to give UCSD the one-run lead. Both De Fazio and Ousley reached base with bunt singles.

Five of the seven hits by UCSD were bunt singles, and none of their hits reached the outfield grass. In fact, only one batted ball against Hadenfeld left the infield in the game.

Friday's post-season opener marked the third pitching match-up between Hadenfeld and Gaito over the past two seasons. Each time, UC San Diego has edged the Wildcats by two runs or less, and Haupert's home run on Friday was the first run scored by CWU against Gaito over that span.

In order to advance to the next round, Central Washington must win four consecutive games over the course of Saturday and Sunday -- a path similar to the one the Wildcats took last season in Hawai'i when they won three straight elimination games before losing to Hawai'i Pacific in the "if-necessary" regional championship game. CWU will face the loser of the Chico State-WWU game at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and, should they win that contest, would play another elimination game at 4 p.m.