About 45 minutes before Thursday's game, Arizona Wildcats coach Mike Candrea turned to Sarah Akamine and asked what she had for lunch.
A sandwich from Jimmy John's was the answer.
Good, Candrea told his No. 2 starter. You'll be ready to start the game, then.
And so it was - Akamine, a senior, started the first game of Senior Weekend against rival UCLA. It would have made for a great emotional story, too, had the Bruins' Julie Burney not golfed an inside drop-ball for a solo homer in the eighth inning to win 6-5.
"I just felt like it was time to either make or break her," Candrea said of Akamine, who had struggled for the past month. "You go into postseason, and you're running out of opportunities to go out there and battle through things."
Candrea thought that Akamine would be better served with a surprise than "letting her think about it all day."
Not only did Candrea send his senior out under the Hillenbrand Stadium lights and before 2,717 fans; he made sure the Bruins, a possible postseason opponent, didn't get another day's worth of at-bats against Kenzie Fowler, the Wildcats' freshman ace who will likely start tonight's game at 7.
And the UA almost won against UCLA ace Megan Langenfeld - who, like Fowler, is one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award.
"God, if we could have pulled that one off, that would have been a big one," Candrea said.
The Wildcats (42-10, 12-7) had rallied from a 5-0 deficit when Brigette Del Ponte and Kristen Arriola each hit solo home runs in the sixth inning.
Lauren Schutzler led off the seventh with a walk on four pitches. K'Lee Arredondo then chopped a single to bring the cleanup hitter, Stacie Chambers, to the plate. She launched an opposite-field shot over the left-field wall to tie the game.
"I felt good that we were going to win in the bottom half," Candrea said. "A game that … like I told the kids, you can't fault their effort."
The Bruins (39-10, 13-6) scored in the first inning without the benefit of a hit. Leadoff hitter GiOnna DiSalvatore walked, went to second on a wild pitch, took third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on another wild pitch.
Akamine retired the side in order in the second and danced through trouble in the third before allowing a solo homer to Dani Yudin with one away in the fourth.
The Wildcats squandered chances in the third and fourth innings. In the third, they placed runners on first and second with none out and loaded the bases with two out but came away empty after Del Ponte struck out to end the frame.
In the fourth, the UA put runners on first and second with one out but failed to advance them.
Less than one month removed from returning from a right elbow injury, Langenfeld took aim at what seemed to be the exact same spot every pitch. Throwing inside to right-handers and outside to lefties, the senior did her best Tom Glavine impression, living on the black part of the plate.
Akamine pitched well, too - which is a start.
"I have to start building my confidence," she said. "I have to start competing. I think today was the first step toward that."
On StarNet: Follow all of the University of Arizona's sports programs online at azstarnet.com/wildcats
Games on 1290-AM
• Today: UCLA at Arizona, 7 p.m.
• Saturday: UCLA at Arizona, 12:30 p.m.