(Tucson, AZ) Troy Hutchison
Going back to the beginning of the Washington series in Seattle on March 23rd, the Cats have struggled offensively, averaging just under two runs per game over the four-game stretch. In the first game of the series against the California Golden Bears, Arizona won 3-0 behind a complete game shutout from pitcher Taylor McQuillin. Last night was much of the same for Arizona.
They jumped on the board early with a home run from redshirt sophomore Alyssa Palomino, who hit her tenth homer of the season. Arizona stayed extremely aggressive early in counts for most of the game.
McQuillin was in the circle again for Arizona, and started the game with back to back lock down innings, allowing only one hit. Two innings into the game, the Cats were able to come up with two runs to give McQuillin some run support early. Unfortunately, in the top of the 3rd with one out,
California drew a walk to get a rally going. With a couple of Wildcat errors mixed in, the Golden Bears tied the game at 2-2.
As the game progressed along so did both starting pitchers McQuillin and Cal’s Kamalani Dung. In a big moment in the top of the 5th inning, Cal appeared to score the go-ahead run. With a runner on first, a fly ball to right field hit near the foul line. The first base umpire called it just barely foul, despite arguments from the Cal coaching staff. The next pitch, Arizona and McQuillin were able to get out of the jam unscathed. This was a turning point for McQuillin, who was struggling with some control issues up to that point.
Throughout the game, Arizona struggled with runners on base and not being able to come up with a timely hit to get those runners home. Coach Candrea mentioned the inability to get any of those runs across and not coming up with key hits in those moments as something the Cats need to work on. However, Candrea said that games provide the best opportunity to experience such big momentum at-bats, “The at-bats in the big moments is something you can’t duplicate.”
McQuillin was on top of her game from the 4th inning on, giving up zero earned runs and recording twelve strikeouts in 9 innings of work. She allowed three walks and seven hits on 153 pitches.
In the 9th inning, lead-off hitter Ashleigh Hughes stepped up to the plate having gone 0-3 in her previous at bats. She came up with the biggest hit of the night. Hughes smacked the very first pitch opposite field to left where the ball barely cleared the top of the wall for a walk-off home run. Hughes’ third homer of the season gave the Wildcats the 3-2 victory.
After the game Hughes had this to say about that final at-bat, “I was trying to just stay on top of something and it happened to work in my favor.”
The Wildcats victory gave them the series win, allowing them to bounce back from the tough road trip to Seattle. Arizona looks to complete the series sweep of the Golden Bears on Saturday at 12:00 pm at Hillenbrand Stadium.