(Tucson, AZ) Kim Doss
Before winning the ASU series last weekend, Arizona had lost two straight PAC-12 series. In fact, they had been swept in those two series and were riding a conference losing streak of historic proportions. When the final out was recorded against Oregon State on Saturday evening, they had guaranteed at least a second straight series win.
Sunday, the Wildcats will go for the sweep. They have not swept a conference foe since facing Utah March 16-18.
To have better results than Friday night, the Beavers would need to improve in every facet of the game and hope that Arizona was not as sharp. Both of those conditions were met, but the Wildcats still proved to be too much behind the efforts of the two Louisiana-Lafayette transfers.
Aleah Craighton was the transfer who was meant to come in and provide offense at Arizona. For much of the season, she has struggled to do that. However, over the current five-game winning streak, she is batting .500, going 7-for-14 with two home runs, five RBI and six runs scored.
“My swing has been all over the place, honestly,” Craighton said. “And, just to get back to it, it feels really good.”
Craighton was key in grabbing momentum for the Wildcats early in the game. Her fellow ULL transfer, Alyssa Denham, struggled in the second inning. Eight Beavers went to the plate, and Oregon State grabbed its first lead of the series when they went up 2-1.
Craighton stepped in the box in the bottom of the inning with a runner on base and no one out. She launched an 0-2 pitch high and over the fence in left field, grabbing the lead back for the Wildcats. They wouldn’t give it up again.
Denham has provided a steady presence in the circle as the #2 pitcher behind Taylor McQuillin lately, but her showing was not as strong against Oregon State. Despite her uneven showing, she kept the Beavers off the board for the better part of five innings before finally being relieved to start the sixth inning.
“Alyssa was just not herself tonight,” Coach Mike Candrea said. “She was struggling trying to find it. To me, did not look comfortable the entire game.”
Denham gave up two runs over five innings. She surrendered six hits and a walk while striking out two. She also hit two batters. McQuillin struck out three in two innings of relief, giving up only one hit.
While Denham faced some difficulties, the Wildcats’ hitters were able to pick her up by putting the bat on the ball all evening. Both teams had seven hits, with OSU going 7-for-28 and Arizona going 7-for-27.
The difference in the game was Arizona’s hitting with runners on base and in scoring position. While they only hit .259 overall, the Wildcats jumped to .313 with runners on base and soared to .333 with runners in scoring position. Arizona also put pressure on Oregon State’s pitching early, going .500 leading off each inning.
In contrast, the Arizona pitchers were able to lock things down when the Beavers got baserunners and only allowed the leadoff spot to hit .286. With runners on base, Oregon State’s average fell to .231 and was a minuscule .125 with runners in scoring position.
Despite similar hitting statistics, Arizona won the game by raising their level of play at crucial points and avoiding mistakes. The Wildcats hope to continue their winning ways at noon on Sunday.