(Tempe, AZ) Kim Doss
Arizona came into the series against ASU having lost six straight conference games. The program had never been on such a losing streak in either the PAC-10 or the PAC-12.
The Wildcats pushed that ignominious record to seven straight losses with the game one loss on Friday night. If they were to prove to themselves and the rest of the conference that they were a threat, they needed to end that slide.
After UA beat New Mexico State in Wednesday’s non-conference doubleheader, sophomore pitcher Alyssa Denham talked about the importance of putting an end to their overall losing streak.
“I think that this was a really good opportunity for us to really show what we’re capable of, and prove it not only to ourselves but to everybody else,” she said Wednesday evening. “When you hit a rocky start or a rocky patch, it’s really good to come out and beat ‘em.”
While Wednesday’s games proved that they could compete with teams not ranked in the top 25, the Wildcats still needed to prove that they could have success walking the gauntlet of top 10 teams in the PAC-12. The series against ASU was likely their final chance to do that.
Taylor McQuillin was the hard luck loser on Friday despite giving up only two hits and striking out 10. The Wildcats were relying on Denham to match that performance and even the series against their in-state rivals. Denham responded by throwing her own two-hitter, and the Wildcat hitters gave her the support they were unable to muster yesterday.
The Arizona bats came alive facing Sun Devil right-hander Breanna Macha. They had eight hits in the contest, including multi-hit games by Reyna Carranco and Carli Campbell. The Wildcats started off strong, and put at least two runners on base in all but the final two innings.
Arizona had almost as many hits in the first inning as they managed all game Friday night. By the end of the second inning, they had surpassed their game one total.
The Wildcats finally broke through with some runs in the top of the fourth. The threat came immediately when Aleah Craighton led off the inning with a double. A walk by Ivy Davis put two on with no outs. Campbell put Arizona on the board with an RBI single.
Carranco came up with one out and runners on the corners. Her double put two more runs on the board to stretch the Arizona lead to 3-0. By the time the inning came to an end, the Wildcats had shown that they could get to the pitcher of a top 10 team.
ASU was not ready to concede anything. The Sun Devils began to get into their own offensive groove in the bottom of the fourth. Denham gave up her first hit of the day when junior Morgan Howe knocked one over the wall to open the inning.
It looked like the Sun Devils might be adjusting to Denham when Denae Chatman got a two-out single later in the inning. It would be the final hit given up by Denham, though, as she closed out the inning with Arizona still leading 3-1.
The Sun Devils were finished scoring for the day, but that didn’t mean that the Wildcats were. As was the case in previous innings, the bottom of Arizona’s batting order got things started.
Number seven hitter Craighton drew a two-out walk to give the Wildcats a base runner. Davis followed with another walk. Campbell came to the plate and hit what looked to be an easy groundout to the second baseman. However, a throwing error allowed Campbell to reach second, while Davis moved to third and Craighton scored. The unearned run gave the Wildcats a 4-1 lead.
Macha kept the Wildcats’ bats quiet after the fourth inning, so Arizona needed Denham to match the effort. ASU used a hit batter, a wild pitch, an error and two walks to threaten in the fifth and sixth innings. In both cases, Denham was able to work out of minor jams and put up zeros.
With the 4-1 win, the Wildcats are 30-13 on the season and Denham pushes her record to 7-3. Arizona moves to 7-10 in conference play and notches their first win against a top 10 conference foe this season. They hope to make it their first series win over such an opponent tomorrow at 5 pm in Tempe.