(Tucson, AZ) Troy Hutchison
Since Arizona’s six-game losing streak came to an end this past weekend, the Wildcats have come back strong. The team got on track, winning four out of their last five games, including taking two of three against in-state rival ASU.
During this stretch, Arizona has only given up an average of 1.6 runs per game, while scoring 5 runs per game in support of the tremendous pitching from Taylor McQuillin and Alyssa Denham. The Wildcats were looking to do much of the same against the New Mexico Lobos in Wednesday’s game.
It should have been a routine task. New Mexico came into Wednesday with a record of 12-31 and a team ERA of 6.84. On offense, they sported a batting average of .245, ranking 234th in the country.
That routine task was complicated by Arizona’s struggles with baserunning, hitting and defense, turning the game into a struggle reminiscent of the recent six-game losing skid. Two errors in the infield, a couple of misplays in the outfield that allowed hits, and base running errors by the Wildcats kept them game close until the end.
“Tonight we looked like we had an ASU hangover,” said Arizona head coach Mike Candrea. “The middle of our lineup was 0-for-12, didn’t make good adjustments. I mean, it was just an ugly game.”
The Wildcats’ starting pitcher Denham began clicking on all cylinders from the outset of the game, striking out two of the first three batters she faced. Denham was all over the strike zone working inside and out, giving New Mexico hitters no chance at the plate.
Arizona’s offense got of to a very similar start, but in the bottom of the second they were able to get after Lobos’ pitcher Jensen Main. With two outs in the second, Aleah Craighton reached on an error by the Lobos infield, setting the table for freshman Ivy Davis.
Davis wasted no time by attacking the first rise ball she saw, blasting it to straight away center field for a two-run homerun. The Wildcats were up early 2-0.
As the night went on both pitchers sharpened their games, matching pitch for pitch until the fifth inning. New Mexico finally broke through in the top of the inning, scoring a run with some help from an infield error on Arizona.
While Denham felt that she didn’t have her best stuff and faced baserunners in several innings, the fifth was her only real jam. This was no surprise coming from her, as she has allowed only one earned run in her last three games. Denham ended the night with ten strikeouts and five hits allowed.
“Not my A game,” she said about her pitching performance. “You can have 20 strikeouts, but still feel like you’re not your best. So, my goal is just to continue improving every single game.”
The final score was reached in the sixth inning when an RBI single from Craighton plated the third run for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats will host the Oregon State Beavers Friday through Sunday. Arizona looks to get back to business and show that they can improve on what was a lackluster performance against a below average New Mexico Lobos team. Friday’s game starts at 6 p.m and will kick off the last home stand of the regular season.