Arizona Wildcats

Arizona Softball Struggles Continue

(Tucson. AZ) Troy Hutchison

Arizona entered Saturday’s game losers of four straight, including getting swept on the road in Eugene by the Oregon Ducks. In the first game against the UCLA Bruins, Arizona blew a 4-2 lead going into the sixth inning. During this stretch, Arizona has struggled in almost ever facet of the game. Whether it’s hitting, pitching or fielding, the Wildcats just haven’t been able to put it together.

Arizona had Alyssa Denham in the circle. She was on top of her game early, making quick work of the Bruins through the first three innings. As for UCLA’s starter Holly Azevedo, she was able to match Denham pitch for pitch through the first two innings.

The Wildcats were able to get something started in the bottom of the third inning with back to back singles from Ivy Davis and Jenna Kean. With two on, Ashleigh Hughes reached base, giving the Wildcats bases loaded with nobody out and the heart of the lineup coming up.

The Wildcats stayed aggressive early in counts against Azevedo, which really hurt Arizona in the inning. Azevedo was able to get out of the jam giving up only one run on a sacrifice fly from Alyssa Palomino. This would be a recurring theme for Arizona throughout the night.

After allowing only one run from the bases loaded jam, UCLA took all the momentum going into the top of the fourth inning. The Bruins wasted no time getting the run back. A leadoff double from Aaliyah Jordan was followed by a two-run homerun from Bubba Nickles to left field.

Even though Arizona was able to get out of the inning with only two runs given up, the momentum was clearly all on the Bruins’ side. They were starting to make hard contact with Denham’s pitches.

While the Wildcats wasted a golden opportunity in the third, they were given another prime chance for some runs in the fourth inning. With two on and no outs, Aleah Craighton attempted a sacrifice bunt, but got Malia Martinez in to score when a throwing error from Azevedo sailed over the first baseman’s head.

It looked as if Arizona was about to finally put a big number up on the board. To save the inning, UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez made the pitching change, bringing in Rachel Garcia. Not only did Garcia stop Arizona from getting more runs, but she didn’t allow any more baserunners.

In the top of the fifth, UCLA was again able to strike quickly, and the inning seemed to get away from Denham. The defense didn’t give Denham very much help, starting off with an infield error that allowed the first UCLA batter to reach base.

This time, the Bruins scored their runs from some small ball, relying on singles from Kylee Perez and Garcia. After the top of the inning, UCLA had regained the lead 4-2.

Denham seemed to wear down as the game progressed. After giving up an early baserunner in the top of the sixth, Coach Mike Candrea made a pitching change.

Reliever Hanah Bowen was unable to slow down UCLA. The Bruins added two more runs off a Paige Halstead homerun to straight away center field, going up 6-2 in the sixth inning. Both teams tacked on a run in the seventh for a final score of 7-3.

Arizona was unable to come up with the clutch hit in key situations all evening. The Wildcats left a total of seven runners on base. Many of the baserunners reached ahead of the heart of the order, which struck out ten times in important at-bats. Aggressive at-bats from Arizona hitters started early in the game and continued to crop up.

Arizona has now lost five in a row and is in desperate need of a win to salvage the series against UCLA. First pitch is at 5 p.m. at Hillenbrand. Taylor McQuillin is expected to be in the circle looking to help Arizona get back on track.

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