The 20th-ranked Arizona Wildcats took off to Arlington, Texas this past weekend for the Maverick Classic. Mike Candrea's team was set to face off against Samford, Texas and Texas-Arlington in a quick four game tournament before heading into Pac-12 play.
The Wildcats had a strong start out of the gate this year, going 7-0 to start the season. Since then, the team had gone 8-8, unable to produce some run support for the pitching tandem of Danielle O'Toole and Taylor McQuillin. The defense has also been an issue for Arizona, extending innings and getting themselves in a deep hole that proved to be too much.
But things turned around for the team in Texas this weekend. They completed a three-game sweep of their opponents, outscoring them by a combined score of 17-2, with O'Toole and McQuillin both pitching shutouts.
McQuillin pitched her way to a couple of awards on Monday, being named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week as well as Pac-12 Freshman of the week. This is now McQuillin's second consecutive Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award. She finished the weekend with 13 strikeouts to just five walks and four hits, adding two more wins to her season total, moving to a 7-3 record.
Arizona was originally slated to play four games in the Maverick Classic, but their Friday matchup against Samford was canceled due to the rain. So now, we recap the action from Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday: Texas and Texas-Arlington
The Wildcats took on a double-header on Saturday, playing the Longhorns of Texas, who had been receiving votes in the latest NCAA top 25 poll, as well Texas-Arlington, who had come into the weekend undefeated at 18-0.
Taylor McQuillin found herself in a pitching duel, getting a quick run after a Mo Mercado pop-up in the first inning to give her some insurance. Texas responded in the third inning by going yard on a solo shot, tying the game up. Katiyana Mauga followed that up with a solo shot of her own, giving McQuillin a 2-1 lead all the way through the fifth inning until Texas tied the game up thanks to a leadoff double.
It came down to the bottom of the sixth inning, when freshman Tamara Statman found herself on base, putting herself in scoring position after an Alexis Dotson single. Arizona would win in walk-off fashion, 3-2, with Statman reaching home on a Texas error.
Mike Candrea must have been pleased with his team in the second game, as the bats finally came alive, which led to a run-rule decision, handing Texas-Arlington their first loss of the season. Arizona was able to load the bases in the first inning but couldn't get much going. In the second inning, things got popping, scoring three runs courtesy of Ashleigh Hughes and Mo Mercado.
In the third inning, the Cats did some more damage as Mandie Perez brought in two runs of her own to extend the lead to five runs. They were back at it again in the fourth inning, adding two more runs for O'Toole, making it a 7-0 game. And in the fifth inning, Arizona added two more runs with a Mo Mercado home run, who had herself a nice day.
In came pinch-hitter Joelle Krist, who hit a two-run blast to ultimately end the game on an 11-0 run-rule decision. That was Krist's first home run of her career.
Arizona was up bright and early for their final game of the Maverick Classic, with McQuillin back on the mound. Lauren Young came up in the second inning, and hit a double to bring home Alexis Dotson and give Arizona a one-run lead. Mo Mercado continued her fabulous weekend with a solo home run in the third to make it a 2-0 game.
Alexis Dotson hit her first home run of the season on the first pitch of the seventh, giving Arizona a 3-0 lead. Taylor McQuillin handled Samford all day allowing just four hits and striking out five batters to finish out the game and get the win.
After completing the sweep of the Maverick Classic, Arizona will now open up conference play in Tempe this weekend, March 18-20th, taking on the 18th-ranked Sun Devils.