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Arizona softball: Wildcats take Pac-12 home opener vs. Utah Utes

Another strong performance by Danielle O'Toole gave Arizona the win in their Pac-12 home opener

Gabe Encinas

The 18th-ranked Arizona Wildcats have finally come back home to open up Pac-12 play, hosting the Utah Utes, who entered with a 21-9 record, receiving votes in the latest rankings. Utah was able to sweep the previously ranked Oregon State Beavers.

The Wildcats took the series opener by a final score 3-1, with just two hits on the night.

"It's not about how many [hits], it's when. That's just a part of this game. Pitching, defense, timely hitting. That's kind of the way games go sometimes," Mike Candrea said about the offense.

The lefty Danielle O'Toole started in the circle for Arizona. She gave up a solo home run to the second batter of the game, Hannah Flippen, who hit her fourth home run through four Pac-12 games this season. O'Toole was able to get herself out of the inning with no further damage.

Arizona was without a hit through the first four innings, until Katiyana Mauga smashed her 11th home run of the season to deep center field, tying the game up at one apiece.

Suddenly, in the fifth inning, Arizona was able to load the bases after stringing together a couple of walks. Ashleigh Hughes stepped into the box with two outs. She hit a chopper up the middle to bring home Merrilee Miller and Alexis Dotson, making it a 3-1 game.

Katiyana Mauga, who had provided Arizona's first run of the game, came up to bat with runners on first and second base, still with two outs on the board. Mauga smashed yet another ball, this time to left field. The ball drifted just foul.

After Mandie Perez successfully stole third base, Ashleigh Hughes was caught trying to steal second base, ending the fifth inning with Mauga at the plate.

The Cats were threatening to extend the lead in the sixth inning, with Mauga and Mo Mercado drawing walks. Freshman Tamara Statman was able to advance the runners into scoring position after a sacrifice bunt with just one out in the frame.

Joelle Krist was able to get the ball in play, which resulted in a pickle, that ultimately ended with Mauga getting thrown out, Mo Mercado advancing to third and Krist finding herself on second base. Lauren Young was up to bat but ended the inning with a liner to first base.

Danielle O'Toole went out for the seventh inning to shut the door on the Utes. The lefty was able to close the game out, earning her 12th win of the season.

"Tonight I thought it was [Danielle O'Toole]," Candrea said. "Tooly battled her butt off and really had some good defensive plays out there so you find a way to win. At this stage, that's what you do and just happy we found a way to win."