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Arizona softball: Taylor McQuillin tallies 17 strikeouts as Wildcats shut out Cal State Northridge

The Wildcats have gotten two dominant pitching performances in their first two games.

After Danielle O’Toole tossed seven innings of one-run ball on Thursday, Taylor McQuillin followed it up with a dazzling performance of her own on Friday.

The sophomore left-hander delivered a two-hit shutout as No. 10 Arizona beat Cal State Northridge 6-0 under the lights at Hillenbrand Stadium.

The victory improves Arizona’s record to 2-0.

“A very good performance,” UA head coach Mike Candrea described McQuillin’s outing. “I thought she had a really good flow going tonight. Great command of her pitches. Had them eating of out her hand. Off-speed pitch looked good. Riseball looked good. Dropball looked good. That was a good performance.”

McQuillin struck out 17 batters, and the Matadors did not get a runner into scoring position all night.

“I can’t remember the last time we had someone have 17 strikeouts,” Candrea said.

Heading into Friday’s game, the most strikeouts McQuillin tallied in a game was 11.

“I never thought that would be a thing for me to experience at the collegiate level,” McQuillin said of her 17 punchouts. “I think it just goes to show that I’m capable of going out there and performing well all the time. I think this is just the first of many games to go out and show people that I can compete on the collegiate level.”

The Wildcats offense was mostly quiet for the first four innings, but they did get on the board in the second inning.

With two outs in the inning, freshman first baseman Jessie Harper drew a walk then fellow freshman Reyna Carranco doubled off the centerfield wall to put Arizona up 1-0.

That was Arizona’s only run until the fifth inning. It was then when the Wildcats started to pull away.

After a pair of walks by Carranco and freshman catcher Dejah Mulipola, freshman centerfielder Alyssa Palomino tripled to left center to push Arizona’s lead to 3-0.

“Finally, we broke it open,” Candrea said. “Alyssa had a big hit and I thought Reyna and Harper at the bottom of the order did a really nice job. I love this team playing these type of games now instead of sitting there and boat-racing people.”

Katiyana Mauga then knocked in Palomino with an RBI single to right, extending UA’s lead to 4-0.

“That was huge for our team,” said McQuillin. “It’s just the little things that lead to runs and give us a bigger lead and give us a little bit more breathing room. ... I think once we scored a couple more runs after that one, it was [a relief]. ... We were calm and relaxed.”

The four-run lead was more than enough for McQuillin, though Harper tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning.

The freshman skied a two-run homer to left to make it a 6-0 ballgame.

Harper’s two-run homer

“I was just trying to put a run on the board for Taylor,” Harper said. “She was pitching great for us all game.”

It was the first career homer for Harper, who was 2-for-3 on the night.

“I took off sprinting,” said Harper, who did not think the ball was going to clear the fence. “I was like ‘I gotta go for a double.’”

Five of Arizona’s six runs were driven in by freshmen.

“That’s what makes this offense explosive,” Candrea said. “Because it can happen at any given time. It was good to see the bottom half (of the order) do some things.”

The Wildcats return to action Saturday when they play a doubleheader, starting at 3 p.m. The first game is against No. 21 Baylor, followed by a 5 p.m. game against Northwestern.

Candrea said he has not thought about who will start on the mound against Baylor, but it will be either O’Toole or McQuillin.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire