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Arizona softball’s offense explodes as it routs Northwestern 11-3 in second game of doubleheader

It’s a 4-0 start for Arizona

Five Arizona Wildcats had multi-hit games as No. 10 Arizona used an early offensive explosion to defeat Northwestern 11-3 in five innings on Saturday evening at Hillenbrand Stadium.

The victory moves Arizona to 4-0 on the season, and it was UA’s second win of the day as it shutout No. 21 Baylor 4-0 in the first game of its doubleheader.

Katiyana Mauga drove in three runs and homered for her third time in four games, while Tamara Statman and Alyssa Palomino knocked in two runs, and Jessie Harper and Dejah Mulipola each had one RBI.

Nancy Bowling pitched the final three innings after she relieved Taylor McQuillin in the third inning, allowing two of Northwestern’s three runs.

Arizona tallied 13 hits in the game.

“It was a good day today,” UA head coach Mike Candrea said. “I thought today was going to be a tough day, playing two good teams back to back. ... In the second game, we got some runs and Nancy came in and did a good job.”

Arizona’s offense wasted no time getting started as it produced four runs on five hits in the first inning.

Mandie Perez and Mulipola singled to start the frame, and Mauga later cleared the bases with a 3-run homer.

Mauga homered earlier in the day and her three-run blast against Northwestern was her 70th career homer, inching her closer toward the school’s all-time home run record (87).

“I think today was definitely me being more relaxed and trying to hit strikes instead of balls,” Mauga said. “Because the past few days. I was definitely not hitting my pitches. I was helping the pitchers out.”

After Mauga’s slam, Mo Mercado and Statman singled, and Mercado eventually scored when Harper grounded into a fielder’s choice, putting Arizona up 4-0.

Arizona’s offense was only getting started, though, as it tacked on three more runs in the second inning.

Ashleigh Hughes and Perez singled to start the frame, and Mulipola knocked in Hughes with a sacrifice fly.

Northwestern pitcher Morgan Newport, who relieved Nicole Bond in the first inning, lost her command, walking the next three batters to bring home a run and extend Arizona’s lead to 6-0.

Harper added another RBI groundout to push UA’s lead to 7-0.

Northwestern put together a rally of its own in the top of the third, though. Alcy Bush homered to start the inning, and the next three batters reached via a walk, error, and single to load the bases with nobody.

It prompted Candrea to replace McQuillin with Bowling, and it proved to be a wise move.

Bowling struck out the next two batters and, after a towering would-be grand slam snuck foul, she induced a flyout to end the frame, keeping UA’s lead at 7-1.

“It was working on breathing and trusting my defense,” Bowling said of her mindset when entering the game. “I knew that if I threw it somewhere and they hit not too well that my defense would be there to back me up.”

It was the senior’s first appearance of the season.

“I thought it was outstanding,” Candrea said of Bowling’s ability to work out of the jam. “And I really think that showed her maturity, how far she’s grown up.”

Arizona continued to extend its lead in the fourth when Mauga scored on a throwing error and Statman drove in a run with a double to the left-center gap to make it 9-1.

Northwestern countered with two runs on a two-run homer by Morgan Nelson in the fifth to cut its deficit to 9-3, but Arizona responded again with a two-run double by Palomino to end the game in the fifth courtesy of the run rule.

Palomino was 1-for-4 on the night, while Mulipola, Mauga, Mercado, Statman had two hits a piece. Perez had three hits and a stolen base.

“I think we’re all playing well and where we need to be, and it’s just going up from here,” Mauga said “Don’t play the name game, just keep going, keep pushing, and keep doing what we do.”

Arizona returns to the field at Hillenbrand Stadium on Sunday when it hosts Tulsa to wrap up the Hillenbrand Invitational. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m. MST.

Tulsa is 1-3 in its four games in the Hillenbrand Invitational.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire