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Arizona softball: Wildcats beat Ball State and Abilene Christian to improve to 8-0

The Wildcats’ run-differential now sits at +55 through eight games

The Arizona softball team improved to 8-0 on Friday as it picked up two wins against Ball State and Abilene Christian in a doubleheader.

Here are the recaps for each game:

Game 1

Alyssa Palomino homered twice and drove in five runs and Katiyana Mauga launched her fifth homer of the season as Arizona run-ruled Ball State 9-1 in six innings.

Palomino hit a two-run homer in the first inning, then crushed a three-run shot to left center in the fourth inning.

Mauga and Palomino homered back to back in the fourth inning. For Mauga, it is the 72nd homer of her career, putting her 15 homers away from tying the UA’s all-time record and 23 from tying the NCAA’s all-time record.

“I think the thing I like about her right now is she’s not forcing anything,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said of Mauga. “She’s showing patience at the plate, swinging at good pitches, not sitting there and getting quick and trying to pull everything.

“When she’s in this mode right now ... I think she’s really powerful.”

Palomino went 3-for-5 at the plate, while Mauga was 2-for-2 with two RBIs. Both walked once.

The Wildcats tallied 12 hits in the game. Mo Mercado had two hits and Mandie Perez had an RBI.

Taylor McQuillin (2-0) was in the circle for the Wildcats and the sophomore pitched five innings, allowing three hits, a walk, and an unearned run while striking out six Cardinals.

“She bounced back well,” Candrea said of McQuillin, who struggled in her previous start. “She wasn’t feeling great tonight, but she found a way to win and that’s what I want to see, so I was happy about that.”

After Palomino’s two-run homer put the first runs on the board, the Cardinals scored their run in the top of the second.

A throwing error by Mauga put Janae Hogg on second to lead off the inning, and Kennedy Wynn drove her in with a single through the right side of the infield.

Ball State had two hits in the inning, but only finished with three all game.

Nancy Bowling relieved McQuillin to start the sixth inning and the right-hander tossed a perfect frame.

McQuillin’s ERA for the season is 0.37, while Bowling’s is 2.00.

The Wildcats ended the game early in the sixth when Dejah Mulipola scored on a wild pitch to increase UA’s lead to 9-1.

Arizona scored one run in both the second and third innings thanks to an RBI groundout by Perez and a sacrifice fly by Mauga, respectively, to make it 4-1.

The pair of homers by Palomino and Mauga pushed it to an 8-1 game in the fourth inning.

Game 2

After beating Ball State earlier in the day, the Arizona softball team defeated Abilene Christian 7-0 to wrap up Friday’s doubleheader.

Danielle O’Toole (5-0) pitched six innings and allowed just two hits while tallying six strikeouts. The redshirt senior induced grounder after grounder as 12 of the 18 outs she recorded were via groundouts.

Michelle Floyd closed out the game in the seventh in what was the senior’s first appearance of the season.

“You want to spread her innings around but on the other hand you want to make sure she’s ready for Pac-12 when you play three games in a weekend and she may see [a few innings] in each game,” head coach Mike Candrea said of O’Toole.

“You have to give her enough innings, but you don’t want to overdo it. I think we have a handle on it.”

Arizona had nine hits and Alyssa Palomino had two more RBIs after having five RBIs in the first game of the day.

The redshirt freshman centerfielder leads Arizona in RBIs (15) and is hitting .370 on the season.

“It was nice to see,” Candrea said. “She is very capable of that. It’s a game of averages and she’s a good hitter and it was just a matter of time before she started squaring some up and she definitely squared some up today.”

The Wildcats scored in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Katiyana Mauga then tacked on four runs in the second inning.

Jessie Harper scored on a throwing error and then Dejah Mulipola laced a three-run double down the left field line to clear the bases to put UA up 5-0.

Mulipola, a freshman catcher, is hitting over .400 to start the season.

“She has pretty good discipline at the plate for a young kid. She’s got great hand-eye coordination and squares the ball up,” Candrea said. “If she swings at strikes, she has a pretty good chance of squaring the ball up and hitting it hard.

“You see her power, the balls that she hits sometimes are lasers. I’m excited about having a catcher that has the whole package. She can do it all.”

Palomino hit a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth to extend Arizona’s lead to 7-0 and it was plenty of run support for O’Toole and company.

O’Toole has allowed just one earned run in 31 innings, and Arizona’s pitching staff as a whole has given up just four earned runs in the first eight games.

“The thing about our pitching staff right now is they’re experienced,” Candrea said. “It’s kind of nice to have a fifth-year senior in O’Toole and a fifth-year senior in [Nancy] Bowling. Taylor is the least experienced but she got great experience last year.

“That’s what’s nice about this pitching staff right now. There’s no question marks. You know what they can do. It’s been a long time since we’ve had that.”

The Wildcats have another doubleheader Saturday when they will face Boston College at 3 p.m. and Drake at 5 p.m.

Arizona has a +55 run-differential through eight games.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire