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Arizona softball: Wildcats sweep Oregon State to start Pac-12 play

The Wildcats host a top-10 Washington team at Hillenbrand Stadium next weekend

Photo via @AZAthletics on Twitter

Arizona softball continues to roll.

After winning eight games in Southern California over five days, including a victory over No. 9 Oklahoma, the Wildcats began Pac-12 play this weekend, sweeping the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis.

No. 5 Arizona improves to 29-1 overall, with its only loss being to top-ranked Florida State.

Game 1 — Arizona 6, Oregon State 2

After Friday night’s game versus the Beavers was rained out, the Wildcats played a doubleheader Saturday and found themselves trailing 2-1 heading into the top of the sixth of the first game.

But UA third baseman Katiyana Mauga lifted a solo homer to center to knot the game at 2-2.

Then in the top of the seventh, Alyssa Palomino — who homered for the game’s first run in the fourth inning — hit an RBI single to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead.

Mauga homered again later in the inning, launching a three-run shot to center to put UA up 6-2, which would be the final score.

Danielle O’Toole tossed a complete game, striking out six in seven innings, though the Beavers were able to get the two runs off her with a two-run homer in the fourth inning.

Game 2 — Arizona 7, Oregon State 1

Arizona took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a pair of RBI knocks by freshmen Jessie Harper and Reyna Carranco and never relinquished it.

UA left-hander Taylor McQuillin struck out 14 batters as she went the distance, allowing one unearned run.

For good measure, Arizona tacked on several insurance runs in the late innings.

Backup catcher Hillary Edior had a pinch-hit, two-run double in the sixth inning to extend UA’s lead to 4-1.

In the seventh, Arizona would add two more runs — one via an error and one on a sacrifice fly by Mandie Perez.

Game 3 — Arizona 7, Oregon State 4 (in 8 innings)

Arizona allowed a season-high four runs as Danielle O’Toole and Taylor McQuillin each made an appearance.

O’Toole struck out 10 batters in 4.1 innings and allowed a run, while McQuillin surrendered three runs in 3.2 innings.

That said, the Wildcats never trailed. Jessie Harper knocked in the game’s first run with a solo homer in the fourth inning, then Hillary Edior and Alyssa Palomino each drove in a run in fifth inning to make it a 3-0 ballgame.

After Oregon State scored its first run in the bottom of the fifth, Harper homered again in the next frame to make it a 4-1 game.

Things got a bit dicey from there as OSU’s Natalie Hampton hit a three-run homer to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, forcing extra innings.

It did not take long for Arizona to answer, however, as Mandie Perez hit a three-run homer of her own in the top of the eighth, allowing Arizona to escape Corvallis with the sweep.

McQuillin (9-0) was credited with the win. After battling arm soreness earlier in the year, the sophomore’s ERA sits at 0.91 in 53.2 innings this season.

O’Toole (14-1) has a 0.79 ERA in 97.1 innings. Heading into the series, the Wildcats ranked second in the nation in ERA (0.83).

Meanwhile, Arizona’s offense entered the series scoring 8.15 runs per game, the fourth-best mark in the nation.

The Wildcats have three players — Katiyana Mauga (10), Jessie Harper (10), and Dejah Mulipola (8) — in the top 10 in the nation in home runs this season.

Mauga has 77 career home runs, placing her 10 shy of tying the UA’s school record (held by Stacie Chambers) and 18 shy of tying the NCAA’s all-time record (held by Lauren Chamberlain).

A top-10 battle awaits the Wildcats

After being on the road for two-straight weekends, the Wildcats will finally return home next weekend, hosting the No. 6 Washington Huskies.

The Huskies (24-3) swept ASU this weekend to begin their Pac-12 schedule. They rank ninth in the country in runs scored and 29th in ERA.

Washington was voted to finish tied for third in the Pac-12 preseason coaches poll (Arizona was voted to finish second).

Here is the schedule for next weekend’s action at Hillenbrand Stadium:

Friday, March 24

  • No. 6 Washington at No. 5 Arizona — 6 p.m. PST

Saturday, March 25

  • No. 6 Washington at No. 5 Arizona — 12 p.m. PST

Sunday, March 26

  • No. 6 Washington at No. 5 Arizona — 12 p.m. PST

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire